Koča Pavlović https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/15519/all cached version 09/02/2019 01:05:01 en Montenegro and the EU: living on the frontline https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ko%C4%8D-pavlovi%C4%87/montenegro-and-eu-living-on-frontline <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Within the borders of my homeland whose economy is barely functioning, we live a Balkan variant of a facade democracy which does not allow for the existence of independent and functional institutions.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/mont.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/mont.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kotor, Montenegro. Wikimedia commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Montenegro is the only country which is currently negotiating the terms of its EU membership with the administrations in Buseles. During the last two years 16 out of 35 chapters have been open. Because of significant problems Montenegro has with corruption and organized crime as well as with an inefficient judiciary, which is also the subject of a considerable political influence by the ruleing elite, the EU had opted for a new approach: the negotiations opened with chapters 23 and 24 (judiciary and the rule of law) and will conclude with those same chapters.</span></p> <p>Moreover the bilateral agrement Montenegro signed gives the EU administration the power to invoke the 'overall balance clause' and effectively freeze the ascension process if progress made in the negotiation of chapters 23 and 24 has been deemed unsatisfactory. It is worth noting the lack of measurable outcomes in the past two years of negotiations.</p> <p>Despite the demonstrable lack of progress on the road to EU membership, as noted in the <em>EC Yearly Progress Reports</em> for 2013 and 2014, the prime minister of Montenegro likes to point out that his country is a ‘regional leader’ in EU and NATO integrations. Aside from constituting a misrepresentation of facts, such boasting by the Montenegrin top government official indicates the significant problems facing other regional candidates for the EU membership: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and FYR of Macedonia.</p> <p>As someone who playes an active role in the political life in Montenegro, I could say that my country indeed exists and functions on that proverbial political, geographic and security border country between East and West. </p> <p>Within the borders of my homeland whose economy is barely functioning, we live a Balkan variant of a facade democracy which does not allow for the existence of independent and functional institutions. According to local as well as European observers and analysts, Montenegro's rulling elite as well as our judiciary and law enforcement agencies are utterly corrupt. Analysts also warn about the strong ties between law enforcement and organized crime. Last year’s scandalous leaks of classified audio material, known as the <em>Snimak</em> affair, clearly documented the government and ruling party officials in concerted efforts to commit electoral fraud, intimidate and bribe voters, and rig election results. This scandal demonstrated that the election process in Montenegro has been controlled by the ruling party and thus rendered meaningless. It is because of irregularities and election fraud, among other reasons, that Montenegro is yet to witness a peaceful and democratic transition of power.</p> <p>This could have been just another sad tale of ‘transitional pains and challenges’ had it not been for a worrying security element. Namely, the emerging and gradual strengthening of the ‘politically influential’ Montenegrin mafia (observation in the <em>EC Yearly Progress Report</em>) with ties to Russian criminal networks and specifically with the so-called ‘Russian cocaine’ cartel (as noted by the American DEA and Italy’s DIA investigations into Šarić, Dudić-Fric, and Keljmendi cases).</p> <p>In terms of geo-politics, Montenegro’s position is not an enviable one. It shares border with the EU (Croatia) and also with authoritarian Balkan states (Serbia, Kosovo, FYR of Macedonia). While some of our neighbours side with the West and impose economic sanctions against Russia, others stage a massive military parade to mark the state visit by Vladimir Putin.