Montenegro and European Union

We mainly bring stories which follow relation between Montenegro and European Union, progress that the country is making on its way towards the EU, as well as the issues that are coming on the way. It is often reported that Montenegro faces numerous challenges on its path to European Union. Those problems are mostly described as lack of administrational capacities or unwillingness to take direct actions against corruption and organised crime. However, this critical analyses by two prominent professors from University of Montenegro – Milan Popovic and Filip Kovacevic, shows another angle of the problem.

Montenegrin Counter-Lustration, 1991-2009 (Fragment)

Milan Popovic and Filip Kovacevic

from Petritsch and Dzihic, eds. Conflict and Memory: Bridging Past and Future in [South East] Europe, Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2010.

Rhetoric and Reality

The gap between pro-European and pro-democratic rhetoric, on the one hand, and the actual anti-European and anti-democratic practice of the Montenegrin government, on the other hand, is not accidental, but logical and systematic. With the help of this rhetoric, the government covers its real face; with the help of this practice, it defends its monopoly on power. The most recent example is the way in which the government withheld its EU Questionnaire answers from the opposition parties, the NGO sector and the general public.

From the little that was leaked to the public, it was evident that the government engaged in an intentional cover-up of the true state of political and economic affairs in Montenegro today. Will the government’s attempt to mislead the EU be successful? Or is the EU, for the reasons mentioned above, going to accept the made-up answers and not call the government to account for its lies?

Taking into consideration the internal political dynamics, the DPS gets its biggest support from the Social Democratic Party (Socijaldemokratska partija, or SDP), which for the past 11 years has without interruption been the most important coalition partner in the DPS-led government. In the period 1991–98, besides the Liberal Alliance of Montenegro, the SDP was also the most important anti-war and pro-independence party in the opposition. Similarly to the EU/EC, the SDP defends its key role in the relegitimisation of the ruling DPS and the whole government in Montenegro after 1998 by a standard transitional-corrective mythology. If we confront this mythology with the facts, however, we come to the conclusion that the DPS damaged the SDP and EU/EC, rather than the SDP and EU/EC improving the DPS. Today it is clear that the SDP leadership, led by the speaker of parliament, Ranko Krivokapic, is deeply implicated in all the corrupt activities undertaken over the decade by the DPS.

This process has affected all areas of public life, but is especially painfully felt in the area of confronting the war crime-stained past, as well as in the field of higher education, i.e., the University of Montenegro. Ironically, the SDP has become a willing victim of this process of inversion. That is, during the wars in the 1990s the party was anti-war, but after the wars, in 2000, it has post-festum become pro-war by its post-war defence of the war heritage and support for its older and bigger coalition partner and the country’s political, party and war leaders. If anyone was able to hope before the referendum on independence in 2006 that this inversion was forced, temporary and instrumental to the function of solving the unsolved so-called state question, political developments after the referendum dashed these hopes very quickly and very thoroughly. A couple of events in 2007 and 2009 indicate this very clearly. Firstly, let us consider 2007. At the beginning of the year, the parliamentary opposition Liberal Party of Montenegro, one of the inheritors of the anti-war Liberal Union of Montenegro, initiated the procedure for the adoption of the law on lustration. Since then, the SDP has played, and continues to play, the main role in blocking this law, because the DPS’s opposition to this law alone would not have had a sufficient parliamentary majority and the law would have been adopted. A joint action by the SDP and the opposition may have prevented the submersion of the Tara River canyon, but regarding the lustration, the SDP is not ready to risk its coalition with the DPS. As time goes by, there is less and less reason to distinguish between these two parties, and to all intents and purposes they form one anti-democratic bloc. The key role in this political regression of the worst kind on the part of the SDP has been played by its president, Ranko Krivokapic, the speaker of the Montenegrin parliament, and his de facto counsellor on political matters, Srdjan Darmanovic, the dean of the Faculty of Political Science in Podgorica.

Furthermore, the blocking of the law on lustration has elicited and encouraged counter-lustration, i.e., the oppression of the anti-war critics of the government, by the ruling, war and post-war oligarchs. Also during 2007, one of the then-famous international NGOs, the International League of Humanists, based in Sarajevo, awarded Milo Djukanovic and Svetozar Marovic the laudable title of “humanists.” A group of 19 independent intellectuals, university professors, journalists and NGO leaders voiced their strong protest against this action and invited four high-level invitee presidents, Vaclav Havel (Czech Republic), Kiro Gligorov (Macedonia), Stjepan Mesic (Croatia) and Milan Kucan (Slovenia) to support their protest and boycott the ceremony conferring this title on the two men. With convenient diplomatic explanations, the four high-level invitee presidents accepted the call from the group of intellectuals and did not come to the ceremony. This move angered the DPS oligarchs, and especially the highest one, the president of the ruling party and head of the government, who, with the support of the whole powerful party and state machinery, started a shrill, unscrupulous campaign of hate speech against his opponents, which in terms of its intensity and venom did not lag far behind similar campaigns in the early 1990s. This campaign achieved practical results very quickly. In the next year or two at least half of the group of intellectuals experienced political, verbal or physical violence of some kind, not to mention everyday kinds of political, employment and general discrimination. Our fake DPS “humanists” learned a very practical lesson from one of their rare defeats in their two decades of uninterrupted rule, which was not to implement their counter-lustration activities directly and thus provoke the protests of those who cannot and/or do not want to forget, but rather to do so with the assistance of their party’s junior coalition partner, the SDP, which still retains the aura of its anti-war past, and with the patronage of the Brussels “Holy See,” the EC, which enjoys demigod status in this part of the world. Only two years after the “humanist” burlesque described above, in May 2009 a regional gathering devoted to confronting the war-stained past was organised. This time, two carefully chosen and promoted high-level guests/sponsors were invited: the leader of the SDP and the speaker of the parliament of Montenegro, Ranko Krivokapic, and a high-level EU official, Pierre Mirel. The presence of the two high-level guests/sponsors was intended to perform a kind of “lobotomy” that would make people forget the extended obstruction of the adoption of the law on lustration, as well as the extended practice of counter-lustration in Montenegro. A number of anti-war activists who were present saw through this and reacted by leaving the hall in protest when the chief domestic “lobotomist,” Krivokapic, appeared.

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