01 Aug 2020, 16:50 PM
August 1, 2020 - The State Election Commission (SEC) has sent draft recommendations for the safe conduct of elections to the National Coordination Body for Infectious Diseases (NKT). There is still no official information on the NCB's position on this draft.
The President of the State Election Commission, Aleksa Ivanović, said on that occasion that the Commission is waiting for the NKT's opinion before they start drafting the final epidemiological instruction for the safe conduct of the elections.
The agreement for the SEC to provide the proposal for epidemiological instructions was reached at the Collegium of the President of the Assembly. The meeting, attended by representatives of the NCT, the SEC, and NGOs was held on July 15.
The draft version was prepared based on the joint work of the working group for the preparation of elections in the conditions of the coronavirus epidemic and comparative experiences from recent elections in other countries.
The rules provide for mandatory hand disinfection before entering the polling station and during the voting process. If a voter refuses to disinfect his/her hands, he/she cannot be denied the right to vote, but after the voting of that person, thorough cleaning of the space he/she used must be performed. A mask should be worn at the polling station, except when establishing identity, and also one's own ballpoint pen should be used to vote and sign the list.
Voters will be required to take their body temperature at home before leaving for the polling station. If it is higher than 37.2 ° C, they should contact their chosen doctor by phone. Those with symptoms of the disease, who have not been given a self-isolation measure or quarantine, can vote. But in addition to the mask, they must also wear gloves. Voters in self-isolation will vote under special conditions, exclusively in front of the apartment or front door of the house.
Voting by covid-positive patients in hospital presents an unacceptable epidemiological risk, due to the fact that these are "red zones" in which the stay of untrained and improperly trained staff is a high risk. Voters with coronavirus infection will vote with the help of another person who, upon their authorization, will fill out the ballot.
Members of polling stations will undergo specialized, epidemiological training during regular training on their duties. The training will be organized using online platforms or providing appointments on television. The training cannot be attended by more than 50 people, who are all obliged to wear masks during the training and adhere to general prevention measures.
Source: State Election Commision dik.co.me
01 Aug 2020, 16:07 PM

August 1, 2020 - Montenegro's power games between church and state may be about to create a Balkan explosion - this was the title given to Gawain Towler's comment published on July 31 in the UK broadsheet The Telegraph. Towler visited Montenegro last month, and his general conclusion is that "the state-sponsored persecution of the Serbian church in this scrap of Adriatic paradise could soon see mass civil unrest."

Gawain Towler served as Director of Communications for the Brexit Party until December 2019, and was previously Head of Press for the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group in the European Parliament (UKIP). A former journalist, he has had papers and articles published on European and International Development by the Centre for Policy Studies and elsewhere.

The Telegraph, July 31, 2020

Author: Gawain Towler

The email arrived in my inbox, breathlessly claiming that the tiny Balkan nation of Montenegro is facing a, “state-sponsored campaign of persecution of Christians in the country and the demolition of their Church, one of the oldest in Europe”.

My interest piqued, partly because the very name is redolent of Ruritania; partly because the founder of my school in 1897, one Lex Devine, was half Montenegrin, whose habit of hiding in trees when the creditors came round populated my schoolboy imagination. Mostly, because it highlighted an article from Newsweek from June, co-authored by Steve Baker and Tim Farron, calling for Nato sanctions on the tiny ex-principality for the reasons above.

That these two, diametric opposite MPs were singing from the same song-sheet raised an eyebrow. In recent days negotiations between the Government and the Serbian Orthodox Church have broken down completely. These centre on a row between the Government of 30 years, led by former communist leader, hardman Milo Dukanovic and the church.

Today it is the only civil society focus of opposition to the Government. The epicentre of the dispute is the legal status of property owned by the church within December’s Religious Toleration legislation. The split is bluntly visible.

The leader of the church is the Metropolitan bishop of Montenegro and the Littoral, Amfilohije Radovic. A Serbian nationalist with a fine line in bloodcurdling curses who flings out excommunications with added malice and an interesting view of people to entertain, including Radovan Karadic, and the notorious warlord Arkan. His views on homosexual rights would raise hairs in Tunbridge Wells, let alone Soho.

What’s happening in this scrap of Adriatic paradise? And why are two decent men, on utterly different ends of the UK political spectrum, adding their weight to a cause backed by someone described to me by a former senior director of the Montenegrin secret service, who is no supporter of the Government, as “the most evil and dangerous man in the country”?

Hold on, Montenegro is peaceful, didn’t get involved in the awful bloodletting of the Yugoslav civil war, and most importantly is over 70% Christian, is a member of Nato and wants to join the EU. It would be madness for it to either persecute Christians or demolish churches. What’s going on?

At a loose end, Covid’s grip loosening and with friends who have been trying to get me to visit the place for years, I went. That my flight went via Milan and Warsaw gives an idea that the country, only 1100 miles away, is better reached by boat; the super yachts gleaming in its main marina, testify to this.

Montenegro has a cultural mix that puts any London suburb to shame, though it is almost entirely ethnically Slavic. History has left it with a huge variety of religions, Catholic, Serbian and Montenegrin Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish and the rest. Just over 50% are Serbian Orthodox, about 20% Montenegrin Orthodox, 20% Muslim, 5% Catholic and smaller numbers atheist – a hangover from communism, and other faith groups.

National borders cut right through cultural borders creating a multilayered patchwork, a three-dimensional powder keg. The current row centers on the Religious Toleration bill, which amongst other things requires all faith groups to register as such (or they cannot access state funding and so on, though they can still continue their religious activities), and this is the key point, that they must prove ownership of property built before 1918 or they will be sequestered by the state.

That date is significant, as it was when Montenegro was annexed by the Kingdom of Serbia. This was disputed by the national assembly despite it being convened by the Serbian authorities but was encouraged in its decision by a large detachment of Serbian troops that surrounded the building until the correct decision was reached.

Everybody I spoke to, historians, political activists, representatives of the Government, the various churches and ordinary citizens had one thing in common. Though the legislation was passed in 2019, and the election is next month, at least three quarters of every conversation about politics majors on 1918.

For added spice and comprehension, a variety of dates from 1200 through to the 1860s mostly involving brave Montenegrin warriors, taking on all comers would be included.

