Certain key decision-makers in Montenegro have shown that they remain within the provincial framework of policy thinking and conduct, overestimating their roles while underestimating fundamental principles.
Daliborka Uljarević & Milica Zindović
Russia’s aggression on Ukraine has changed the bloodstream of international relations. However, it seems like an understanding of the above is lacking in some parts of the Western Balkans, including Montenegro, which is particularly dangerous given how vulnerable the region is to malignant external influences, and therefore a fertile ground for destabilisation.
If we add to that the justified fear that the crisis could have a spillover effect, the countries of our region now, more than ever, need openness and a sincere commitment from the European Union for providing a more credible prospect of membership. At the same time, the countries themselves must unequivocally demonstrate that they stay on the side of civilisational values, and not with the aggressor.
Despite the chaos in Eastern Europe, the EU has not forgotten the Western Balkans, as indicated by the messages of its top officials, which have two complementary lines. The first one emphasises that the countries of the region have a prospective future in the EU and that the EU is not giving up on them. This is substantially supplemented by the other message, that there will be no accession shortcut for any state, nor any tolerating of persistent governing structures, in some countries, who are defending their own interests while bypassing official policies and values of the Union. Therefore, now is not the time for illusions about accelerated membership, it is time for valuable policies that can lead to a faster fulfilment of commitments to EU membership.
Unfortunately, certain key decision-makers in Montenegro have shown that they remain within the provincial framework of policy thinking and conduct, overestimating their roles while underestimating fundamental principles.
The outgoing government of Zdravko Krivokapić has been using various manoeuvres for a long time in order to avoid imposing effective sanctions on Russia, after a quick declarative agreement with the sanctions policy. The last one was performed at the government session on March 17, 2022, when the alleged non-compliance with internal procedures was used as an explanation. Through this Zdravko Krivokapić, together with his ministers, inflicted enormous political damage to the state of Montenegro, positioning it as an unreliable partner to NATO and the EU, at a time when it is especially noted and remembered. Although this Government will leave soon, Montenegro will wear this stamp for a long time, and it will be difficult to remove it.
On the other hand, we have the process of formation of the so-called minority Government, which remains unjustifiably late. The process began before the Ukrainian crisis, and the reflections of the crisis are light-handedly ignored within political negotiations. It seems that key actors haven’t caught onto the fact that our Government will be perceived as pro-European only if each of its constituents and members has an explicit position on Ukraine, which would be in line with the position of NATO and the EU. Also, it is equally understood that every constituent and member must show deviation from and resistance to hegemonic projects, whether in Russia and / or Serbia, which includes the actors through whom these projects are more difficult to achieve.
The first step towards solving a problem is recognising it, and ours is primarily of internal nature. Therefore, the future of Montenegro in the EU depends exclusively on us and our internal readiness and will towards this process, towards strengthening the functional rule of law and institutions, but also protecting the civic character of the state. Accelerating or slowing down the enlargement process will depend in part on the development of the situation in Ukraine. But, in any case scenario, the EU will insist on the execution of the undertaken internal tasks and commitments, and it is not likely that it would risk admission of unprepared states into the already burdened Union.
Daliborka Uljarević, civic activist, executive director of the NGO Center for Civic Education (CCE), Milica Zindović, associate on programs at CCE