Montenegro

1. Euroscepticism and European Parliament elections

In the shadow of local elections

Mon­tene­gro is still pre­dom­i­nant­ly deal­ing with its inter­nal polit­i­cal issues, and thus even the issues that may have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on the country’s acces­sion to the EU remain over­shad­owed by domes­tic affairs. In this con­text, both the elec­tion cam­paign for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, and the results of these elec­tions, have been, to a great extent, eclipsed by the local elec­tions held in 12 munic­i­pal­i­ties in Mon­tene­gro at the same time as the elec­tions to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment (25 May 2014).

Mon­tene­grin politi­cians, ana­lysts, the media, and the over­all polit­i­cal pub­lic were focused on the elec­tion cam­paign and the results of the local elec­tions. The fact that the elec­tions were held in the cap­i­tal Pod­gor­i­ca, where a third of the elec­torate resides, cre­at­ed an atmos­phere in which these elec­tions, due to inter­est­ing realign­ments of polit­i­cal par­ties, car­ried some uncer­tain­ty and the pos­si­bil­i­ty to influ­ence the orga­ni­za­tion of ear­ly par­lia­men­tary elec­tions. Accord­ing­ly, the stakes of all involved par­ties became much greater than is typ­i­cal­ly the case with local elec­tions. All par­ties ful­ly focused on try­ing to present their plat­form as the one that would be of key impor­tance for fur­ther devel­op­ment of the coun­try. From the rul­ing par­ty and its part­ners we heard the state­ments that it is nec­es­sary to win the local elec­tions in order to pre­serve the achieve­ments of Mon­tene­grin polit­i­cal inde­pen­dence, where­as oppo­si­tion par­ties and coali­tions empha­sized the need for the estab­lish­ment of the prin­ci­ple of demo­c­ra­t­ic changes of the gov­ern­ment, stress­ing the fact that over the last 25 years there has not been a change of gov­ern­ment on the Mon­tene­grin polit­i­cal scene.

Thus, the elec­tion cam­paign in the EU mem­ber states for the elec­tion of Euro­pean par­lia­men­tar­i­ans went com­plete­ly unno­ticed in Mon­tene­gro. Even after the announce­ment of the results of the elec­tions for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, apart from a few short texts in the media, which gave an overview of the new sit­u­a­tion, there was no analy­sis of these elec­tions or pub­lic debate on the nov­el­ties they brought about.

A pro-European consensus

Although the iden­ti­ty issues, even eight years after restora­tion of inde­pen­dence, still rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant part of the rhetoric in all elec­tions in Mon­tene­gro, and divide the polit­i­cal scene, the issue of Euro­pean inte­gra­tion rep­re­sents a pos­i­tive exam­ple of the gen­er­al con­sen­sus among all polit­i­cal par­ties, both as a for­eign pol­i­cy pri­or­i­ty and as a means of democ­ra­ti­za­tion of the soci­ety. The com­mit­ment of all social fac­tors (polit­i­cal par­ties, non-gov­ern­men­tal organ­i­sa­tions, media, acad­e­mia, trade unions, etc.) in Mon­tene­gro to EU val­ues is also mir­rored in pub­lic opin­ion. Accord­ing to the lat­est polls con­duct­ed by Ipsos Strate­gic Mar­ket­ing, sup­port for the inte­gra­tion process is at 67 per­cent, and this is in line with the vari­a­tion rang­ing from 65 per­cent to 75 per­cent in the last 8 years . In Mon­tene­gro, there are no open or vocal euroscep­tics, regard­less of whether we are look­ing at polit­i­cal par­ties, civ­il soci­ety orga­ni­za­tions, media, aca­d­e­m­ic groups, etc. This cross-soci­etal con­sen­sus con­tributes to the over­all sup­port of EU acces­sion and helps mobi­lize all of the actors in moments when sup­port is unsta­ble.

Little discussion on results and turnout

Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions, which were held in the 28 EU mem­ber states, have proven that there is an increase in sup­port of the cit­i­zens with­in the Euro­pean Union for polit­i­cal groups with extreme right-wing or left-wing pro­files. How­ev­er, polar­iza­tion did not cause any spe­cif­ic expres­sions of con­cern in Mon­tene­gro, in terms of the fur­ther devel­op­ment and func­tion­ing of Euro­pean insti­tu­tions, or the open­ness of the EU to the enlarge­ment process. Addi­tion­al­ly, there is no pub­lic debate on the increase of sup­port for extreme right-wing or left-wing polit­i­cal par­ties in France, Great Britain, Greece, Aus­tria, Hun­gary and Croa­t­ia, etc., or on the realign­ment of forces that the results of these elec­tions brought forth.