</p> <p>Furthermore, according to the findings by Western intelligence agencies, many criminal organizations from Montenegro have developed extensive networks of regional contacts, and are often contracted out by neighboring autocratic regimes. This is a textbook example of so-called “hybrid” security threats in the Western Balkans. This created a regional criminal network whose financial capabilities have long surpassed those of individual states. Such networks often act as both a creditor and a strategic partner of individual states. What we have in Montenegro is mafia acquiring the right to full citizenship and exercising significant influence in policy development. In addition to controlling substantial financial assets such criminal network has its own media outlets as well as a firm foothold in state intelligence services whose main task is to slender, keep under surveilance, and intimidate opposition leaders while praising and promoting the ruling elite. </p> <p>When it comes to economy, the situation is equaly troubling. Over the past two decades the government of Montenegro had sold almost the entire proverbial family silverware. Virtually the entire industy had been privatised in a rather questionable manner. In addition to selling off and privatizing everyhting the government had borrowed in excess of 45% of the country's GDP, while the unemployment rate continued to grow steadily. Montenegro's foreign debt is currently sitting on over 60% of the GDP, and the amount of uncollected taxes paired with the internal debt exceeds 30% of the annual revenues. If we add to this the most recent capital project agreed on with Chinese partners– the building of a highway in Montenegro – and the ongoing legal proceedings related to request for compensation by a former strategic partner and the former owner of the largest aluminum plant in Montenegro, Oleg Deripaska, the economic future looks even beleaker. Every international financial institution that was asked to comment on the Montenegro's plan to build the highway with Chinese partners had warned against proceeding with it. As for Deripaska's request, Montenegro is in real danger of losing the arbitration process and having to pay the Russian oligarch a compensation of upwards of 20% of the country's GDP.</p> <p>Even though it may sound strange to say it, I believe that the aforementioned problems are not the greatest obstacle to implementing reforms in Montenegro. I would argue that rapidly deteriorating geo-political situation in the region as well as in the Mediratteanina basin and Eastern Europe constitutes the gravest threat. </p> <p>Following the balkanisation of Ukraine, which was done following the earlier Bosnian scenario, the West once again views the Balkans through a crisis management lense. The most recent statements made by the U.S. officlas were a cause for concern. The U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, went so far to suggest that both Montenegro and Serbia are 'in the line of fire' in the ongoing confrontation with Russia. Experience teaches us that such statements by high-ranking Western officials mean a shift in their priorities from issues of democractization and reforms to those of security. That is why I believe the current geo-political dynamics in the region is the greatest obstacle to reforming Montenegrin society.</p> <p>The reform-oriented rhetoric notwithstanding, the Montenegrin governing elite has never been truly interested in EU integrations; it rather viewed the process as an inconvenient but necessary political manoeuver. The structural reforms it espouses – strengthening the rule of law, establishing state institutions independent of partisan influence, fighting against corruption and organized crime – have been identified by the Montenegrin regime as threat to its own safety and remaining in power. That is why the Montenegrin government appointed its former chief of secret police to oversee the process of EU integration. The political opposition is concerned that the absence of measurable results in investigating and prosecuting cases of high-level corruption and alleged mafia bosses as well as election fraud and mishandling of public funds could seriously jeopardize, if not altogether halt, Montenegro’s EU accession. </p> <p>The issue of NATO membership, on the other hand, has been treated very differently by the Montenegrin government and the ruling coalition. For them the benefit of NATO membership is threefold: it secures the benevolent treatment by the U.S. and forces the EU to grudgingly tolerate a reform-averse regime, while it also serves as a powerful weapon in discrediting their political opponents who are calling for reforms by misrepresenting their actions as anti-Western, anti-American, and pro-Russian. That is why the government in Podgorica had decided its troops should join the NATO mission in Afghanistan even though Montenegro is not a member of the North Atlantic military alliance. Over 20% of Montenegro’s rather small standing army served as part of the ISAF mission.</p> <p>This balancing act by the Montenegrin government could be termed ‘with NATO, against reforms’. It went on without a glitch until the issue of formally joining this organization became part of the official agenda. It was then that troubling links between Montenegrin intelligence services, structures of organized crime, and Russian intelligence agencies as well as the influence organized crime has on policy-making came to the fore. Those problems had been noted by both NATO and EU officials over the past two years but the government in Podgorica chose to ignore subtle messages couched in a diplomatic language. I believe that is why Montenegro was not invited to join NATO during its summit in Wales. I also believe the Alliance is aware that for the Montenegrin ruling elite to reform its security agencies and intelligence sector would equal the cutting off of a branch these former communist functionaries have been sitting on for the past 25 years.