All this history produces a heady and volatile mix. The Government is not above criticism. The President has been accused of a series of issues - all of which he would deny - like election fixing and corruption. There has been intimidation and murder of journalists attributed to mafia and gangsters. His Government is regularly likened to a criminal enterprise and financial scandals involving his family are rife.

After 30 years, many, including some in his own governing Party of Democratic Socialists, wish for him to stand down. The opposition is weak, and the only institution that has the wealth and scope to oppose him is the Serbian Orthodox church. It is in the Government’s crosshairs, being accused of being in the pocket of Serbian, and thus Russian interests. But it too is no pin up boy for progressive values.

In Orthodoxy, the normal situation is that the church is part of the construction of the state, ‘autocephalic’, or whose hierarchy is independent of any other. But, claims Father Mihail Backovic, “We made Montenegro”.

Backovic, a man of God who served in Serbia’s pre-2006 paratroop special forces, is the Metropolitan’s right-hand man. He represents a church whose primary loyalty is to a different state, Serbia. He regards himself as having loyalty to, 'God, Serbian and Montenegro", just as I am English and British.

The Montenegrin Orthodox church was wound up in 1918, as without a state, it had no function. Now it has reformed and wants access to the churches that it claims are its own patrimony. Their non-canonical leader, Archbishop Mihailo Dedeic, wants access to these old churches, “we fear the disappearance of Montenegro itself if we do not do this,” citing the importance of independent national churches.

Today he sits in his garden, drinking shots of rakia, a couple of hundred yards from the Monastery of Cetinje, the seat of his archopponent. It was rigged to explode when the Turks took it in 1692, rather spoiling their party and killing dozens. A fact everybody repeats with relish.

The row between church and state is not about faith at all, but about power and money. The Government wants it and the church has it.

The monastery of Ostrog alone, an impossibly romantic place halfway up a cliff, raises tens of millions a year. The church is prepared,

I’m told, to put “250,000 on the streets after the election”, which, given the population is 600,000 is significant. Negotiations have broken down completely, despite the Government offering the concession that it would not be up to the Church to prove ownership, but that the onus would be on the state.

The church walked out, muttering darkly. A meeting of Serbian Orthodox bishops and senior clergy was summoned in Podgorica and has been followed up by meetings in dioceses in Serbia, Bosnia and elsewhere, beyond Montenegro’s borders.

The working assumption is that these meetings are to co-ordinate non-Montenegrin aspects of the post electoral protests. They claim to be of the country, but their actions suggest that their loyalties and capabilities are elsewhere. This allows the government to portray them as an asset of a hostile foreign power, Serbia (with the Russian bear just out of sight in the shadows). They do not see why they should be treated like other faith groups given they are the largest. They do not see why they should provide full title to their property, despite others, such as the Catholic church, being happy and willing to do so – because the transfer of property in 1918 was by fiat.

Supporters of the church believe that if property is transferred, a range of stunning monasteries will, in short order, become luxury hotels for cash rich guests, with the profits finding their way into the pockets of government officials and their friends. And all this is the lead up to fiercely contested elections at the end of August.

Many roadside restaurants boast a specialty, “Fish on Fire”. The fear of pretty much everybody in the country is that come September, it will be the country, not the fish that are on the barbeque.

23 Jul 2020, 15:50 PM
July 23, 2020 - CDT President Milica Kovacevic stated that one of the fundamental democratic principles is that election rules must be known to everyone in advance.
The Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) called on the National Coordination Body for Infectious Diseases (NCT) and the State Election Commission (SEC) to issue instructions and recommendations for the safe conduct of elections as a matter of urgency.
"Regardless of whether the parliamentary elections will be held on August 30, or postponed until a more favorable moment, we need those rules and instructions," Kovacevic said.
She believes that whatever date is in sight, the election process will have to be held in a pandemic.
"And the sooner we become aware of all the steps, the greater the chances that these elections will be healthier, and therefore freer," said Kovacevic.
She said that the election process is mostly underway and that its participants, observers, and citizens are still waiting for answers to some of the fundamental questions.
"It's been a month since the announcement of the election, and it is inadmissible that the rules are not known yet. In this situation, we must act faster and more efficiently,  in order to create preconditions for the safe conduct of all stages of the election process in time, "said Kovacevic.
She said that political parties are already collecting signatures and conducting a field campaign without appropriate instructions, which, she believes, is inadmissible at this stage of the election process.
Kovacevic said that in a situation where mass gatherings are banned, parties have not been offered alternative solutions and ways to inform the public about their policies and candidates safely.
"By failing and delaying the regulation of these issues, the ruling parties are being given an illegal advantage since political rallies are banned. The "functionary" campaign runs smoothly through various pseudo-events, openings, launches, and cutting ribbons," Kovacevic said.
As she recalls, for the elections to be held during a epidemic, it is necessary to prepare thousands of polling boards, authorize representatives of the parties, and observers, who must be informed about the conditions in which the elections will be held.
Kovacevic believes that the most important thing for the elections is to prepare the public well.
"The state is obliged to create conditions so that everyone feels safe enough in exercising the right to vote and that they do not have to compromise their health in the name of exercising the right to vote." The public must be informed in time, that is, get clear announcements on how the election day will take place, "said Kovacevic.
According to her, this mainly refers to those who will be in quarantine, self-isolation, or COVID-19 positive on August 30.
"Also, informed citizens will feel safer and go to the polls in greater numbers, because the goal of any democratic society must be a greater turnout of citizens in the elections," Kovacevic concluded.
She recalled that the CDT had previously addressed the NKT with an initiative to start an inclusive and consultative process of regulating the rules for the safe conduct of elections. A session of the NKT working group on the topic was held on July 8.
Kovacevic added that the Institute for Public Health submitted the first working version of the recommendations to the SEC, the Agency for Prevention of Corruption, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) dealing with the elections, inviting them to give comments and suggestions, which NGOs did immediately.
As she stated, an extended session of the Collegium of the Assembly was held on July 15, to include an opportunity for representatives of parliamentary clubs to create recommendations.
Kovacevic said that the parties involved in the boycott of the parliament also gave their contribution, with their public suggestions.

