“Democracy in Progress” presented in Podgorica: Decline of democracy in the region

Photo: PR Centre Podgorica

PODGORICA – Although the countries of the Western Balkans have the status of candidates for membership in the European Union or have entered a negotiating process such as Montenegro and Serbia, the state of democracy in those countries is declining. Also, it is noted that the European Union does not pay much attention to this problem.

This is the conclusion of the research conducted by the Centre for Contemporary Politics and the portal European Western Balkans, which was presented in Podgorica, where among other things it is said that the reform processes have no influence on the state of democracy. The research has been supported by the European Fund for the Balkans through the Think and Link Regional Policy Programme.

All the countries of the Western Balkans are moving towards membership in the European Union at a slower or faster pace, but parallel to this process, there is a decline in democratic standards in these countries, which is a paradox. The EU rewards candidate countries and potential candidates for contribution to stability, but does not insist on internal reforms, democratization and system transformation in the countries of the Western Balkans.

This has been a phenomenon in the least two last years, the research co-author and program director of the Centre for Contemporary Policies in Belgrade Nikola Burazer explained.

Nikola Burazer; Photo: PR Centre Podgorica

“This could be called a democratic erosion, something that is very visible in a growing number of reports that credible international organizations write for all countries of the world. There is a clear decline in various fields and democratic standards in almost all Western Balkan countries. And this is a paradox because it was previously thought that democratization and transformation of societies in transition go in parallel with the process of European integration. That does not seem to be the case anymore. More often speak of the so-called stabilitocracy,” said Burazer.

The state of democracy in Montenegro in 2017 is the same as five years ago when the negotiation process started, said Jovana Marović from Politikon Network, stating that reform processes did not affect the improvement of democratic standards. And this is manifested through strong political influence and non-democratic practices in employment, social welfare, state irresponsibility in cases of law violations and a strong populist language.

Jovana Marović; Photo: PR Centre Podgorica

“The main conclusion is that the reform processes in Montenegro do not have a positive impact on the state of democracy. All relevant reports show that in Montenegro democracy is stagnating, or even a downward trend is present. The main problem for the process of democratization are high-politicized institutions and a strong political influence on institutions, which stems from the long-standing rule of the same party. Because of the irreversibility of power, we have almost a sign of equality between the state and the party in Montenegro,” Marović said.

Burazer has announced in which areas Serbia is stagnating, although it is in the negotiation process for membership in the European Union. Among other things, he cited problems in the electoral system, parliament and media freedom.

“If we talk about elections, it is very clear that we had a fair and democratic election day, but on the other hand there is a very problematic context in which the elections take place in terms of the length of the campaign, the parliamentary suspension during the pre-election campaign, in the media, the advantage of the ruling coalition was abnormally large. If we talk about media freedom, we are facing very serious problems that are noticed by all relevant reports, the European Commission, the European Parliament, non-governmental international organizations, etc.”, Burazer said.

Noting that in 2017 in the context of the democratization of society Montenegro missed an opportunity, Jovana Marović lists a number of fields in which it was noticed a lack of progress.

“There is no progress in the chapters relating to the rule of law. The positioning of loyal cadres of the ruling party in the executive bodies or management positions in the institutions is continued. Speaking about the legislative and control function of the parliament, we actually have the complete deletion of the control function of parliament in 2017,” said Marović.

Researcher of Institute Alternative Dina Bajramspahić noted that Montenegro is making progress in the technical opening of the chapters, but when it comes to the areas that speak about the leverage of power there is no progress. Bajramspahić gave an example of the government’s proposal for the Law on State Administration, which would prohibit a number of public hearings.

Dina Bajramspahić; Photo: PR Centre Podgorica

Answering the question of why there is no response from the citizens of Montenegro due to a number of social anomalies, Jovana Marović said: “There is some kind of apathy in Montenegro, that citizens do not believe that they can change anything, which is why we do not encounter any stronger reaction”.