In the pre­vi­ous years, from time to time there was dis­cus­sion about the vot­er turnout in the Euro­pean elec­tions, but this year not even that ques­tion caught the atten­tion of Mon­tene­grin pro­fes­sion­als and the gen­er­al pub­lic, even though ten­den­cy of the decrease of turnout (43%) stopped which is cer­tain­ly inter­est­ing for analy­sis, as well as the ques­tion of turnout in indi­vid­ual EU mem­ber states.

2. The EU’s Neighbourhood

Close but difficult ties with Russia

The rela­tions between Mon­tene­gro and Rus­sia have an exten­sive his­tor­i­cal back­ground and con­tin­ue to be very dynam­ic. These rela­tions were strength­ened after the restora­tion of inde­pen­dence in Mon­tene­gro. The Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion was one of the first coun­tries to rec­og­nize Mon­tene­gro as an inde­pen­dent and sov­er­eign state (on 12 June 2006) fol­low­ing the Ref­er­en­dum on inde­pen­dence held in May 2006. Soon after, the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Com­mit­tee on Trade, Eco­nom­ic and Sci­en­tif­ic-Tech­ni­cal Coop­er­a­tion between the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion and Mon­tene­gro was formed. Through this com­mit­tee the rela­tions in the field of eco­nom­ic coop­er­a­tion became insti­tu­tion­al­ized. From that peri­od until today, total finan­cial invest­ment of the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion in Mon­tene­gro amounts to around one bil­lion Euros. In the peri­od between 2010 and 2012, the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion ranked as one of the coun­tries that invests the most in Mon­tene­gro: (in 2010: 90.2 mil­lion Euro, in 2011: 111.9 mil­lion Euro, in 2012: 161.54 mil­lion Euro) Addi­tion­al­ly, over 250,000 cit­i­zens of the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion vis­it Mon­tene­gro each year, and a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of them own prop­er­ty in the ter­ri­to­ry of Mon­tene­gro.

At the same time, some of the most impor­tant Russ­ian invest­ments have been sub­ject to con­tro­ver­sy in the Mon­tene­grin soci­ety. EU insti­tu­tions have also expressed inter­est in the ori­gin of the mon­ey and sus­pect­ed that these invest­ments in Mon­tene­gro are used for mon­ey laun­der­ing. Thus, the EP Direc­torate Gen­er­al Exter­nal Poli­cies of the Union of the Union pre­pared a report, at the request of the EP’s Com­mit­tee on For­eign Affairs, on the Russ­ian direct invest­ments in Mon­tene­gro enti­tled, “The Russ­ian Eco­nom­ic Pen­e­tra­tion in Mon­tene­gro.” It states that Russ­ian direct invest­ments in Mon­tene­gro are the high­est in com­par­i­son to oth­er coun­tries from the for­mer social­ist bloc, and that they are most­ly direct­ed towards the basic and hotel indus­tries and real estate acqui­si­tion. The report empha­sizes that, in the last two years, Russ­ian invest­ments have sud­den­ly and sig­nif­i­cant­ly increased in Mon­tene­gro, and that Russ­ian cap­i­tal is com­ing to this coun­try through com­pa­nies with head­quar­ters in the UK, Switzer­land, the Nether­lands, USA, Cyprus, Liecht­en­stein and the British Vir­gin Islands. Also, the data shows that from 2004, when Russ­ian direct invest­ments amount­ed to 1.7 mil­lion Euros, until today, there has been a 57-fold increase. Accord­ing to these sta­tis­tics, Mon­tene­gro is by far the most attrac­tive coun­try for Russ­ian for­eign invest­ment, as the per­cent­age of Russ­ian invest­ments in oth­er for­mer social­ist coun­tries is undoubt­ed­ly low­er.

An impor­tant share of Russ­ian cap­i­tal in Mon­tene­gro is a prod­uct of the pur­chase of the Alu­mini­um Plant Pod­gor­i­ca (KAP), Baux­ite Mines Niksic and sev­er­al hotels on the Mon­tene­grin coast. Rus­sians have also expressed inter­est in the pri­va­ti­za­tion of the ther­mal pow­er plant and coalmines in Pljevl­ja and Port of Bar. It is impor­tant to note that the major invest­ments, such as those con­cern­ing KAP and Baux­ite Mines Niksic failed, pro­duc­ing enor­mous debts at the expense of Mon­tene­grin tax­pay­ers. This was due to arrange­ments that gov­ern­men­tal offi­cials made with Russ­ian com­pa­nies, which did not ade­quate­ly pro­tect the Mon­tene­grin pub­lic inter­est.