Ivanović: SEC not considering the elections not being held within the set deadline, rules on Friday

The experiences of countries where elections have been held despite the coronavirus epidemic show that they can be conducted with respect for appropriate measures, the President of the State Election Commission, Aleksa Ivanović, stated yesterday.
He told Montenegrin Television that specific recommendations for actions during election day have not been specified yet, but that he expects that part to be completed on Friday, after a meeting with the National Coordination Body and the Institute of Public Health.
Ivanovic stated that the State Election Commission is not thinking about the possibility of the elections not being held within the set deadline, but that it is also difficult to predict what will happen in the coming period.
Source: Vijesti, MINA
23 Jul 2020, 15:23 PM

July 23, 2020 - The European Union (EU) today encouraged the Government of Montenegro and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) to continue the dialogue regarding the Law on Freedom of Religion.

European Commission spokeswoman Ana Pisonero said the EU had consistently recalled the importance of dialogue and welcomed the recent resumption of talks between the two sides.

"We welcome the Government's efforts to find a compromise. Unfortunately, no solution has been found in these talks. We encourage both sides to continue the dialogue," Pisonero told MINA.

Expert teams failed to find a solution in the continuation of negotiations on the Law on Freedom of Religion.

Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said that the talks between Government legal experts and those of the dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church ended without results, despite numerous concessions made by the Government's negotiating team.

The Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral said that the state, unlike the Church, did not have sincere intentions to reach a mutually acceptable solution in the dialogue, but the invitation to talk served for new blackmail of the Church and current political marketing.

21 Jul 2020, 00:08 AM
July 20, 2020 - The European Parliament (EP) has so far banned all external missions due to coronavirus, which is still widespread in Europe. That is the message from EP representatives to "Vijesti". In the context of currently available information, the August elections will be held despite the dizzying growth of COVID-19 and the potential opening of over 1000 new clusters by opening polls throughout Montenegro. This means that elections would be held without EC observers.
"If there is a change, the Group for the Support of Democracy and Coordination of Elections (DEG) will reassess the situation in co-operation with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)," explained the office of EP President David Maria Sassoli.
In a letter to Montenegrin Parliament Speaker Ivan Brajovic this week, Sassoli wrote that DEG confirmed at a meeting last month that observing the elections in Montenegro was a priority, and that the Mission's arrival would be considered in the coming period in co-operation with the ODIHR.
The DEG has an official advisory role for the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission when he selects priority countries for election observation missions and appoints chief observers. An MEP leads each EU monitoring mission.
The DEG is chaired by the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) and the Committee on Development (DEVE), David McAllister and Thomas Tobe.
The European Parliament sends 10 to 12 short-term delegations each year to observe elections in non-EU countries. According to the EP's website, these delegations are joining long-term missions that have been deployed only at the request of local authorities.
These long-term missions are either EU EOMs in Africa, the United States or Asia or ODIHR-led International Election Observation Missions (IEOMs) in countries that are members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). In this case, the EP delegation joins forces with commissions from parliamentary assemblies, such as OSCE, the Council of Europe and NATO.
Parliamentary involvement is said to add political influence to long-term missions. The experience of European parliamentarians as elected representatives also enriches the assessment of local election processes.
At the invitation of Brajović to European officials to actively involve their organizations in the upcoming election process in Montenegro, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was the first to form a delegation of 22 members to monitor the forthcoming elections, and, as announced by the Assembly, in Montenegro has an ODIHR Mission Assessment Mission for parliamentary elections.
The EP mission observed the elections in Peru on January 26 this year.
"Electoral institutions have provided a well-run and credible process, despite the short deadline for preparations. Voting and counting procedures were generally followed with sufficient measures to guarantee transparency, despite the lack of party representatives for most of the day and the late opening of a significant number of polling stations. Parties and candidates were free to campaign with balanced coverage in state-owned media. However, the campaign on social networks was disrupted by personal attacks on the candidates. Rigorous requirements for candidate applications and unrealistic deadlines for corrections have led to a large number of disqualifications. Electoral silence was not respected on social media." These are some of the EP Mission assessments regarding the elections in Peru.
In 2019, the EP monitored the elections in Nigeria, Moldova, Senegal, Ukraine, Tunisia, Kosovo, Mozambique, and Sri Lanka.
Institutional advantage of DPS noted in 2018
The EP observed the presidential elections in Montenegro on April 15, 2018, with a seven-member delegation led by MEP Fabio Massimo Castaldo.
"The presence of European parliamentarians provided an opportunity for the delegation to encourage the country's political forces to overcome the polarized political climate that contributed to some opposition parties' decision to boycott parliament," the Mission said in a statement.
The overall assessment of the EP Mission, which was part of the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM), was that fundamental freedoms were respected during the elections. However, the ruling party benefited from an institutional advantage.
"However, several omissions and ambiguities remain in the legal framework. In particular, the lack of regulations on the verification of signatures supporting candidates and sanctioning violations of the law. Other issues of concern included dispute resolution procedures, tabulation of results, and campaign finance rules," the report said.
02 Jul 2020, 21:58 PM
July 2, 2020 - The Law on Same-Sex Life Partnerships was adopted yesterday in the Parliament of Montenegro. The adoption of the Draft Law on Same-Sex Partnerships required the support of 41 deputies, and 42 deputies voted in favour.
The Law on Same-Sex Life Partnerships contains many rights that have been denied to such couples - the right to joint property and inheritance in the event of the death of a partner, to hospital and prison visits, to health and social insurance.
There is no enthusiasm in the LGBT community and the NGO sector, and parental rights and the adoption of children, to which this Law does not apply, will be discussed in the future.
It was a long way from the first pride in Budva, to yesterday's adoption of the Law on Same-Sex Life Partnerships. After the celebratory euphoria, the application of the Law follows, which starts only in a year's time. And under the new law, same-sex couples obtain many of the rights that spouses have.
Thus, sexual partners have the right to health care and insurance, mutual support is regulated, property relations are governed, and they are also given the right to inherit and take care of the children they already have.
Same-sex partners will not be able to adopt children, but the NGO sector says it will be a topic to be discussed in the future.
The first same-sex marriages are expected next summer because before then, about 20 laws need to be changed, bylaws passed, and registrars prepared.

