The first forum of the School of Political Studies has been held, and within the framework of the opening ceremony, the 6th Alumni Forum was held, entitled “Inclusion and Diversity: Minority Rights in the Process of European Integration.”
The opening ceremony took place at the Rectorate of the University of Montenegro. Distinguished speakers at the event included Dritan Abazović, Prime Minister of Montenegro; Dragoslav Šćekić, Minister in the Government of Montenegro; H.E. Veselko Grubišić, Ambassador of Croatia to Montenegro; and Milan Radović, Director of the School of Political Studies. Following the opening remarks, Professor Dr. Ivana Jelić, Judge at the European Court of Human Rights, delivered a lecture on “Human Rights and Minority Rights in the Context of European Integration.”
The event was attended by participants of the 21st generation of the School of Political Studies, alumni of the School, representatives from the diplomatic corps, state institutions, political parties, international and non-governmental organizations, and the media.
Prime Minister Abazović, an alumni of the School, greeted the attendees, expressing confidence that platforms such as the School of Political Studies would facilitate meaningful dialogue on crucial socio-political topics. He emphasized the importance of the School in nurturing generations that contemplate participatory democracy, acknowledging individuals within the School community who possess significant insights into ongoing processes and often influence the political scene directly or indirectly.
Addressing the issue of hate speech on social media, Prime Minister Abazović maintained that it does not represent Montenegro as a whole. He affirmed Montenegro’s inclusive nature and highlighted the country’s potential to serve as a regional example for respecting diversities. However, he acknowledged the need to continue efforts in eradicating differences that obstruct the realization of human rights and societal progress. He underscored the imperative of promoting inclusivity and eliminating disparities, ensuring that differences do not impede the exercise of any rights or hinder progress.
Regarding the crucial role of the judiciary in this process, he stated, “I personally believe that the judicial branch of government is the weakest in Montenegro. It has not undergone any significant changes recently, and I think this is a significant obstacle to the future development of Montenegro. We must all contribute to judicial reform.”
Minister Šćekić, as well an alumni of the School, highlighted the benefits of the School and emphasized the significance of dialogue, achievable through the School of Political Studies. Concerning the Forum’s theme, he expressed, “When it comes to the relationship with minority nations and respecting minority rights, I personally believe that no one should feel like a minority; all citizens living in this country create one environment.” He stressed the government’s unequivocal commitment to fulfilling all requirements for EU integration, especially in relation to the treatment of minority nations.
Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia H.E. Veselko Grubišić spoke at the insightful address emphasizing that “Respecting minority nations is the only path to social stability. Modern political practice confirms this because without respecting minority rights, the majority community cannot fully develop its potential.”
Considering the historical context of the region, Ambassador Grubišić stressed the need for a cautious approach regarding minority rights protection, an area intertwined with human rights. He pointed out, “History teaches us that we had periods of ethnic harmony, but also mostly politically motivated animosities that we could not influence.”
Responding to the question of what Montenegro can learn from Croatia, Ambassador Grubišić stated that Montenegro can learn to create space for everyone, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity within Montenegro. He suggested utilizing the higher percentage of Montenegrin citizens desiring EU accession as an opportunity for entry into the European Union.
The Director of the School of Political Studies, Milan Radović, congratulated the participants of the 21st generation of the School of Political Studies, emphasizing his pleasure in having such a high-quality generation. He highlighted that the school would serve as a platform for networking, exchanging opinions and experiences, and a place where everyone would learn something new from each other. He emphasized, “If minorities are not treated well in a country, the majority will not be treated well either. Now is the right time to apply all the lessons learned from the previous EU accession process.” Today, when discussing the issue of minority rights in the context of European integration, he raised some questions that could be asked after more than 11 years of negotiations with the EU:
- Why are minority nations leaving Montenegro?
- Why do citizens in cities where minority nations mostly reside receive lower salaries compared to other cities?
- Why are we witnessing a decreasing number of enrolled children in schools in these cities?
The existence of the School of Political Studies is crucial precisely because of such questions. It serves as a dialogue platform, striving to provide answers to these and many other vital questions in a time of various divisions.
Professor Dr. Ivana Jelić addressed the audience, stating, “Where there is power, there is no democracy or rule of law.” She explained the functioning of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Minority rights constitute a part of international public law, and every member of a minority has the right to identify whether they want to belong to a minority or not. Participation – the involvement of everyone in decision-making processes conducted lawfully – is essential. Regarding assimilation and integration, she emphasized the need to give minority groups a chance to integrate into society by allowing them to participate actively. She emphasized that only the Council of Europe has a legal framework that must be utilized, especially since these issues are critical in Europe.
She stated that there are currently fewer complaints against Montenegro than in the past due to the dysfunctionality of the Constitutional Court of Montenegro, and that more than 3000 complaints are pending.
The Forum continued in Ulcinj, where numerous lectures and panel discussions took place over two days. Prof. Miloš Bešić, a professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences, discussed “Ethnic Distance in Montenegro.” Almir Čaušević, an expert on minority rights, explored “The Participation of Political Parties of the Albanian Minority in Montenegro.” Nerma Dobradžić, Deputy Ombudsman, presented “Ombudsman’s Findings on the Progress of Minority Rights.“ Two panel discussions were also held: “Minority Rights: Overcoming Challenges” (featuring Ljudmila Popović, Deputy Director General of the Directorate for Interculturalism in the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights; Elvis Beriša, Phiren Amenca NGO – Let’s Walk Together; and Sead Šahman, Bosniak National Council) and “Institutional Protection of Minorities” (with Emir Dacić, Director of the Fund for the Protection and Realization of Minority Rights, and Salko Luboder, Director of the Center for the Preservation and Development of Minority Cultures in Montenegro).
The School of Political Studies continues its activities and will soon announce the next forum for the 21st generation.