</p> <p>All being said, not everthing in Montenegro is beyond the pale. There are models of political action which deserve atention and support. Moreover, the situation seems to favour reform-oriented political forces. The EU is clearly nervous over the lack of reforms and the sluggishness of the government in Podgorica in implementing them. The U.S. seems unsure about where the loyalties of Montenegro's security and intelligence aparatus lie. Furthermore, over the last year or so, a powerful coalition of opposition parties ready to implement the necessary reforms along the lines indicated by both Brussels and Washington has emerged in Montenegro.</p><p><span>While this new opposition coalition was forming, the crisis in Ukraine erupted. It came as a political 'manna from heaven' to the Montenegrin rulling elite because it altered the geo-political dynamics and shifted the focus of the West from the issue of domestic reforms to those of regional security and stability. Moreover, because of its long-standing friedly relations with Russia, the government in Podgorica was able to once again bargain with the West and effectively secure its further non-compliance with requests for reforms.</span></p> <p>Djukanović's government has also revived the old false dillema - NATO or Reforms – and managed to again polarize the domestic political scene. Many had argued that the aim was to incentivise the international community to turn the blind eye to yet another electoral fraud in Montenegro. Furthermore, it offered to the citizens a choice that, in fact, is anything but: choose between those who are siding with Vladimir Putin, and the current model of governing which could be approriately termed Montenegrin putinism. I could not emphasize the falsity of this dilemma strongly enough. I am convinced that the goal of becoming a member of NATO while reforming Montenegro is indeed achievable.</p> <p>It is, thereforee, of paramount importance that our international partners refocus their attention back on to the issue of reforms in Montenegro. To say that, with balanced approach and the implementing of much needed reforms, a small Montenegrin economy could recover quickly would be stating the obvious. Within a few years of it being sworn in and in cooperation with our colleagues from Brussels, a new reform-oriented government could sucessfully address the problems of corruption within the judiciary, strengthen institutions, and meet the European standards in the sphere of the rule of law. It is true that the fight against organized crime would be long and difficult, but it is also true that one needs to start such a fight in order to win it. </p> <p>There is a political force in Montenegro that is able and ready to work towards meeting the abovementioned goals. That is a powerful opposition coalition whose support is constantly on the rise and is currently commanding 30% of the electorate. It is a political coalition whose program is anchored in western democratic values and whose devotion to reforms is beyond reproach. </p> <p>Regardless of the current and worrisome geo-political dynamic, it would be wise of our Western partners to pay closer attention to this reformist political coalition. By doing that, they would clealry recognize corrupt, criminalized, and anti-reform power structure as the significant creator of problems that contribute to further destabilizing the entire region.</p><p><em>To read more about the challenges facing specific EU candidate countries, click <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/eu-integration">here</a>.</em></p> <p><em><span>If you enjoyed this article then please consider liking </span><em><strong>Can Europe Make it?</strong></em><span> on </span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/caneuropemakeit">Facebook</a><span> and following us on Twitter </span><a href="https://twitter.com/oD_Europe">@oD_Europe</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ko%C4%8D-pavlovi%C4%87/montenegro-fistful-of-democracy">Montenegro: a fistful of democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/valerie-hopkins/montenegro-mafia-state-in-eu-neighbourhood">Montenegro: mafia state in the EU neighbourhood</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Montenegro </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Montenegro Koča Pavlović EU integration Thu, 19 Mar 2015 15:45:51 +0000 Koča Pavlović 91302 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Living the Serbian dream: a look at Aleksandar Vučić's election victory https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ko%C4%8D-pavlovi%C4%87/living-serbian-dream-look-at-aleksandar-vu%C4%8Di%C4%87s-election-victory <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The ruling Serbian Progressive Party of <span style="line-height: 1.5;">Aleksandar Vučić&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">won a resounding victory in the country's parliamentary elections on March 16. But there is more to this story than meets the eye...