LGBTI Forum Progress: A Historical Step in the Struggle for Equality

The organization LGBTI Forum Progress assessed the Law's adoption as a historic step in the fight for the human rights of LGBTI people in Montenegro.
"The NGOs LGBT Forum Progress and the LGBTIQ Social Center, as well as the entire community we represent, welcome the adoption of the Life Partnership Act and congratulate all LGBTI people on this historic day," the LGBTI Forum Progress said.
"As an organization that has advocated for the legal recognition of same-sex communities for many years and as active participants in the Working Group that created this Law, we are pleased about this long-awaited outcome. Now the key remains - implementing this Law in practice - which is the next big a step in protecting the human rights of LGBTI people, "the statement said.
John M. Barac of the LGBTIQ Social Center said the feeling is indescribable, but that the path to essential equality is before us.
"I cannot say that we are completely equal from today, because the path to real and essential equality is just ahead of us. A step forward in recognizing that we, same-sex couples, exist at all. The Assembly has sided with equality and love and sent a clear message that Montenegro is moving forward. I hope that the institutions will justify the trust and consistently implement this Law, paving the way for real equality," Barac concluded.

Queer Montenegro: This is a significant victory

Queer Montenegro congratulates all lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and trans people on this great victory!
"We will modestly celebrate today, given the overall social circumstances, in our now legally recognized communities. Tomorrow we will continue to fight for full equality and full freedom for all LGBT people in our country!" they said.
"We congratulate all MPs who have fulfilled their social obligation by supporting this Law. History will remember you. We thank those who were against this Law. Your resistance strengthens us!", Queer Montenegro said in a statement.

Alison Kemp: Congratulations to future LGBTI families in Montenegro

"It is a historic day for the LGBTI community in Montenegro. I congratulate the future LGBTIQ communities in Montenegro and the legislator on this decision. The United Kingdom will continue to support the further development of human rights, tolerance, and equality," said the British Ambassador yesterday.

Rising Reinke: A significant step forward for equality and tolerance for all

The US Ambassador to Montenegro, Judy Rising Reinke, congratulated Montenegro on the adoption of this Law on her twitter profile. She added that this is a significant step forward for equality and tolerance of all members of society.

NGO Juventas: Montenegro has eliminated one inequality, we can all be proud 

With the adoption of the Law on Same-Sex Life Partnerships, a step has been made to make the position of LGBT people more comfortable, through legal regulation of relations between life partners, and Montenegro removed one inequality, of which we can all be proud.
The non-governmental organization Juventas announced this on the occasion of the adoption of the Law on Same-Sex Life Partnerships in the Parliament of Montenegro.
Juventas recalled that the political and legal struggle had lasted for over eight years.
The fact that the Law was passed indicates that, as they pointed out, many legislators still consider the pluralism of identities, including sexual ones.
"This Law recognizes that our lives do not follow the same patterns and that happiness does not lie in molds, but the understanding that our needs are the same or similar, but we are all different. Based on all the parliamentary debates we have had the opportunity to listen to, we are aware that there is still a lot of room for certain things to be improved. In the first place, we mean the awareness of many parliamentarians to recognize the realities of our social context," Juventas emphasised.
"The successful completion of this process would not have been possible without the support of the civil sector, media, political parties that supported the Law, institutions, the European Union, the Council of Europe, UN systems, ILGA, ERA, numerous Western embassies, and numerous individuals who have provided unreserved support for years. Let the Law help to legally strengthen the love and the right to a happy family for people of the same sex," Juventas said.

Bjeković: I welcome the Law, respect the dignity and equality of all people

The adoption of the Law on Same-Sex Life Partnerships is an important date for the LGBTIQ community in Montenegro, said the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms Siniša Bjeković.
"This is an important date for the LGBTIQ community in Montenegro. We share their satisfaction, hoping that this important democratic step will bring them all the expected benefits," Bjeković said.
"The state and society should ensure the degree of realization of rights and freedoms that will respect the dignity and equality of all people, regardless of any personal characteristics and regardless of different political public attitudes," said Bjeković.

