March 31, 2019 - The Social Democratic Party initiated the dismissal of the President of the Kotor Municipality, Vladimir Jokić, supported by the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), the Social Democrats (SD) and the Croatian Civic Initiative (HGI). SDP, among other things, claims that the Municipal President abused his authority and usurped the ingeniousness of the Kotor Municipal Assembly. About the political crisis in Kotor and the initiative for his dismissal, and about the Port of Kotor, the status of Kotor on the UNESCO list and the issuance of the key document for the area – Spatial Urban Plan of Kotor municipality, we spoke with Mayor Vladimir Jokić.
- Your dismissal petitioners claim that you are abusing your powers and usurping the inherencies of the Municipality Assembly. They accuse you of partitioning and making decisions that will cause long-term damage to Kotor. How do you comment?
The SDP in Kotor formalised its cooperation with DPS, SD and HGI, jointly signing for a proposal for my dismissal. I want to look at the political background to that. So, we have the situation that those who represented themselves as the opposition to DPS were the same who have ignored the fact that someone does not pay public money. In such a situation they have come back to the embrace of their old partners for, I suppose, a new cup of drunkenness, this time of Kotor. When the entire Montenegrin opposition attempts to create unity, when we have tens of thousands of people every Saturday protesting peacefully in the streets of Podgorica against the regime, we have SDP, the party which was cooperating with DPS for almost 20 years, deciding to, with DPS, SD and HGI, submit an initiative for dismissing the president of the municipality. It cannot be interpreted differently than to overturn the electoral will of citizens. All political attempts to present it as an attempt to resign an individual are genuinely banal and do not deserve a comment. Even less possible is to comment on the allegations that are in public and listed in the dismissal initiative.
- The SDP calls that you, embezzling the ingeniousness of the Assembly, made up to 14 illegal decisions.
It is a fascinating attitude of SDP, and it is almost unbelievable as long as these people go in their hypocrisy. Take the example of Kotor. When Maja Ćatović was elected President of the Municipality of Kotor in 2005, she signed the municipal budget of 31 March, referring to Article 58, now a famous Article 59 of the Local Self-Government Act, and her decision was supported by SDP three months later. You had had many decisions in Tivat, which, referring to the same article, brought the presidents of the municipality and subsequently confirmed the assembly, at moments when the SDP was part of that administration. We have such examples throughout Montenegro. And then the same SDP finds that I quote, "Jokic Force above Law and Citizens" because I made these 14 decisions.
- The SDP argues that decisions are affecting the city's long-term damage. In a statement from 25 March, asking for your dismissal, the municipal committee of the party stressed that "it must stop self-determination in making vital decisions for the city that is damaging the durable goods of citizens and introducing the city into lawlessness." What are the decisions?
The assembly has not met, we all know the political reasons for this, and if we talk about legality - the question of political parties is whether the parliament will function, it is not within the competence of the municipal president. So, we have a crisis of power. During the crisis, we have a tourist season coming when we have public companies that cannot work without their business plans. At that point, as a municipal president, I have two options - to leave those companies blocked or to disband their work. Perhaps from the political side, it was much wiser that I kept everything blocked and shifted responsibility to political parties. As a responsible man doing an accountable job, my only logical option was to enable the smooth operation of these companies. I do not know if there is a need to mention that I have applied for such treatment by SDP officials. I have signed decisions on giving consent to the programs and plans of the Utility Company, Water Supply Company, Tourist Organization, Cultural Center, and Public Institution Museums. To be completely practical - if I did not sign a decision to give consent to the work program and the financial plan of the Water Supply Company, this company could not lawfully perform the supply of water to Grbalj, Krivošije and other parts of the municipality that do not have water during the summer. So that was an obligation. Also, I have made different decisions, such as placing some documents in a public hearing, which is "great unlawfulness." We had a choice to entrust the Port of Kotor with the parking area on the waterfront as a prerequisite for handing over the concessions on the Operational Coast in Kotor. What undoubtedly the most politically disadvantaged SDP are the shifts and the appointment of members of the boards of directors of public companies. We had the president of the Steering Committee of the Utility Company, for whom I was presented with proof that he had held sessions without a quorum, where he made decisions for his benefit. Within the framework of a coalition agreement, I asked coalition partners to nominate another person. Under that agreement, it is agreed that, if chosen persons meet the legal requirements, there is no room for intervention in these cases. Members of the board of directors are functions shared by constituents of one government. The parties have proposed their candidates; I have named them by the decisions in a regular procedure and accordance with Article 58 sent to the Assembly. At that point, we have two options - the assembly confirms these decisions, so that they continue to apply from the moment when I have made those decisions or that they have ceased to be valid since the assembly did not confirm them.