</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/vucic_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/vucic_0.jpg" alt="Aleksandar Vucic. Wikipedia commons/Leon E. Panetta. Public domain." title="" width="460" height="283" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Aleksandar Vucic. Wikipedia commons/Leon E. Panetta. Public domain. </span></span></span></p><p>The news about the outcome of the parliamentary elections in Serbia a forthnight ago and the events that followed have both dominated and animated the local and regional political and media scenes. Once again, and despite the deepening Crimean crisis, Serbia became the focus of attention for the administration in Brussels.</p><h2>A political fairy tale</h2> <p>The election results had suprised many analysts who were sceptical about the ability of Aleksandar Vučić to so convicingly wipe out his competitors and send them into political retirement. Without a doubt, Vučić's political star has reached its zenith.</p> <p>During the last two years from the position of vice-premier, Vučić has <em>de facto</em> ruled Serbia. At the start of his political career he was a Serbian ultra-nationalist of anti-western provenance. Many years later, Aleksandar Vučić had emerged as an absolute winner in the nationalism-infused Serbian political arena, and now enjoys unwavering support from the current United States administration. Once the favourite protege of Vojislav Šešelj (currently on trial in the Hague) and a minister in the government of late Slobodan Milošević, Aleksandar Vučić is the only political leader in the region who, without a question, truly rules his own domain. </p> <p>His ongoing political fairy tale could be easily summed up. First, he had won a landslide victory over a dysfunctional and disunited democratic oposition. Second, a day after his electoral win, the alleged leader of the largest narco-clan in the Balkans, and one of the most powerful cartels in Europe, Darko Šarić, "surrendered voluntarily" to him.</p><p>Even though the election victory of Aleksandar Vučić seemed certain, the final results were suprising indeed. After capturing 49% of the votes, Vučić's Serbian Progressive Party (Srpska Napredna Stranka, SNS) is now in control of 63% of seats in parliament.</p><p> The future premier had suceeded in defeating a few "political legionnaires" with decades of parliamentary experience and pushed their parties down below the threshold needed for entering parliament. A politician like Vojislav Koštunica, and his Democratic Party of Serbia (Demokratska Stranka Srbije, DSS) who once won an election over Slobodan Milošević and then enjoyed the support of 75% of the population, could not reach the threshold. Another prominent figure from the last days of Slobodan Milošević, and the one who negotiated his surrender to the Hague truibunal, Čedomir Jovanović and his Liberal Democratic Party (Liberalno Demokratska Stranka, LDP), also remained below the threshold.</p> <p>Particularly surprising was the election triumph of Vučić's "progressives" in the municipal elections in Belgrade (held parallel to the parliamentary elections). Until this election, the Serbian capital had been the democratic stronghold of Vucic's political adversaries. Simply put, Aleksandar Vučić has thoroughly dismantled the political scene in Serbia and achieved a splendid election result second only to that from the Milošević era.</p><h2>The everyday Serbia</h2><p>Serbia is a country devoured by corruption and robbed of its resources through shady privatizations. One third of its able bodied workforce is unemployed and the citizens are equally hungry for bread as they are for justice. Aleksandar Vučić presents himself as someone (if not the only one) who could deliver that justice in Serbia.</p> <p>When it comes to economic recovery, however, things will be considerably more difficult to achieve. The list of Vucic's economic priorities is indeed impressive. Addressing the problem of high unemployment and reversing the unfavourable economic trends in the country means changing the existing development model, strengthening the tax code and its enforcement, as well as liberalising the current investment climate. </p><p>This hard-line populist has a history of inadequate responses to economic crises and one could find little cause for optimism when it comes to his handling of the upcoming economic challanges. His new government would have to finalize the privatization of large economic systems and enterprises that are still under either complete or partial state control, and conclude the work on sharing the exploitation of the exisiting resources with outside actors. Addressing those sensitive issues will be the short and medium term focus of his economic policies.