Prime Minister Markovic welcomed the adoption of the Law

The Prime Minister of Montenegro Dusko Markovic welcomed the adoption of the Law on Same-Sex Life Partnerships in the Parliament of Montenegro.
"This is a big step in the right direction for Montenegrin society, its democratic maturity, and integration processes. Equality and the same rights for all are the cornerstones of human and European values. I want to thank the LGBTIQ community for dialogue and contributions. There can be no room for discrimination based on sexual orientation in a European Montenegro, "- said the Prime Minister.
Sources: Vijesti, Government of Montenegro
30 Jun 2020, 23:40 PM
June 30, 2020 - Most of the Western Balkans' leaders have been advocating for reforms and good neighborly relations at summits and conferences for years, but without putting words into action, said Pierre Mirel, former director of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Enlargement.
In December 2010, Montenegro became a candidate for EU membership. Eight years after Montenegro opened EU accession talks, Mirel told Vijesti that the "captive state" was still prevalent in most Western Balkan countries, with Montenegro and Serbia considered leaders in European integration, and now considered "hybrid regimes".
"Public administration remains weak. Media freedom has been attacked, as have many journalists, physically. "Montenegro and Serbia, which have often been mentioned as leaders in negotiations, are now considered 'hybrid regimes' according to Freedom House's report on nations in transition in 2020," Mirel said.
You have repeatedly criticized Montenegro for not implementing the necessary reforms. Is that the main reason for the country's slow progress in negotiations with the EU?
Pierre Mirel: Some politicians and research centers often blame the EU for the slow accession process with the Western Balkans. Their main argument is that the fifth enlargement took only six years since the opening of accession talks in 1998, while 20 years after the first Zagreb summit when the European perspective of the Western Balkans was first emphasized, only Croatia is an EU member of the region. They usually forget a crucial fact: the countries of Central Europe have abruptly undertaken all the essential reforms required by the 1993 Copenhagen criteria. Most of them were launched as early as 1992-1997 within the framework of the association agreement.
Indeed, the internal situation in the EU was very different. However, working on the accession process, Central European countries have given priority to the long-term benefits of joining their "return to Europe" over their short-term political gains, regardless of cost, including political cost. It should be acknowledged that in the accession process, the burden of proof lies on the candidates. How could EU members be willing to get seriously involved in the accession process of countries where the phenomenon of "captive state" prevails, as stated by the EC and many NGOs? It is also apparent that many member states would be reluctant to accept countries inspired by the regime of the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Mirel: The key to progress is political will
What are the main problems facing Montenegro and other Western Balkan countries?
Pierre Mirel: Why would EU leaders be willing to push the negotiation process when most Western Balkan leaders have been advocating for reforms and good neighborly relations for so many years, at summits and conferences, but without putting words into action? Albania and Northern Macedonia seem to be exceptions. They carried out profound judicial reforms through the vetting process and later by the Prespa Agreement. In both cases, the political risks were high, but they fulfilled their obligations bravely. So far, other countries have not followed this reform process. The captured state still prevails.
Pierre Mirel: The Montenegrin government has agreed to continue the negotiation process according to the new methodology. Do you think that is good for Montenegro? Could this speed up Montenegro's accession process?
The new methodology includes very positive elements: a cluster approach that focuses on sectors; participation in EU programs when clusters are closed; higher political governance of member states. It can only benefit Montenegro. However, the importance of the "basis" of the negotiation process (the rule of law, etc.) remains crucial. A performance-based criterion for IPA funding, coupled with a "reversibility clause" - in the event of severe stagnation or even backwardness - would not help any negotiating country in which significant reforms would be prolonged.
So, regardless of the accession methodology, the key to progress is political will on both sides. The candidate is responsible for fulfilling its obligations, and the EU to fulfill its promises when the conditions are met. Or conclude backlogs. No methodology will ever replace the political will to meet the criteria and requirements for accession.
Pierre Mirel: Is Montenegro accepted to negotiate according to the new methodology a friendly suggestion from Brussels as a consequence of the fact that it did not make substantial progress in the negotiations with the EU?
I am no longer part of the negotiation process between the EC and Montenegro, so I cannot answer this question. Looking at the plodding pace of negotiations on Montenegro's accession, I believe that the state had nothing to lose in accepting the new methodology. Quite the opposite, because IPA funding is likely to increase, with the announced investment plan. However, "increased EU assistance will be linked to tangible progress in the rule of law and socio-economic reforms, as well as adherence to EU values, rules, and standards," as stated in a recent declaration from the Zagreb Summit.
Therefore, if Montenegro wants the benefits of increased EU assistance, it should implement reforms in line with the new methodology. By the way, what I qualified as the "paradox of Montenegro", i.e. 32 chapters opened, but only three closed in eight years, will continue to prevail.
The EC's main priority is to implement a recovery plan
Members of the new EC say their priority is EU enlargement. Could Montenegro be the next new EU member?
Pierre Mirel: As far as I know, the EC's main priorities as a whole are the implementation of the recovery plan - after the Covid-19 pandemic - and the Green Agreement, with which the countries of the Western Balkans will be closely connected. The consequences of climate change will undoubtedly be much more severe than any virus pandemic. Therefore, the EU and the World Bank should work together to prevent dangerous effects with appropriate measures and funding. And the World Bank should finally honor its reform commitments. It can only bring the Western Balkans closer to the EU member states and thus facilitate their accession to the EU because we share the same fate in this part of the European continent.
28 Jun 2020, 21:31 PM

June 28, 2020 - The fact that the main tourist season will this year bypass Montenegro's tourism capital is not the only thing currently on the minds of the citizens of Budva and indeed the rest of Montenegro. In one of only three opposition municipalities in Montenegro, political conflicts have been ongoing for a month now, and have partly spilled over into the streets of Budva. The Montenegrin police are actively involved in the entire process.

A brief summary would not do justice to the complexity of the situation, so here we will provide you an overview of the most important events that have marked the beginning of a "hot political summer" in Montenegro.

budva logo Budva Municipality logo

April 30: The Crnogorska party submits to the Municipality of Budva's parliamentary service an initiative for the removal of the Mayor of Budva, Marko Bato Carević.

Sixteen councilors sign the proposal, three from Crnogorska, 11 from the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), one from the Social Democrats (SD), and independent councilor Stevan Džaković.

May 27: Members of the Democratic Front (DF) in Budva file a criminal complaint against an alleged organized criminal group that, as they claim, agreed to replace the government in Budva, with the million-dollar corruption of independent councilor Stevan Džaković. The criminal charges were filed with the Special State Prosecutor's Office and the Chief Special Prosecutor Milivoje Katnić.

The report addresses an unidentified person, who is said to be influential in the DPS, "associated with high-level crime and a bank in Montenegro", and an organizer of a criminal organization. In the application, the DF mentioned many persons from the political, public, and business milieu.

May 28: All 12 councilors of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) Budva come to the local parliament (scheduled for June 30) and vote for the removal of Mayor Marko Carević and the President of the Municipal Assembly Krsto Radović.

At the Ministry of Finance's request, the Commercial Court issues a temporary measure blocking all accounts of the Municipality of Budva to the tune of 29.3 million euros, the amount the German-Austrian company WTE / EVN withdrew from the state account in December 2019 by activating the guarantee. The Municipality of Budva claims that this is a state guarantee, given by the Government of Montenegro for a wastewater project. The contract defines that the local government is not obliged to pay the sum to the state in case of activation of the guarantee.

May 29: The Democratic Front (DF) in Budva announces that the DPS, together with Crnogorska and independent councilor Stevan Džaković, has a plan to "brutally violate the law, statute, and rules of procedure and hold a parallel quasi-session of the Budva municipal assembly to try to remove current government ".

"The freeze on all accounts of the Municipality of Budva best proves this is a joint venture of state bodies, primarily the Ministry of Finance and the Commercial Court, supporting DPS to undo all positive effects of the local fight with organized crime and corruption, "said the DF.

Police officers secure the local parliament session in civilian clothes, causing esentment among the Democrats and the DF members. After the end of the meeting, the police remove independent councilor Stevan Džaković from the improvised hall, waiting for the increasingly disaffected crowd gathered in protest against the violation of the electoral will.

May 30: A session of the local parliament is held in Budva, at which the dismissal of the President of the Municipality, Marko Bato Carević, is discussed. The member of the Democrats of the Municipal Assembly (MA) of Budva, Dragan Krapović, stated that the law had been clear and that the deadline for voting on the removal of Carević had expired.