- The fact is that one of the issues raised by the Kotor crisis is the question of the Port of Kotor. The first stumbling block was the election of the board of directors of this company in May last year.
During the formation of the administration in Kotor, we had a clear and publicly pronounced attitude of the Socialist People's Party (SNP) in Kotor that they sought the majority in the board of directors. Like other constituents of the coalition, we agreed to that. Based on such agreement I was elected president of the municipality, the president of local SDP was elected vice-president. From the same deal, three members of the SNP were appointed to the Board of Directors of Port of Kotor. It is my duty, as someone at the helm of this coalition, to respect the Coalition Agreement by which I was elected. Last May, for the first time, we had a situation in which the SDP did not want to vote for the members of the board of directors of the Port of Kotor with the request to nominate one member of the SDP. In this company, the Democratic Front has an executive director, SDP has a deputy executive director, a function that had not previously existed, but was introduced by new systematisation so that the SDP could exercise its control function in the Port of Kotor.
- On the occasion of the Concession Agreement, the Government of Montenegro concluded with the Port of Kotor, and they are discussing the investment plans for port infrastructure publicly, which critics claim will further jeopardise the natural and cultural heritage of Boka Bay. The business plan is an integral part of the concession agreement, which you have supported at the extraordinary assembly of shareholders of the Port of Kotor, convened on this occasion for performing a single act without consultation with coalition partners.
Neither the business plan of the Port of Kotor nor any other step in the context of the concession was done overnight; this was a process that lasted in one joint stock company. We have the situation that the party that has a deputy executive director appears that they know nothing about anything. When it comes to consulting the Assembly, considering that it is necessary to be as transparent as possible, we are launching the practice of agreeing on how the representative of the municipality will declare at the Assembly of Shareholders of the Port of Kotor at the municipal assembly. Although, besides appointing members of the board of directors to the Port of Kotor, the president of the municipality has the right to represent the municipality autonomously at the assembly of shareholders. On 27 December last year, the Government of Montenegro issued a decision to hand over the concession over the operational coast of Kotor to the joint stock company Port of Kotor. The day after, 28 December, we had a meeting of the assembly in Kotor. At that session, the SDP congress chairperson congratulated citizens of Kotor for a concession, while deputy head of the executive director was sitting in front of her, with the deputy chairman. It is logical to assume that people in such important positions are informed.
In February, when we need to hold the Extraordinary Shareholders' Assembly of the Port to accept the Concession Agreement, appreciating the importance of this issue we want to keep the municipal assembly. We had three coalition meetings, and we were discussing the date and agenda of the Assembly Summit. We had a collegium of the president of the assembly, where the chairman of the SDP committee was participating. After that, we had a new coalition meeting to attend the authors of the Port of Kotor Business Plan to give the presidents of the parliamentary parties in Kotor the answers to every possible question and doubt. The SDP on that day refused to participate in that coalition meeting. We went to the assembly session, and ten minutes before that session came a letter in which the SDP warns that if there was any decision at that session, there was no longer a coalition majority in Kotor. Wishing to give room for additional conversations, I did not go to the extraordinary session of the shareholders' meeting. I used the statutory deadline of 15 days to convene a new session to reach a solution. However, you are also aware of the media and that the situation has become so tense that it was impossible to reach a consensus. As the president of the municipality, I was in a situation waiting for a session of shareholders to have as the president of the municipality authority under Article 58 of the Local Self-Government Act to represent the municipality at that session. I have three options - not to go to the session and let the minorities make the decision, to go and vote for the concession or against the concession. To vote against the concession, something I have been arguing since the beginning of the mandate, which is part of my party's programming affiliation, which, in my opinion, is currently the most significant interest of this city, was not taken into consideration. To allow minority shareholders to decide on something that is in the majority ownership of the town as long as I was in the forefront of that town - that was also out of the question.