</p> <p>Hours after the election results were announced, his defeated opponents began voicing their concerns about Serbia slipping towards absolutism. But Vučić's triumph at the ballot box was just the opening act of his political honeymoon. As his opponents were making gloomy predictions for the country's future, the news about the surrender of Darko Šarić hit the airwaves. </p><p>From an unknown address, Vučić's American friends had delivered the alleged boss of a leading narco-clan. Šarić, whose wealth is estimated at 25 billion dollars, has been on the run for the past four years. We all watched carefully edited images of this 'unconditional surrender'. With impeccable political timing, this event was choreographed in the best Hollywood fashion.</p><h2>'The American dream'</h2><p>There is some truth to what cynics say about Vučić now living his 'America dream'. He is, without a doubt a populist. His political credibility as well as his election campaign rested on the promise to fight against corruption and organized crime. With that in mind, the 'unconditional surrender' of an alleged narco boss is indeed a cherry on his political cake. Many argue that Vučić was the one who selected this particular cake decoration. </p> <p>Even though it might not be apparent, the election victory of Aleksandar Vučić and the arrest of Darko Šarić are closely linked. At the close of the election night, the future premier had announced the speedy formation of a new cabinet. Rather explicitly, he also announced his intention of sharing power with some of the parliamentary parties and maybe even with non-parliamentary political parties and independent experts. </p> <p>With that in mind, the arrest of the alleged narco-boss could be seen as the first step in the process of assembling the new Serbian government. Stories about links between Vučić's former coalition partner and the leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia (Socijalistička Partija Srbije, SPS) Ivica Dačić, and various criminal organizations, including one allegedly led by Darko Šarić have been in circulation for some time. </p><p>Since July 2012, Dačić was both the prime minister of Serbia and its Minister of Interior. Dačić did not even attempt to deny the most recent media reports about his ministry being excluded from the operation to arrest Šarić because it was deemed unreliable. To make the situation even more dire for Dačić, his former Chief of Staff is currently on trial for leaking sensitive information about government anti-mafia activities to several narco-bosses.</p> <p>Moreover, Vučić's public praise for Miodrag Rakić, the former chief of the Serbian Intelligence Agency (BIA), is also in the plan of forming the new government. Rakić was responsible for initiating the cooperation with the CIA and the DEA some five years ago that resulted in the first major action (<em>Balkan Warrior</em>) against the narco cartel allegedly led by Darko Šarić. This action resulted in the seizure of 2.8 tons of cocaine. </p><p>The former intelligence chief, Rakić, is on the list of the New Democratic Party (Nova Demokratska Stranka, NDS) and is only second to its leader and the former president of Serbia, Boris Tadić. Including Rakić or Tadić in the new government would provide Vučić with a much needed pro-EU and pro-NATO credibility. Such inclusions would also relieve pressure exerted by the nationalist right wing upon Vučić to stay the course based on an anti-EU and anti-NATO discourse.</p><h2>Challenges</h2><p>I am convinced that the events in Ukraine will have a significant impact on the future policies of the new Serbian governement in two important areas, at least. </p><p>First, it will accelerate considerably the implementation of the Brussels Agreement on the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo. Second, it will intensify the negotiations about Serbia's full membership in the EU. The fact that all the political parties that had passed the election threshold two weeks ago are supporting the Brussels Agreement and could be categorised as pro-EU oriented, will further speed up the work on those two important issues.</p><p> Furthermore, the erecting of a new kind of the Iron Curtain in Ukraine and the accompanying political homogenization on both sides of such a dividing line means that the new Serbian government will be presented with the great political challenge of joining NATO. Fifteen year old foreign policy discourse regarding doors open both towads the west and towards the east ("EU and Kosovo" and "USA and Russia") has ended with the events at Euromaidan and in Crimea. Serbia's continuing balance between the west and the east is no longer possible. This is why the NDS of Boris Tadić, as the only pro-NATO political party in the future parliament would have to become part of the new Serbian government.