In addi­tion, the inten­si­fi­ca­tion of rela­tions between Mon­tene­gro and the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion is slow­ing down due to recent Mon­tene­grin for­eign pol­i­cy activ­i­ties relat­ed to the Ukrain­ian cri­sis. In spite of his­tor­i­cal rela­tions with Rus­sia, dur­ing the Ukrain­ian cri­sis and the annex­a­tion of the Crimea Penin­su­la to the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, Mon­tene­gro joined the EU mem­ber states in con­demn­ing such actions and impos­ing sanc­tions against Rus­sia. The publics in both coun­tries were sur­prised by the deci­sion of the exec­u­tive author­i­ties of Mon­tene­gro. How­ev­er, Pod­gor­i­ca offi­cial­ly explained its for­eign pol­i­cy deci­sion to impose sanc­tions against the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion with the fact that, as a can­di­date state, Mon­tene­gro needs to align with the EU for­eign pol­i­cy. In addi­tion, Mon­tene­grin Gov­ern­ment recalled upon the com­mit­ments under­tak­en by the offi­cial doc­u­ments signed by the Gov­ern­ment of Mon­tene­gro, per­tain­ing to Sta­bi­liza­tion and an Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ment. This has caused a very strong reac­tion by the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, and effects are expect­ed for the upcom­ing tourist sea­son. In pre­vi­ous years, Russ­ian tourists con­sti­tut­ed a sig­nif­i­cant share in the total num­ber of vis­i­tors.

Not all polit­i­cal actors shared the view of the Gov­ern­ment con­cern­ing this issue. Specif­i­cal­ly, some of the major oppo­si­tion par­ties, such as the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Front and the Social­ist People’s Par­ty (SNP) strong­ly crit­i­cised this approach. The SNP lead­er­ship even went as far as to pay a vis­it to Rus­sia in ear­ly May 2014 to explain its posi­tion to the Russ­ian offi­cials and their polit­i­cal actors.

To con­clude, rela­tions between Mon­tene­gro and Rus­sia are good at this stage, but it is clear that Mon­tene­gro, when in posi­tion to choose between the EU and Russ­ian sides, it will choose the EU stance, as it is ful­ly in line with its for­eign pol­i­cy pri­or­i­ties.

Unchanged relations with Eastern Partnership countries

The events in Ukraine did not sig­nif­i­cant­ly change rela­tions with any of the coun­tries of the East­ern Part­ner­ship. Also, even though the diplo­mat­ic rela­tions with Ukraine were estab­lished on 22 August 2006, direct invest­ment from Ukraine has been rather lim­it­ed (less then half a mil­lion per year). Trade exchange and the num­ber of tourists from Ukraine to Mon­tene­gro have also been lim­it­ed, even if there seems to be an increas­ing ten­den­cy in these areas.

The rela­tions are so far most devel­oped with Azer­bai­jan, with which there is an estab­lished polit­i­cal dia­logue, as well as coop­er­a­tion in the fields of econ­o­my, tourism and cul­ture. Azer­bai­jan recog­nised Mon­tene­gro on 24 July 2006, and diplo­mat­ic rela­tions were estab­lished on 15 April 2008, while their embassy in Mon­tene­gro was opened in 2010 and eco­nom­ic rela­tions are show­ing an increas­ing ten­den­cy. Name­ly, the Azer­bai­jan oil com­pa­ny SOCAR has com­mit­ted to invest 258 mil­lion Euro in the for­mer mil­i­tary resort Kum­bor in order to trans­form it into a lux­u­ry resort. This is cur­rent­ly the largest on-going for­eign invest­ment in Mon­tene­gro, even though not with planned progress. The agree­ment was signed on 12 July 2012 for a peri­od of 90 years. In addi­tion, the Azeri gov­ern­ment invest­ed as present app. 1 mil­lion Euro into the recon­struc­tion of the King’s Park in the Mon­tene­grin cap­i­tal Pod­gor­i­ca, at the ini­tia­tive of its pres­i­dent, Ilham Aliyev. The project was devel­oped by an Azer­bai­jan archi­tect, and was opened offi­cial­ly in Sep­tem­ber 2013 by the may­or of Pod­gor­i­ca and Azer­bai­jan deputy Prime Min­is­ter. In addi­tion, Azer­bai­jan donat­ed near­ly 2 mil­lion Euros for the con­struc­tion of kinder­gartens in the north­ern Mon­tene­grin city of Bije­lo Pol­je.