In assessing the political moment, I went to the shareholders' meeting and set up the management of Port of Kotor and the author of the business plan and every question that the representatives of the political constituents who made the coalition set and questioned. I have also asked questions that were of my interest to UNESCO. In addition, I have asked the board of directors that if the Concession Contract, and thus the business plan of the Port of Kotor, is adopted, immediately convene an extraordinary meeting and conclude the executive director that at the time of signing the contract, when the plan becomes an official document, to the revision of UNESCO. After getting answers that, in my opinion, satisfied all that implies a serious approach to this topic, and knowing what the consequence of not declaring such a decision was, I had no dilemma to support the contract. Without prejudice to this decision, the Port of Kotor loses the right to manage their coast. The possibility is open for the Montenegrin Government to launch an international tender that would probably have come from a better bidder than the Port of Kotor. There is another thing that is almost unproblematic in public. You have already contracted over 500 cruising arrivals for this, and over 470 for the next year. The decision of the Government states that the concession of Port of Kotor continues until the concession decision is made. The decision that you are against means that from now on you have no concession. Who is ready to take responsibility for the city's damage to the fact that in the next 12 years it does not ask for its operational coast, to allow the possibility of a foreign company running the port of Kotor?! Finally, who can let a company that is in the majority ownership of the city to be held responsible for potential claims for more than 500 cruising arrivals contracted for this and over 470 for the next year?! The very fact that the local enterprise will continue to keep the archers in Kotor and preserve the possibility of only deciding how many cruises and under what conditions it will be sufficient for ourselves and that the balance of this company will be zero. In the next 12 years, we will invest almost five million euros
, the value of the company is up by about 4 million euros, and in the most conservative scenario, we will earn approximately six million euros. I still have not found any argument to convince me that I made the wrong decision.
- Political disagreements over the concession over the Operational Coast of Kotor in the public space have opened discussions on topics such as the carrying capacity of the destination, the ecological effects of capacity building of the Port of Kotor, but also the orientation of tourism development of the city, today the primary target for excursions. Are citizens scared because the development plan of Port of Kotor will further increase the pressure on the city and the way of life of citizens?
Sorting out some things is necessary. By acquiring a concession, we have retained the right to manage our destination. Destination management is the biggest challenge of all cultural tourism destinations that are on cruise lines. Since the election of the president of the municipality, I am very concerned about it. We had a session in Kotor of the World Heritage City Organization, which together with the Mayor of Dubrovnik I proposed this topic. After that, they had a meeting in Rhodes in Greece, and soon we will meet in Cracow, at the summit of the World Heritage Cities Organizations, where we will discuss how the cruising industry affects the cities of world heritage. Do I think it is good that we have too many ships - I do not think so, and if I think it is good that we have cruise tourism - it is okay if we manage to conduct it. From all the cruise ports, we can first compare ourselves to Dubrovnik, which has significantly reduced the pressure on the city via Respect to the City platform. The platform's point is to make the layout of the cruise arrivals and the arrangement of bus arrivals so that they are dispersed throughout the day so that pressure is not pressed at once. In this way, you provide a good experience for the guests who are coming, which is why they may want to return, have less pressure on the public infrastructure, and most importantly, you are reducing the stress on the life of the local population. It's a process that does not happen overnight, but we will go in that direction.