The next session is scheduled for June 29.

June 3: The Municipal Assembly of Budva does not decide on the dismissal of its President, Krsto Radović, after the legal deadline of 30 days for a declaration expires at midnight.

The Chairman, Gojko Liješević (Democratic Montenegro), schedules the continuation of the session for June 29.

budva carevic and radovic cdm.me

Krsto Radović and Marko Bato Carević, Source: cdm.me

June 5: Seventeen councilors of Budva's Assembly address the Ministry of Public Administration and ask for their opinion on the occasion of two sessions of the local parliament in Budva, held to discuss initiatives for dismissal of Mayor Marko Carević and President of the Municipal Assembly of Budva Krsto Radović, states the DPS.

June 6: The Municipal Board of DPS Budva files a complaint against the responsible persons in the Municipality for violating the law, the Statute and the Rules of Procedure of the Municipal Assembly of Budva, states the President of the Budva Coard of DPS Predrag Jelušić.

June 7: The Budva Committee of Democratic Montenegro announces that it is preparing criminal charges against the President of the DPS committee in the city, Predrag Jelušić, and "other people responsible for the Port of Budva." They are also preparing criminal charges for several other cases, which, as they state, involve Public Enterprise Morsko Dobro and Jelušić as its Director.

The Democrats react to Jelušić's statement that the DPS in Budva was filing charges against those responsible in that Municipality, adding that the DPS "knew very well" that the President of the Budva municipal assembly, Krsto Radović, had complied with all legal deadlines and statutory and business obligations.

The party announces criminal charges against "all those responsible and involved in corruption and the buying of support of councilor Džaković, as well as for false reporting."

June 8: The Assembly Service of the Municipal Assembly of Budva receives a request to convene a session by the newly formed majority in the local parliament, consisting of DPS, SD, Crnogorska, and independent councilor Stevan Džaković. Sixteen councilors sign the request, with 11 signatures needed for its adoption.

June 9: The Ministry of Public Administration assesses that the President of the Municipal Assembly of Budva, Krsto Radović, acted contrary to the provisions of the Law on Local Self-Government and the Statute of the Municipality because he did not allow councilors to vote on the proposals submitted.

The Mayor of Budva, Marko Carević, requests an urgent meeting with Minister of Finance, Darko Radunović, to solve the problem of the million-dollar freeze on the city treasury.

June 11: A new majority in the Municipal Assembly of Budva fires Mayor Marko Carević and President of the Municipal Assembly Krsto Radović. They hold a session in the tourist resort Slovenska Plaža. All 17 councilors of the new majority, consisting of councilors from DPS, SD, Crnogorska, and independent councilor Stevan Džaković, vote for the removal of Carevic and Radovic. Vladimir Bulatović (Crnogorska) is appointed acting President of the Municipality until the election of a new president, and DPS councilor Snežana Kuč is appointed interim President of the Municipal Assembly.

June 16: "Regarding my departure from the position of Mayor of Budva, several legal problems are intertwined. The Constitution of Montenegro states that the will of the citizens is guaranteed. I came to power by the will of the citizens, and now they want to remove me with an election law that violates Montenegro's Constitution. The method of personal mandates is an old tactic of the DPS that has been corrupting councilors for decades and changing the citizens' electoral will by buying them," said the dismissed mayor of Budva, Bato Carević.

The Special State Prosecutor's office investigates the allegations of criminal charges against the officials of the Municipal Assembly of Budva and the Mayor, the Chief Special Prosecutor Milivoje Katnić states at a press conference. He explains that they are acting on corroborating reports from Budva politicians and a statement released by one non-governmental organization.

Carević files criminal charges against three inspectors of the Administrative Inspection, as well as against DPS board member Snezana Kuč and the leader of the Budva Board from Crnogorska, Vladimir Bulatovic, for "abuse of official position, creation of a criminal organization for the violent takeover of power and intrusion into official premises."

Officials of the Administrative Inspection of the Ministry of Public Administration are prevented from filing a decision of the new parliamentary majority in the governmental service of the Municipality of Budva, by which Carević and Radović were dismissed, after which the inspectors ask for police assistance.

June 17: Budva Mayor Marko Carević, his son and brother, Budva Municipal Assembly President Krsto Radović, and five other associates are arrested for failing to allow police to bring administrative inspectors into the municipal building.

The Manager of the Municipality of Budva, Milo Božović, the Secretary for Investments, Mladen Mikijelj, the Head of Carević's cabinet, Nikola Jovanović, and Carević's Advisor, Đordje Vujović, are also arrested.

Municipal officials and citizens gather early that morning outside the Municipality of Budva, as a dozen police vans arrive in Budva. The entire city is under police siege, according to Vijesti.

budva citizens june 17Citizens of Budva Offering  Food to Police, Source: RTCG

On June 16, the Administrative Inspection of the Ministry of Public Administration issues a decision ordering that the new majority be granted access to the Municipality and documents. Carević and Radović do not recognize those decisions. They claim that they are illegal and do not allow the newly elected officials to enter the Municipal building and have access to documents. They state that the political crisis in Budva has come after councilor Stevan Džaković, who was on the list of the Democratic Front, decided to support the opposition, which in that Municipality consists of the Democratic Party of Socialists and the Montenegrin Party. The sacked leadership claims that this is political corruption.

The Vijesti portal states that the police applied an inappropriate degree of force and tear gas against the municipal officials and citizens and that the windows on the municipal building were broken. The most significant reastions from the media were caused by the recording of the police's actions towards the former Secretary for Investments of the Municipality of Budva, Mladen Mikijelj.

Carević, Radović, and other officials of the Municipality of Budva are released later in the afternoon. Radović states that the entire public could see that Montenegro does not have a Constitution and that legislation and the rule of law have been suspended and subordinated to the greatest dictator Milo Đukanović.

The Vice President of the Democrats and councilor Dragan Krapović calls on the citizens to remain persistent and stay, and calls on representatives of all parties to come to Budva. As he states, democracy is being defended there.

He says that the municipal officials in Risan hospital were found to have injuries inflicted on them by the police during the detention, but that they were generally well.

Krapović sends a message to the international community to take into account of what is happening in Montenegro. "Do not keep silent on the unpleasant scenes of Milo Đukanović's military junta," he said.

