Letter of the representatives of Institute Alternative (IA), Centre for Civic Education (CGO) and Centre for Development of NGOs (CDNGO) addressed to the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration
We address you in the capacity of the members of the Working Group for the Preparation of Negotiations on Chapter 23 with the intent to inform the public in more detail about the difficulties we, as representatives of the non-governmental sector, face while participating in the work of this body. The rationale behind our appeal is the fact that the Government of Montenegro adopted the Third Report on the Implementation of the Action Plan for Chapter 23, at the meeting held on July 10, 2014, whereas, we, the members of the Working Group, were not given insight into this document prior to its formal referral for adoption. We consider this action to be unacceptable and that it inevitably brings into question our status in the Working Group.
From the very beginning of functioning of the Working Group, we, representatives of the non-governmental sector, did not have an equal status with other members appointed by the state authorities. Still, during the last year, this inequality has started to seriously jeopardize the purpose of our membership in this body and to bring into question the possibility of our contribution to the functioning of the Working Group. From these very concrete problems and obstacles depended and still depends on our work in this body.
Let us remind that, according to our abilities and capacities, we gave a wholehearted contribution to the drafting process of the Action Plan for Chapter 23. Following the adoption of this document, the Working Group was tasked to regularly monitor the implementation of the Action Plan and to report on a quarterly basis on its implementation. We are not able to participate in the realization of this task due to the following reasons:
- NGO representatives are being denied access to the website where all members of the Working Group store information about the implementation of the Action Plan. The website is made available to every government representative in the Working Group
- So far, NGO representatives have only once had access to the segments of the Second Report on the Implementation of the Action Plan, and not its integral version. We have provided comments to the submitted segments, but none of the comments were included in the final version of the Report
- NGO representatives had no insight into the Third Report on the implementation of the Action Plan, prior to its adoption by the Government.
All of the above listed problems are easily solvable. However, despite presenting initiatives similar to this one at meetings of the Working Group, we have not received any feedback from the competent authorities. Therefore, we can rightly conclude that there is a clear reason for these problems not to be solved, as well as the intention to withhold information on the work of the state authorities in the implementation of the Action Plan from the non-governmental sector. Namely, we refer to the information on the implementation of reforms in the undoubtedly most sensitive areas, such as judicial reform, anti-corruption policy, and human rights.
Our continued participation in the work of the Working Group will depend on overcoming the aforementioned problems. Otherwise, we do not recognize the manner in which we could contribute to the work of the Working Group nor justify our participation in this body to the organizations we represent or to the general public.
Unfortunately, these actions render of any meaning a very brave and, in our opinion, mature and correct decision made by the Montenegrin Government to include the non-governmental sector in this process. When compared to the previous practices of the EU accession procedure, this decision represents a qualitative step forward. With the hope to continue with such progressive practice, we once again request the following:
- In order to be able to provide quality contribution to the process of report drafting, NGO representatives shall gain unrestricted access to the website where all members of the Working Group store information about the implementation of the Action Plan
- Quarterly and semi-annual reports on the implementation of the Action Plan shall be submitted at least 7 days prior to the meeting of the Working Group
- The Working Group shall hold meetings twice a month, in order to achieve better coordination of the process of briefing and informing the representatives of the NGO sector
- NGO representatives shall have access to the final version of the Report, after the concluding changes are made, and just before its submission for approval to the Government.
In addition, we will inform the Montenegrin public on our future engagement in the work of this Working Group in a timely manner, and after receiving feedback upon our requests.
Ana Novaković, Centre for Development of NGOs
Boris Marić, Centre for Civic Education
Jovana Marović, Institute Alternative