I would much prefer that Kotor is the destination of stationary tourism, that we have several big hotels and we are based on the development of tourism, and that we have guests who stay for a few days. But we do not have enough to carry the city's economic activity. In that sense, I will return to the concession issue. We will be able to manage this destination, manage future arrivals, reservations, how ships will be tied, decide whether to introduce ecological tenders, and how the city will look. In addition to this fact, every other benefit is small. And it is not without them. With such a way of controlling the Port of Kotor, you can create a "home port"- the port where it is from and where it ends the round trip. You will make a city where you will have tourists. You will have three thousand guests who need to board in Kotor. These people do not come that morning to board the cruiser in Kotor. They come two to three days earlier, which they spend on hotels and the city. The wish of every cruise destination in the world is to be a "home port". We already have the announcement for the next year that we will have a ship that will start its round trip in Kotor. If someone thinks the city of Kotor can develop in a way to free cruise tourism, to do it today for tomorrow, he is delusional.
- Kotor is on the move to finally get the Urban Spatial Plan, whose overturning backdrop for years has been an argument for numerous devastations of the cultural landscape of the protected area of Kotor. The Urban Spatial Plan is undoubtedly a primary development document, but it should also be a guarantee of preserving the natural and cultural values of the space that has been significantly compromised in recent decades. Will this document incorporate in detail the requirements set out in the UNESCO / ICOMOS Joint Reactive Mission Report?
At the moment when I was elected president of the Kotor Municipality, in March 2017, the biggest problem of Kotor was its survival on the UNESCO list. It was a hard position, and in that sense, there is a challenging period behind us. I can also say that during this process I personally "earned" several criminal charges for not issuing building permits in Kostanjica, because of a property in Verige and so on. However, by the persistent work of local self-government and in cooperation with state bodies, I have to praise the collaboration we have recently managed to establish with the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism in the process of adopting the Urban Spatial Plan of the Kotor Municipality, which has given the result. What I specifically have to emphasise is the contribution of the Secretary-General of the Commission for Cooperation with the UNESCO Committee, Mrs Milica Nikolic, and the Montenegrin Ambassador to UNESCO, Mrs Dragica Ponorac, who gave an impudent contribution, especially Mrs Nikolic. From the situation that we are in danger of being deleted from the World Heritage List, we came to the position that we had a visit to the UNESCO / ICOMOS Reactive Mission, to receive the report of this mission, and that next Thursday the Montenegrin Government will adopt the Draft Urban Spatial Plan of Kotor. Of the 33 recommendations given in the Reactive Mission Report, 32 have been entered in this plan. The adopted Draft goes to the World Heritage Center to have an opinion on the proposed document.
I think we have made a very significant civilisation breakthrough in a way that we decided to belong to the society of civilised peoples. It means that we have determined to keep our space and not ruin what the world has entrusted us to hold for the quick profit of offshore companies but to save something for our children. What is certain is that such activities are affected by enormous financial interests. Perhaps it is where we can find the reasons for this kind of political situation today in Kotor. On behalf of your team and in my name I can say that the preservation of Kotor and the preservation on the UNESCO list and the concession for the Port of Kotor, although they are two topics that have obviously caused the most significant turbulence at this time, are the biggest achievements of this city over the past three decades. These two things set the foundation for the development of Kotor in the next decade. Everyone coming here will be able to count on developing the city on these facts, being compelled to civilise norms, and will have a big business that can rely on that development. As the municipal president, and as a politician, I could choose the path that would guarantee me four years of a peaceful mandate. You testified that the previous two and a half years were all apart from the quiet, especially the last half of the year. I do not think I need to explain that this administration and the team that leads the city's interest assumes all the other interests. As a man, I can say that I am much more satisfied that I am in peace with myself than with the rest of the world. The preservation of Kotor on the UNESCO list and the concession over the coast of Kotor are acts that will show their significance in the future.