June 20: There are almost eight million euros in the account of the Municipality of Budva, but the money cannot be used as long as the temporary measure of the Commercial Court is in force at the end of May at the request of the Ministry of Finance. However, during the political crisis, when there are "two authorities" in the city, which have started a dialogue to overcome tensions and calm passions, resolving the account blockade will have to be a priority. During the talks, political representatives are forbidden to make any political statements and thus raise tensions, and prevent an agreement. The Commercial Court has not yet ruled on the objection lodged by Marko Carević's administration against the interim measure, blocking bank accounts.

June 22: Snezana Kuč schedules consultations with the presidents of the committee groups on Thursday, June 25, on the occasion of the next session of the parliament, on the current political situation.

In the invitation to the councilors' groups, it is stated that the topic of the meeting is consultations related to the work at the next session of the Municipal Assembly of Budva and the conversation regarding the current political situation.

The leader of Montenegro, Vladimir Bulatović, leaves the building of the Municipality of Budva, where he talks with the DPS councilor Snežana Kuč and President of the Municipality, Marko Carević. The meeting ends without an agreement. The Municipal building meeting is briefly attended by the President of the Municipal Assembly, Krsto Radović.

budva 22 june rtvbd Civic Protests in Budva, Source RTV BN

On that same day, deputies and councilors of Democratic Montenegro break through the cordon of private security in the Municipal Assembly (MA) of Budva, who had been hired the day before by the acting President of the Municipality, Vladimir Bulatović.

The President of the Municipal Assembly of Budva, Krsto Radović, invites those who want to resolve the political situation in Budva to come to the Municipal building. He tells people gathered in front of the Municipal building that the leader of Montenegro, Vladimir Bulatović, "confirmed that he had ordered" his arrest and that of President of the Municipality, Marko Carević. Radović calls on those gathered to remain peaceful and not to attack the police.

Marko Carević, Krsto Radović, leader of the Democrats, Aleksa Bečić with eight deputies, as well as four deputies of the Democratic Front, Slaven Radunović, Marina Jocić, Milun Zogović, and Jovan Vucurović, are in the building of the Municipality, as well as municipal officials and councilors, and police inspectors.

June 23: Carević and Radović state that they have received word from the police that no one will be able to enter the building of the Municipality of Budva, and ask the gathered citizens to disperse.

Representatives of the local government and representatives appointed by the new majority of councilors a few days earlier as acting presidents of the Municipality and the President of the municipal assembly, will not be able to enter the municipal building. Carević asks the police to provide him with a document stating that the Municipality was closed.

The legal representative of the Municipality of Budva, Vladan Bojić, says that something that unforeseen had happened that day, that the Municipality had been turned into a police station.

"For the first time, the police are closing down the local government and unconstitutionally preventing workers from coming to their jobs. It is a sure way to ruin an unreasonable decision that is direct to the detriment of citizens. This is a violation of the Constitution because workers are forbidden to come to work." said Carević.

The Municipality of Budva is not provided with official information based on which the police forbid everyone to enter, which was also confirmed by Vladimir Bulatović, who tells Vijesti that he has not received any document.

June 24: On the occasion of the invitation of the DPS and Montenegro for mediation in Budva, the EU Delegation to Montenegro tells "Vijesti" that they have nothing to add to the statement of the EC spokesperson Anna Pisonero Hernandez.

She states that the EU welcomes the dialogue in Budva and calls on all political actors to show respect for the rule of law and democratic principles and to show political maturity to find a sustainable solution to the current situation through dialogue and mutual respect.

The leader of Crnogorska, Vladimir Bulatović, sends a letter to the security service asking security to prevent all employees from entering the building of the Municipality of Budva, except those listed. Bulatović, who has signed as acting President of the Municipality of Budva, bans councilors from entering until further notice.

Economic crime inspectors enter the building of the Municipality of Budva and begin control of the members of the security.

In Budva, police deploy tear gas after a warning is issued to citizens who have surrounded the police station to disperse.

budva june 24

Special Police Forces in Budva, June 24, Source: Vijesti Online

After being arrested earlier that day, Carević and Radović, as well as DF councilors Đorđije Vujović and Đordje Pribilović, and SNP councilor Krsto Radjenović are released. Among those detained are the Vice President and councilor of the Democrats, Dragan Krapović, the Head of Carević's Cabinet, Nikola Jovanović, and the Manager of the Municipality, Milo Božović. Not far from the police station, famous boxer Nikola Sjekloća is also arrested. The Head of the Protection and Rescue Service, Dragan Božović, and the Head of the Utilities Collection Service, Ninoslav Kaludjerović,  are also detained.

After 5.30 pm, tear gas is thrown outside elementary school "Stefan Mitrov Ljubiša", and then at the crossroads, where riots break out. Stones are thrown at the police station, and tear gas is thrown into the hall of the Sports Center during children's training.

Members of the Special Police Units come to the official parking lot of the Municipality of Budva before and after citizens have gathered because the end of working hours was approaching. They await the departure of acting presidents of the Municipality and the Municipal Assembly, Vladimir Bulatović and Snežana Kuč, from the Municipality premises.

June 27: A new majority of councilors in the Municipal Assembly of Budva elect DPS MP Nikola Divanović as the President of the Municipality of Budva.

Andjela Ivanović (Crnogorska) is elected President of the Budva municipal assembly by 17 councilors - 12 DPS councilors, three Crnogorska's councilors, one Social Democrat (SD) councilor, and Stevan Džaković, an independent councilor.

The decision is not recognized by a coalition of the Democratic Front (DF), Democratic Montenegro, the Civic Movement URA, the Socialist People's Party (SNP), and the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

The session is marked by chaos, including physical clashes between political opponents, which lead to five opposition councilors being taken to the police. Vijesti states that DF councilor Milan Šoljaga tried to enter the session, but private security did not allow him to do so.

The media are not allowed to attend the Municipal Assembly of Budva session at which Divanović and Ivanović are elected. However, the rules of procedure of the local government body prescribe that the meetings are public and must be open to journalists.

budva assembly meeting 27 june


Police Forces in front of the Municipality of Budva, June 27, Source: Vijesti Online

The Media Union of Montenegro (SMCG) strongly condemned the actions of the private security team that was engaged in the building of the Municipal Assembly of Budva, which during the session of the local parliament forcibly and inappropriately expell Pobjeda journalist Đurđica Ćorić from the municipal premises.

