We can, if we must!

“Without exaggeration, I think that our judiciary made a significant step forward in relation to the region and give us a starting position in a future accession negotiations, much better than the positions of some other countries,” said Deputy Prime Minister Duško Marković in a recent interview for national newspapers. Two days later, President of the Hungarian Supreme Court almost repeats his words, adding that he greatly desires that his own country is “be able to proud itself on the same achievements as Montenegro”.

The agony of the police, prosecution and judiciary in the most visible cases tells a significantly different story about the condition of these institutions – a story quite different from the one told by the state officials. One head, a x-ray scan of different one – the Son who they do not dare to put in the detention unit – husband and father, who disappeared and who no one mentions – continued police prosecution of “whistleblowers” – a judge who gets pally with the indicted – a judge that doesn’t dare to tell the accused Son that he is accused – president of the court assigns the same cases to himself – judge who relieves the accused public official of guilt because he is a prominent citizen, and the local government he damaged doesn’t care to sue him – a number of persons from Interpol’s warrants being lost without trace, etc., etc.

If this happens in cases which are under constant media attention, what is in store for an ordinary citizen, who doesn’t have the influence of the persistent and intense public pressure?

We can only assume. If judges act this way in cases which are under constant media attention, what happens in the everyday trials? If this is the behavior of healthcare workers and police officers in cases associated with domestic and international factors, what awaits common people? This “independence” is not automatically cured by changes to the constitution or Marković’s claims that the public, “…mistakenly perceives that there is political influence on judicial organs – that some politicians are asking the judges to bring verdicts according to their wishes. It has not been confirmed that such cases exist, nor has there been any reported cases.”

Gerald Knaus, director of the European Stability Initiative, recently in response to a reporter’s question about the fight against organized crime, said: “You can see everything trough the case of Croatia. The biggest arrest in this field happened in Croatia in the last two years. Therefore, this scenario would be expected in other countries of the region”. This fact faithfully followes the logic of the Government – we will do everything you say, when we have to. The Government has always conducted reforms following the principle – Change only as much as you need, when you need to. That is why we experience a combination of real reform and simulations, where the ration between the real and the rhetorical is determined by the pressure that comes from the EU.

This is why those who are more informed claim that recently someone from the top said “Enough! No need to investigate, arrest, charge and accuse any more”. In other words, “See you next year” or even better, “See you in the last two years before accession.” Marković says: “In Montenegro there is no direct connection between the authorities, politics and crime. It is also true that we have organized crime, largely as a consequence of developments in the region over the past two decades.” In other words, organized crime in Montenegro, in contrast to all other countries in the region, in the EU and the whole world, has no relationship with the government and the politics. Hardly the case.

Deputy Prime Minister Marković, asked about the fight against corruption, says: “Unlike organized crime, I think we have poor performance in combating corruption with the hard work still ahead.” This is a more honest approach of Government – but how much worse is this compared to the “strong” results in the fight against organized crime, judge for yourself. Marković is wrong when he says that our biggest problem is in the perception or our experience of reality. However, he correctly adds that: “…it is the issue of results and confidence in the institutions…” The experience is created by results, and the results are achieved by strong institutions – this way of things will also change our experience. Not the opposite.

However, there is no doubt that the further we are in the process of European integration, the less will we be able to simulate the reforms. Provided we get the date of the negotiations (which is now realistic, partly because of what Montenegro did, but mostly because of what other countries in the region didn’t do), an entirely different, qualitatively new process and relation with the EU is waiting for us. The real work is still ahead, first through the preparation for negotiations, and later the negotiating process. I hope that the toughest and most demanding chapters will be opened first. Yet, even this process is not perfect nor can we measure everything objectively. Some things will be measured based on perceptions, ours in Montenegro and those in Brussels. Finally, we should not forget that the final decisions in the European integration process are political or at least influenced by political factors.

Stevo Muk
President of Institute Alternative’s Managing Board

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