Montenegro and European Union

Most analysts believed that Montenegro will make good progress towards European Union, after becoming independent in 2006. This tiny country of amazing natural beauties, with only 650.000 citizens, has potential for fast development and quick accession into EU. Unfortunately, it seems that everyone is slowly realising that Montenegro is far away from any progress.

The basic principles of democracy, such as free elections, strong state institutions, independent judiciary system and many other, are non-existant. Montenegrin state has lost all of its valuable assets and attributes, since country became under a large influence of corruption on all levels, bad and secretive privatization of big companies, organized crime with strong influence in whole Balkans. Organized crime became so influental, that regional cooperation between Serbian and Croatian police was established in order to resolve murder of Croatian journalist Ivo Pukanic and uncover regional criminal organization, with paths leading towards Montenegro. As regional press reported many times –“a controversial figure, Milo Djukanovic (see a video about his role in Balkan wars) has already served four terms as Prime Minister and one term as President of Montenegro. Now – 2009, he again became Prime Minister for the fifth time, with Mr Javier Solana (EU High Representative) calling him “young and perspective politician”. He also withdrew from politics in 2006, for a short period, to dedicate his time to business interests. Mr Djukanovic was under investigation by Italian prosecutors for his alleged role in a multimillion dollar mob-run cigarette smuggling racket to Italy (in the 1990s) and for money laundering. Since Djukanovic became prime minister again last February, the case was dropped after. Many opposition leaders claim that Djukanovic accumulated millions of euros in investment and banking schemes, while his family and friends own great amount of Montenegrin wealth.“

Not only that ruling elite did nothing to make things better, but even worse, they introduced many of those activities, while promoting themselves as „pro European“ regime, with absolute support of the EU and their officials. The European Union is slowly loosing its credibility among Montenegrin citizens, since they often give open support to the ruling regime. The fact that ex-communist ruling elite is keeping all branches of State power in their hands, makes impossible to make any changes during elections. Even though the voting day may seem to be perfect, none of the elections so far, were free in Montenegro. Large number of citizens are under constant pressure, humiliation and influence by the activists of ruling party, and since Montenegro has only 450.000 voters, it makes it so easy to keep control of everything. That’s the reason why most opposition political parties now think about boycotting elections, as the only solution. The first opposition party in Montenegro, Liberal Alliance of Montenegro, have already „frozen“ their work and left the Parliament of Montenegro in 2005. They urged others to follow them, if they truly want changes in Montenegro.

Several months ago, a series of articles has been released by international media with dossiers about Djukanovic’s activities in the previous two decades. The articles revealed stories about „possibly one of Europe’s largest smuggling operations in recent years – a multi-billion dollar operation involving the Italian Mafia and the tiny country of Montenegro.“ Even the phone calls of Mr. Djukanovic had been taped at the time, and part of conversations transcripted in the article named „The Montenegro Connection“. The story offers many details of the smuggling operations and people who took part in it. At the center of this case is a hidden bit of history, say Italian prosecutors, of how tobacco smuggling became a state enterprise in Montenegro, a Balkan republic in southeastern Europe bordering Serbia and the Adriatic Sea. Home to just 600,000 people, the country is smaller than Israel and is known for its scenic coastline. But it is also known for its smuggling routes through the heart of the Balkans, which, during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, allowed organized crime to thrive. Italian authorities noted as much in the DIA report. “Montenegro, for a decade, was the real Tortuga of the Adriatic sea,” they wrote, comparing the Balkan state to a Caribbean island notorious for its pirates. “A heaven for illicit trafficking; impunity granted to mobsters … a place where authorities guaranteed the passage of illicitly traded goods.” And investigators left no doubt who they thought was behind the billion-dollar racket: “Milo Djukanovic ruled this Tortuga.”

Article also emphises that Djukanovic is now prime minister of that “Tortuga.” Re-elected in March 2009, he leads a country where for nearly 17 of the past 18 years he has served as either prime minister or president. And he is pushing hard for Montenegro to join the European Union, which is now considering the country’s membership.

In the meantime, more news from international press has emerged about new tobacco smuggling investigation, started by Switzerland. The focus of that investigation is, once again, the role of Montenegro. Related with that, earlier this year in the largest organized crime case ever in Switzerland, a court in Bellinzona acquitted seven of nine defendants accused of laundering the profits of cigarette smuggling from the Camorra and Sacra Corona Unita, two of Italy’s most powerful mafia syndicates. In all, more than $1 billion was allegedly washed through Swiss banks between 1994 and 2001, according to prosecutors. A parallel trial is unfolding in Bari, Italy, in which prosecutors have indicted Della Torre for “Mafia association” and allege that he masterminded the tobacco smuggling racket with Montenegro authorities, including Milo Djukanovic. The prime minister, protected by diplomatic immunity, was dropped from the Bari indictment in March.”

Former Chief of the Trade Mission of Montenegro to the United States of America – Ratko M. Knezevic (the “government insider” at the time, with a lot of knowledge about the criminal activities of Mr Djukanovic and his colleagues) published a number of articles and interviews during this summer, in Montenegrin, Croatian and Serbian newspapers, presenting evidence and accusing Djukanovic and his organization for large criminal activities and several murders in the region, particulary famous Croatian journalist Ivo Pukanic, who wrote about Djukanovic’s criminal activities. Recently, Mr Knezevic had also sent an open letter to President Obama and the leadership of the U.S.A. He wrote that „at this moment, which is critical in Montenegro’s history, Djukanovic must not be unwittingly aided by others. In addition to shunning Djukanovic, the governments of other countries should, with care and thoughtfullness, draw closer to and support those who would replace Djukanovic with honest and democratic leadership that truly supports free democracy and the rule of law. “ Read the full letter in English here – part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.

Also, an open letter of numerous Montenegrin intellectuals and university professors, urged European Union to stop supporting and promoting Djukanovic and his undemocratic regime.

After all being said, both – citizens of Montenegro and opossiton parties are raising simple question – why are EU and its main representatives giving unconditional support to Djukanovic’s regime?

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