The Budva Board of the Democratic Front (DF) states that Nikola Divanovic (DPS) is the self-proclaimed President of the Municipality of Budva and that the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) in Budva have shown the kind of democracy from the golden age of the regime of former Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu.

DPS MP Nikola Divanović claims that he is the legitimate President of the Municipality of Budva because the parliamentary majority had voted for him. He says that he will start working on solving the problem on Monday, promising that there will be no revanchism and that everyone who wants to work has a place in his team.

26 Jun 2020, 20:51 PM

Decision Confirmed

June 26, 2020 - The EU-Montenegro Intergovernmental Conference, at which the chapter is to be officially opened, will be held on Tuesday, June 30, at ambassadorial level.

The permanent ambassadors of the European Union member states in Brussels confirmed the decision to open Chapter 8 - Competition with Montenegro, TVCG’s correspondent in Brussels has learned.

The EU-Montenegro Intergovernmental Conference, at which the chapter is to be officially opened, will be held on Tuesday, June 30, at ambassadorial level, reports RTCG.

Earlier, representatives of the 27 member states in the EU Enlargement Council Working Group (COELA) spoke positively on Tuesday about opening the last negotiation chapter with Montenegro.

The decision to open negotiation chapter 8 with Montenegro was made during the last week of Croatia's presidency of the EU Council, which Germany will assume on July 1st.

Chapter 8 - Competition, is one of the most demanding negotiation chapters that always opens and closes among the last, according to the official website of the Office for European Integration of Montenegro.


23 Jun 2020, 23:14 PM
June 23, 2020 - The Civic Alliance (GA) today submitted an initiative to assess the constitutionality of the decision to call parliamentary elections to the Constitutional Court. Previously, the representatives of the Institute Alternativa and the Center for Civil Liberties also reacted, referring to Montenegro's Constitution, according to which, as they claim, there were no conditions for calling elections at the end of August.
Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic called parliamentary and local elections for August 30 on June 20.
In a joint statement, the Institute of Alternatives (IA) and the Center for Civil Liberties (CEGAS) said that Montenegro could have "two Assemblies" for 36 days, if the elections are held on August 30.
Independent MP Aleksandar Damjanović believes that by announcing the parliamentary elections on August 30, Đukanović "violated Article 84 of the Constitution, which clearly defines the duration of the mandate of the Parliament of Montenegro".
"Apart from the fact the President shortened the mandate of the Assembly by more than a month and a half, although it could be reduced only by the Assembly Decision, a kind of arrogance was demonstrated, which indicates the direction of the election match under the conditions dictated by the current government, "said Damjanović.
He added that in democratic, free countries, the Constitutional Court would be moved to act, and would rule as soon as possible, as he stated, that the President's decision had been unconstitutional and illegal.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs announced that 541,232 citizens have the right to vote in the parliamentary elections.

Lalicic: The decision to call the elections follows the Constitution

The decision to call parliamentary elections made by Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic is absolutely in line with the Montenegrin Constitution, said Jovanka Lalicic, President of the Legislative Committee.
She explained that this is an obligation provided by Article 95, paragraph 4 of Montenegro's Constitution.
"I remind you that we are in an election year and that the previous parliamentary elections were held in 2016, and that these are regular parliamentary elections, so there is no need to shorten the mandate. President Djukanovic fulfilled his legal obligation; this is another irresponsible attitude on the part of the opposition towards issues important for our state and society, "Lalicic said.
She stated that the opposition resorted to a tried and tested recipe for obstructing dialogue, and started the election campaign with an alibi for an electoral defeat.
"In that context, we also experience these unfounded accusations about the alleged violation of the Constitution, and which come from election losers and certain NGOs, whose views, as a rule, always coincide with the opposition's," Lalicic concluded in a statement.
Source: CDM, Vijesti Online, Civic Alliance
23 Jun 2020, 22:50 PM
June 23, 2020 - On the occasion of the European Commission's decision to approve the opening of the last negotiating chapter with Montenegro, Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said that today is an excellent day for Montenegro, confirming it is close to EU membership.
"We are very pleased to receive the news that the European Commission's competent body has given the green light to open the last chapter 8 - Competition in negotiations with the European Union. We expect that this will be formally confirmed tomorrow. It is a great day for Montenegro, which will become the first candidate country to open all negotiating chapters. We have confirmed what has been heard from every relevant address for years – that Montenegro is the most promising and country closest to EU membership. This is therefore proof of our consistent commitment to successfully fulfilling the obligations stemming from the European agenda. It is also another confirmation of our leadership position in the enlargement process. It is also gives  great recognition to the Government and all our institutions for their hard work on the adoption and application of European standards and harmonization with European regulations. At the same time, it is a response to all those who tried to question the democratic and reform capacities of Montenegro," said the Prime Minister.
PM Marković recalled that our country has come a long and challenging way since the beginning of negotiations- from the fact that a new approach focused on progress in Chapters 23 and 24 was applied to us for the first time, to particular challenges brought by the process of internal consolidation in the EU. 
"Today's consent gives us confirmation that all our efforts and patience have borne fruit, and that the result is valued even when it is still pending. After the recent non-paper on the rule of law, noting Montenegro's progress in key areas, the support of member states to open the last chapter showed their commitment to the European perspective of the region, which was the focus of the last EU-Western Balkans Summit," said the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Duško Marković said that they were especially pleased that the green light was given during Croatia's presidency of the EU Council, which is the result of selfless efforts by neighboring Croatia to place the enlargement policy high on the Union's agenda.
"By accepting the new negotiation methodology, Montenegro has shown readiness to dynamize the process further since the focus will be on the technical and the political aspects of enlargement. The opening of Chapter 8 marks the end of the first phase of the EU integration process. It gives us the wind in our sails to approach the fulfillment of obligations in the next, most demanding stage of closing the chapters with new enthusiasm. We used the time we had to achieve internal readiness for the temporary closure of one set of sections in the coming period, on which we will actively work with Germany, which will assume the presidency," concluded Prime Minister Duško Marković.
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