European Western Balkans

Marković at PACE: Montenegro is achieving strategic goals, but populism is trying to bring us back to past

Duško Marković; Photo: CdM

STRASBOURG – Prime Minister of Montenegro Duško Marković addressed on Tuesday the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Montenegro’s membership in this European organisation. Summing up the results, the Prime Minister said that over the past ten years, the country has worked hard towards achieving its national priorities, it has joined NATO, at the same time successfully leading the process of European integration and improving the independence and efficiency of the judiciary, adding that populist politics is trying to bring the state and society back to the past, Government of Montenegro stated.

“Montenegro has been a full member of NATO since June 5 this year. This is not only the result of the dedicated work of the Government I represent, but all the previous governments that set NATO membership as a key foreign objective, as well as of the Montenegrin society as a whole. This is a legacy we leave to the generations to come that for the first time in the history of Montenegro have the opportunity to achieve the ideal of a better and high-quality life in peace and stability. As to the EU agenda, Montenegro has opened 28 negotiating chapters and 3 of them have been temporarily closed. We are ready to open 3 or 4 more chapters by the end of the year, thus bringing that part of the accession process to an end. We expect that after that, we will begin a new phase of intensive closing of the chapters, and we believe that it is realistic that in the next four to five years we will carry out all the tasks and prepare the country for membership in the European Union. It is indisputable that in the previous decade we have achieved notable progress, but that a number of challenges lie ahead of us as well, which, in significant part, is witnessed by the monitoring and post-monitoring reports this Assembly has adopted in relation to Montenegro,” said Prime Minister Duško Marković In Strasbourg addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The Prime Minister stressed that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s monitoring of Montenegro was abolished in January 2015 and that the challenges the country identified are identical to those of the Parliamentary Assembly’s co-founders and that a two-way communication between the Council of Europe and the European Union is highly important for Montenegro within the post-monitoring period.

“We have done a lot in the field of independence and efficiency of the judiciary, both at strategic, legislative and institutional levels, and have achieved tangible results in combating corruption and organised crime. We have been continuously and diligently implementing the recommendations of the CPT, GRECO, GRETA, ECRI, MONEYVAL, relevant committees in the field of minority and language protection. We have been improving the fight against discrimination and building an inclusive society of equal opportunities for LGBTI people, people with disabilities, displaced and internally displaced persons and other vulnerable groups. We have been developing and adapting the legal framework in cooperation with the Venice Commission,” Prime Minister Marković underlined.

Speaking about the challenges Montenegro is facing, the Prime Minister in particular emphasised an increase in populism.

“I appreciate the opportunity to share with you today the challenges that remain in the focus of this Government. It is recognised in this year’s Report of the Secretary-General on the state of democracy and human rights and the rule of law that our European societies are facing an increase in populism which, I would say, reduces the space for an essential debate on problems and generates polarisation through the promotion of narrow-minded interests of political stakeholders that do not always mean progress. On the contrary, they bring us back to the past, to the lessons we should have learned long ago,” he noted.

He said that the opposition’s pursuing of the policy of boycotting the Parliament as they do not accept the elections recognised by all relevant international stakeholders, is irresponsible.

“In that regard, I must say with regret that our national delegation is not in full composition, that is, representatives of the parliamentary opposition, who, besides this and the European Parliament, are also boycotting the national parliament as well, are not here with us today. The election result of October 2016, whose legitimacy was recognised by this Parliamentary Assembly, the OSCE/ODIHR, the European Union and the entire international community, was not accepted only by the Montenegrin opposition, which still results in their boycott of the national parliament, despite numerous calls for a return to the Parliament which it is the only place for conducting an essential political debate. Such behaviour is irresponsible and testifies to the fact that we have not learned lesions from the past. At a turning point for Europe, facing with the challenges of populism, migration, terrorism, religious radicalisation, financial crisis, and many others, the boycott of the national or this European parliament means creating a crisis of parliamentarism, endangering democracy, weakening the role of parliamentary diplomacy and the values which all the European societies are based upon. It seems that we have not learned that power should be obtained exclusively in democratic elections, that the international reputation is something that needs to be built, and that European issues should be resolved in this European institution through active presence, debate and dialogue – not through mere conditioning,” Prime Minister Duško Marković stated.

In Prime Minister Marković’s words, that kind of behaviour further contributes to the polarisation of the society, instead of resolving it, including the polarisation and politicisation of the media scene.

Speaking about the media, the Prime Minister recalled that Montenegro has decriminalised defamation, supported media freedom, and that he personally believes that media self-regulation will sooner or later become the Montenegrin reality.

“The processes of raising awareness of decision-makers about the right and the need of citizens to know and be informed needs to go along with the professionalisation of the media scene and the development of its pluralism. Montenegro has recognised the conditionality of the process at the early stage of building its renewed sovereignty and took the first necessary step in that direction by decriminalising insult and defamation. I am still of the opinion that the Government should be proactive, regardless of the fact that the professionalisation of the media was yet to come. It is a process that continues to take place, although expectations were optimistic. I also believe that the idea of self-regulation of the media, which is the basic prerequisite for their professionalization, must sooner or later become the Montenegrin reality. The Government of Montenegro also supports the work of the Council of Europe when it comes to the policies related to, inter alia, the promotion of media freedom by providing support to the Platform for the Protection of the Security and Security of Journalists and Journalism. We are committed to cooperation even when we do not agree, aware of the fact that we become closer to the needs of the citizens as the control mechanisms become stronger,” PM Marković underlined at the CoE Parliamentary Assembly.

He reiterated Montenegro has ratified 84 conventions of the Council of Europe, and the additional five have been signed and are in the national ratification procedure.

He especially emphasised that Montenegro respects the rights of LGBTI people and listed a number of activities the Government has undertaken in cooperation with the civil society.

Prime Minister of Montenegro said that good neighboured policy is a priority of Montenegro’s foreign policy.

“We have been pursuing policy of connecting with our neighbours and valorising the heritage reflected in our common history, mutually understandable languages, culturally similar matrices, almost identical patterns of behaviour. We invested this in joint projects in the field of international legal cooperation, joint border crossings, joint diplomatic missions, and in particular energy and infrastructure. We have embarked on ambitious roadmap development plans that are lacking in the region. Therefore, speaking from the perspective of the region, such a regional cooperation needs clear support and continuity that we expect from the European Union, through a stronger financial presence, which, on the other hand, is the most important indicator that enlargement policy remains one of the priorities of the EU. In that regard, we are eagerly awaiting the Western Balkans Summit to be held in the framework of the Berlin Process in Trieste on 12 July, where I will, inter alia, speak about the need for the quality of the implementation of benchmarks from the European Integration Agenda to be the basic criterion for future support to each country individually. I consider that the unambiguous political and financial support of the EU is a precondition for further progress of the region and the continuation of infrastructure connections,” the Prime Minister noted.

He concluded by saying that Montenegro is paying close attention to the CoE Parliamentary Assembly’s recommendations, and not only those relating to Montenegro, but the Western Balkan region and Europe as a whole as well.

“We are equally diligently dealing with all the recognised challenges, being guided by the fundamental documents underpinning the Council of Europe and preserving the values that make us Europeans,” Prime Minister underlined in its address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

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