</p><p>It goes without saying that the fight against corruption and the Mafia will be the central features of the domestic policy of the new government during its early months in office. However, it remains to be seen how the future government might use this issue as a cover for its inability to prevent the further economic decline of Serbia. Much will depend on the ability of Aleksandar Vučić to maintain tight control over the local media. Over the last two years of his rule, Vučić succeeded in doing so to an extent not seen since the time of Slobodan Milošević. </p><p>There is no indication that he intends to weaken his grip on the media any time soon. Victors in the latest election in Serbia are promising enlightened absolutism to its citizens. A pauperised Serbian opposition, on the other hand, views the future of the country through the lens of a dangerous antidemocratic rule.</p><p><em>Thank you to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/srdja-pavlovic">Srdja Pavlovic</a> for the translation.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/paula-s%C3%A1nchez-d%C3%ADaz/great-game-over-belgrade">The Great Game over Belgrade</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ko%C4%8D-pavlovi%C4%87/montenegro-fistful-of-democracy">Montenegro: a fistful of democracy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Serbia </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Serbia Koča Pavlović Sun, 23 Mar 2014 21:37:04 +0000 Koča Pavlović 80596 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Montenegro: a fistful of democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ko%C4%8D-pavlovi%C4%87/montenegro-fistful-of-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Despite ostensibly being a Western Balkans success story, the tiny republic of Montenegro still suffers under the arcane rule of a Prime Minister, Milo Đukanović,<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;who legitimises violence against political opponents.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/Milo_Djukanovic_with_Obamas (1)_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/Milo_Djukanovic_with_Obamas (1)_0.jpg" alt="Prime Minister Milo Đukanović, and his wife, meet the Obamas. US Federal Government photograph. Public Domain." title="" width="460" height="296" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Prime Minister Milo Đukanović, and his wife, meet the Obamas. US Federal Government photograph. Public Domain.</span></span></span></p><p>The interaction between political actors in Montenegro has always been colourful and, more often than not, emotionally charged. I have been a part of that political landscape for some years now. The opposition politicians and those representing the ruling coalition slice each other up with equal ferocity on the parliament floor, in their public speeches, on the pages of the daily papers or in postings on various web portals. A few decades ago, the sharp tongue of the current Prime Minister, Milo Đukanović, had earned him the nickname “the Blade” (Britva). He has been in power since 1989, as both the country’s prime minister and as its president, and is currently serving his seventh prime ministerial term.</p> <p>Over the last decade or so the opposition politician, Nebojša Medojević and his colleagues in the party he leads, the Movement for Changes (PZP), have been astute, harsh, and passionate critics of the policies enacted by the ruling coalition, and the country’s multi-term Prime Minister, Milo Đukanović, in particular. The leader of the PZP and his party colleagues are by far the most vocal and persistent critics of the decades-long rule of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and its leader, Đukanović. </p><p>They frequently point to endemic corruption, gangster privatization, links between the ruling elite and organized crime, and the criminalization of Montenegrin society among other improprieties. Medojević and his colleagues attribute those problems plaguing the Montenegrin society to the flawed policies enacted by the ruling coalition and designed by Milo Đukanović. Lately, some of the new opposition players on the local political scene have also been critical of the ruling DPS and its leader in their parliamentary discussions.</p> <p>There is nothing exceptional about this setup: the opposition politicians are vocal critics of the government, while the government and the prime minister try to downplay the criticism coming from the opposition parties. Frequent fiery exchanges of political left and right hooks between elected representatives are usually a sign of healthy parliamentary democracy. </p> <p>But Montenegro does not function as a parliamentary democracy, let alone a healthy one. Its model of governing could be best described as a hybrid regime of a proto-democratic type, in which those tools we commonly associate with democratic system (strong parliament; free elections; efficient and independent judiciary, etc.) exist only to hide the reality of a highly centralised party state whose leadership displays considerable authoritarian tendencies. The leader of the DPS and the country’s Prime Minister, Milo Đukanović, acts as alpha and omega of the local political space.