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The Civil Alliance extends congratulations on the formation of the new 44th Government of Montenegro. We wish all members of the Government success in carrying out their duties. We also congratulate the 28th convocation of the Parliament of Montenegro, hoping it will strengthen its oversight function and its role in representing citizens’ interests. This is an opportunity to remind both the new members of the Government and the parliamentarians of their obligations and the steps they need to take, as expected by the citizens.

We have carefully read the Prime Minister Milojko Spajić’s program and followed all related discussions about the priorities and strategic goals of the newly elected Government of Montenegro. We expect the new Government to finally introduce accountability for the promises made by politicians during election campaigns, thereby advancing the development of political culture. Additionally, it is crucial to open a dialogue with the President regarding the unblocking of Montenegro’s diplomatic network and other appointments, which are essential for our country’s foreign policy objectives. We also anticipate the continuation of good policies concerning migration and the development of a strategy to recognize the potential and help integrate a larger number of people into Montenegrin society.

We remind that according to research conducted in June 2023, the percentage of citizens who would support Montenegro’s accession to the European Union is close to 80%. Additionally, there is a new momentum on the geopolitical scene, primarily caused by the war in Ukraine. It is crucial for the Government to recognize this geostrategic moment and the excellent opportunity to join the European Union, as well as the chance to vigorously pursue the European path. Messages from all European addresses are clear in indicating that Montenegro has the potential and capacity to become the next EU member, but the solution to the crisis in accession negotiations lies right in our own hands. Therefore, new negotiation platforms with the European Union must be established immediately, including the negotiation structure and the appointment of the chief negotiator.

The Parliament must be a place for dialogue. However, considering the 8-month deadlock, we expect daily work in all committees and the plenary session to fulfill the obligations and enhance the work of this important institution. One of the primary tasks of the new government, especially the Parliament, is to pull the country out of the caretaker state it has been in for months, even years. The European Union has repeatedly urged Montenegro to promptly complete the appointment process of permanent members in all judicial bodies because their incomplete composition or transitional solutions undermine the credibility and functioning of the entire system, questioning Montenegro’s capacity to provide justice to its citizens. For a serious country aspiring to become the next EU member, it is unacceptable for all three key political institutions to be in a caretaker state, as was the case with the Government, Parliament, and the President of Montenegro in April this year.

Moreover, it is necessary for the Judicial Council to urgently resolve the issue of the caretaker status in which the position of the President of the Supreme Court has been for more than two years. Otherwise, we might find ourselves in a situation where the current acting President of the Supreme Court of Montenegro completes her entire term in a caretaker state, which she would not have if she were performing the function at full capacity. In this regard, uniform rules should be established for everyone, meaning that anyone can hold a caretaker position for a maximum of two terms, each lasting six months. Additionally, the caretaker status of the position of the State Prosecutor, the caretaker status of the Judicial Council (considering that only one new member from the ranks of reputable legal professionals has been elected), the caretaker status of the President of the Commercial Court, and so on, need to be addressed. Simply put, the appointment of heads of judicial institutions for a full term has not been possible for years in Montenegro’s parliament, as it requires a two-thirds or three-fifths majority of lawmakers, which necessitates consensus. It is urgent to address the issue of the missing judge in the Constitutional Court, considering that the Constitutional Court makes decisions by a majority vote.

We remind of the ongoing public discussion regarding the Constitutional Court’s decision regarding amendments to the Pension and Disability Insurance Law, which has created chaos for those wishing to retire, all to enable one of the Constitutional Court judges to extend her own mandate. Therefore, we emphasize that it is very important and necessary for the Government to adopt amendments to the Pension and Disability Insurance Law at its first session and resolve the highly complicated situation that the Constitutional Court has put us in.

Electoral reforms must also be at the top of the agenda for the new government. We have witnessed abuses of electoral legislation by all authorities, including those who criticized the electoral legislation while in opposition but exploited the same legislation for political gains once in power.

The set of media laws needs to be adopted immediately, not only because they are essential for improving the media landscape but also because all law revisions have long been reviewed by the European Commission and the Council of Europe. Furthermore, it is crucial to ensure the protection of media freedoms. We expect the government to recognize this and pay special attention to strengthening independent regulators and the Ombudsman in this regard.

We also highlight that since July, the National Security Council has been unable to convene and make key decisions related to the command of the Armed Forces of Montenegro. Moreover, it cannot declare a state of war, a state of emergency, or mobilize the Armed Forces of Montenegro in case of need, as the mobilization of the Armed Forces is ordered by the President of Montenegro, in accordance with the Council’s decision. We remind that mandates for parliamentarians were confirmed in July, but the Speaker of the Parliament was not elected, which is another proof of the lack of political will to resolve the institutional crisis, a situation that must be changed in the coming period.

One of the first promises made by the former opposition, before the elections held on August 30, was to end the practice of partisan employment. However, it turned out that this did not happen, and the same kind of employment continued in public administration and management structures of state-owned companies. We take this opportunity once again to call on the main political actors to stop this established practice, which is a sore point in our socio-political landscape. Let us build a more democratic, transparent, and accountable public sector, and seize the opportunity to rationalize the executive branch. Regarding new appointments, we emphasize the need for caution in selecting the new director of the Police Administration, considering the ongoing legal proceedings related to this case, as well as the expectations of Western partners on this matter.

Finally, we call on the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government to take measures and proactively work within their jurisdictions to improve the situation in Montenegro in all areas, especially those related to the rule of law. We emphasize the necessity for authorities to strengthen dialogue with the professional civil sector, be inclusive of civil sector expertise, and recognize civil society organizations as constructive partners in all these processes. Only through active contributions from all three branches of government, in synchronization with the civil sector, media, academic community, and other partners, can we achieve tangible improvement in our current situation. We also urge the implementation of specific reforms in all areas, resulting in a strong state with independent and robust institutions that can enforce the laws of this country, free from political influence. Only through a responsible and statesmanlike approach can we move closer to becoming an EU member in the near future, a goal at least declared by all political parties.

NGO Civic Alliance