</p> <p>The current situation in the rapidly changing political landscape in Montenegro points to the change of the dynamics of the interaction between the ruling coalition and the opposition parties. As his grip on power weakens and the criticism of the DPS grows in scope and frequency, and as it becomes clear that the system he had created breeds only nepotism, kleptocracy, corruption, disregard for parliament, and violence directed against the critics, the prime minister responds to his critics in a more authoritarian manner than before. </p> <p>Over the last year or so, his arguing with political opponents has been characterised by harsh words and insults hurled at opposition MPs. In his press conferences and during the question period, Milo Đukanović shouted at the opposition benches calling his critics rats, drug addicts, criminals and scoundrels, and calling for the “deratization” of Montenegrin politics. His wrath was directed mainly against the PZP and its MPs but he also castigated other opposition politicians. </p><p>Some months ago, during the question period, the prime minister called the MP for the Positive Montenegro party, Dritan Abazović, a scoundrel. More recently, after losing control of the municipal government in the coastal city of Ulcinj, he publically wagged his finger to the political representatives of the Albanian population in the region and threatened them. He referred to media critical of his politics and his authoritarian practice of governing as “monsters and Mafiosi” who desire his “physical elimination”. During the 2012 presidential election campaign, Milo Đukanović described the owner of the <em>Vijesti</em> daily as “the leader of non-organized crime whose ambitions are to become the country’s president”. </p><p>Some years earlier, in 2009, he called his critics “frustrated individuals and immature political creatures”. It is clear that the Prime Minister has, for some time, been displaying disdain and even hatred towards the institution of parliament, the MPs, free media, and towards any public and well founded criticism directed against his policies.</p> <p>His critics have not only been on the receiving end of his sharp tongue but have also been victims of physical assaults by oligarchs and the so-called “strategic investment partners” of Mr. Đukanović and his DPS. A worrying trend emerges: Đukanović’s criticism is often followed by an assault on the opposition figure by either a hired thug or a “strategic investment partner of the government” and then, in the most extreme cases, by drive by shooting, or even assassination as in the cases of the newspaper editor, Duško Jovanović and the police inspector, Šćekić. </p> <p>The latest victim of physical assault was the leader of the opposition PZP, Nebojša Medojević. He was attacked at the terminal at Belgrade airport by the now new owner of the bankrupt aluminum plant in Podgorica and a businessman with close ties to the ruling elite. The attacker admitted to insulting and hitting Medojević because he had to somehow “defend his honor and the honor of his family” against Medojević’s “unfounded accusations” about the lack of transparency in the case of the selling of the said aluminum plant. </p> <p>While all political and non-governmental actors in Montenegro condemned this despicable act in no uncertain terms, Milo Đukanović chose to understate its severity and shift the blame to the opposition politician. In a speech delivered in Nikšić, one day after this attack occurred, Đukanović condemned violence in principle but said that when the system is not functioning properly people are forced to use tools from the treasure chest of the Montenegrin custom law in order to defend their honor. Those less knowledgeable about the recent history of Montenegro might think that the opposition parties and the PZP had created such a system, and that Đukanović and his DPS had nothing to do with it. Having in mind his history of disdain for the parliament and the institutions of the state, Đukanović’s latest performance confirms that the prime minister indeed hates everyone and everything he is unable to control. &nbsp;</p> <p>We have seen nothing new in this latest address by Đukanović. From the day his political career started in earnest in 1990s under the mentoring of Slobodan Milošević, he has governed in the same fashion: by spreading hate, supressing free expression, and supporting the use of “traditional forms of violence” against his critics. All along, he has assured us repeatedly that such methods are effective and appropriate when trying to save face and protect one’s honor and family.</p> <p>Đukanović is the last person to call honor and dignity to his aid. He was the first and the only prime minister of Montenegro to ever be interrogated as a common criminal by the judiciary of a neighbouring state. It is also rather unwise of him to advocate the use of “traditional methods” in protecting one’s family and personal values because that could come back to haunt him, and he might end up paying dearly for it.</p> <p>Since the prime minister advocates such manner of resolving arguments he should tell us who else (aside from him and his supporters) would have the right and be allowed to resort to such methods. Do all those citizens of Montenegro that were pushed into war and humiliated by his war mongering rhetoric and expansionist policies of 1990s have the right to employ methods of violence typical for the medieval custom law? Does that right apply to children, parents, spouses, and relatives of all those that Đukanović and his deputy Svetozar Marović, as well as the government controlled<em> Pobjeda</em> daily and the Montenegrin State Television (TVCG) dispatched to wage an aggressive war against our Croatian neighbours? How about all those whose property and family inheritance was stolen by his criminalized structure of power? Could, they swing their clenched fists at the back of his head? Could the family of the assassinated newspaper editor, Duško Jovanović have the right to resort to blood feud? How about the family of the assassinated police inspector, Šćekić? Do they also have the right to defend their honor and dignity by using “traditional methods”? Or, does Đukanović reserves this right only for those belonging to his inner circle?</p> <p>During his speech in Nikšić, he was glowing because of the violence directed against his most significant political critic. He sounded and looked like a man who condones that kind of violence but never had the courage to himself commit such acts. That, indeed, is one of the lessons we had learned over the last twenty five years: it was always someone else who turned Đukanović’s political disagreements and public threats into acts of violence, drive-by-shootings, assassinations and beatings in dark alleyways. It was never him personally.</p> <p>Since he entered politics, Milo Đukanović has been surrounded by bodyguards and criminals. That is the world in which even cowards could start advocating “traditional methods” of dealing with opponents and favour “custom law” as a mode of interaction. But once the security cordons disappear and their criminal protectors find themselves behind bars, all those newly minted advocates of custom law show their true face. It is the face of a coward from the beginning of the story. I am convinced that Montenegro will soon have a chance for that all-important face-off that has been long in the making.</p> <p>The assault on Nebojša Medojević has upset many of our activists and party members, who are calling for an appropriate response. It is the president of the PZP who tries to calm the situation asking for patience and restraint. Đukanović’s condoning of violence during his speech in Nikšić only adds fuel to the already heated and tense situation as if he desires it to escalate.</p> <p>In conclusion, I have to add that the most grotesque part of Đukanović’s speech was his criticism of those who hide behind the immunity! While being driven from Podgorica to Nikšić to deliver his celebratory oration on custom law and traditional methods of social interaction, Đukanović conveniently forgot that he spoke as the prime minister of Montenegro who not so long ago narrowly escaped a lengthy vacation in an Italian jail cell. He was able to do so only because he hid behind the prime ministerial immunity from prosecution, after being interrogated for over 6 hours about the organized crime charges by a prosecutor in Bari!</p> <p>After listening to him speak in Nikšić, I have to admit to rethinking the validity of the previously dismissed thesis about Milo Đukanović supporting the political project of independent and sovereign Montenegro in order to protect himself from charges that he is “a serious criminal who is willing to destroy documentary evidence and eliminate witness” (a quote from the verdict by Italian court). It was laughable and said at the same time to listen to a politician who hid his criminal dossier behind the prime ministerial immunity, criticize others for allegedly hiding behind the MP immunity when criticizing the government and its kleptocrats.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/valerie-hopkins/montenegro-mafia-state-in-eu-neighbourhood">Montenegro: mafia state in the EU neighbourhood</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/conflict-yugoslavia/montenegro_vote_3576.jsp">Au revoir, Montenegro?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Montenegro </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Montenegro Koča Pavlović Mon, 10 Mar 2014 19:18:00 +0000 Koča Pavlović 80162 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Koča Pavlović https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/ko%C4%8D-pavlovi%C4%87 <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Koča Pavlović </div> </div> </div> <p>Koča Pavlović is a Member of Parliament for the Republic of Montenegro. He is the Vice-President of the opposition party Movement for Change<strong><em> </em></strong>(<em>Pokret za Promjene</em>, PzP) and the founding member of the opposition coalition, Democratic Front (<em>Demokratski Front</em>, DF). He is also the author of the <em>War for Peace (</em>IPG Obala, 2004) - the first documentary film about the 1991-92 siege of the Croatian coastal city of Dubrovnik.</p> Koča Pavlović Mon, 10 Mar 2014 19:04:18 +0000 Koča Pavlović 80163 at https://www.opendemocracy.net