Geor­gia offi­cial­ly recog­nised Mon­tene­gro on 29 Octo­ber 2007, when diplo­mat­ic rela­tions were also estab­lished. For­eign trade exchange and Geor­gian invest­ment in Mon­tene­gro are at a low lev­el.

Moldo­va offi­cial­ly recog­nised Mon­tene­gro on 21 June 2006, and diplo­mat­ic rela­tions were estab­lished on 12 March 2007. Eco­nom­ic rela­tions between the two coun­ties have been lim­it­ed to imports, with lim­it­ed scope. How­ev­er, the good rela­tions are best mir­rored through the region­al coop­er­a­tion mech­a­nisms, such as the Cen­tral-Euro­pean Ini­tia­tive, the South­east Euro­pean Coop­er­a­tive Ini­tia­tive and the South-East Euro­pean Coop­er­a­tion Process.

Rela­tions with Belarus are estab­lished, as well as with Arme­nia, with no spe­cif­ic coop­er­a­tion, except for grow­ing num­bers of Beloruss­ian tourists vis­it­ing Mon­tene­gro.

Exchanging lessons with Turkey

Turkey is still not part of the analy­ses or debates in Mon­tene­gro when it comes to issues relat­ed to fur­ther EU enlarge­ment, part­ly due to the lack of qual­i­ty aca­d­e­m­ic dis­course on the EU inte­gra­tion process in gen­er­al, and part­ly due to the fact that Mon­tene­grin deci­sion-mak­ers are more focused on West­ern Balkan coun­tries, which are geo­graph­i­cal­ly clos­er, and with whom com­mu­ni­ca­tion and coop­er­a­tion in that respect is quite devel­oped.

Over­all, the rela­tions between Mon­tene­gro and Turkey are good with grow­ing coop­er­a­tion in the fields of econ­o­my, edu­ca­tion, cul­ture, etc. Rela­tions are par­tic­u­lar­ly devel­oped with regard to NATO, since Turkey is a strong sup­port­er Mon­tene­grin acces­sion. Recent­ly, on 10 June 2014, a pro­to­col on coop­er­a­tion in the field of Euro­pean inte­gra­tion between Mon­tene­gro and Turkey was signed in Pod­gor­i­ca by the Mon­tene­grin Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs Igor Luk­sic and the Turk­ish Min­is­ter of Euro­pean Affairs and Chief Nego­tia­tor Mevlüt Ҫavuşoğlu. It is expect­ed that this will trig­ger more dis­cus­sion in Mon­tene­gro on Turkey’s EU mem­ber­ship per­spec­tive and lead to the exchange of lessons learned.

Links:

  • Min­istry of For­eign Affairs and Euro­pean Inte­gra­tion of Mon­tene­gro, Bilat­er­al Rela­tions with Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, undat­ed.
  • Direc­torate Gen­er­al Exter­nal Poli­cies of the Union, The Russ­ian Eco­nom­ic Pen­e­tra­tion in Mon­tene­gro, 7 Decem­ber 2007.  EU Exter­nal Action, Mon­tene­gro Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ment, 15 Octo­ber 2007.
  • BETA, Kasar­nu Kum­bor kupio SOCAR, 10 July 2012.

3. Power relations in the EU

Germany – partner and gatekeeper in the accession process

Rela­tions between Ger­many and Mon­tene­gro are quite devel­oped, with his­tor­i­cal roots, dat­ing from the open­ing of the first Ger­man diplo­mat­ic rep­re­sen­ta­tion in 1906 in Mon­tene­gro. Once Mon­tene­gro regained its inde­pen­dence, Ger­many was the first coun­try to send its ambas­sador on 14 June 2006.

Ger­many is strong­ly sup­port­ive of the polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic reforms with­in the par­al­lell acces­sions process­es Mon­tene­gro to NATO and the EU. The entire trade exchange between the two coun­tries in 2013 was 129.8 mil­lion Euro (imports: 116.5 and exports: 13.3), where­as direct invest­ments from Ger­many amount­ed to 22.7 mil­lion Euro (which rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant increase com­pared to pre­vi­ous years. Since 2009, the aver­age was below 15 mil­lion Euro per year. Pri­or­i­ty fields of coop­er­a­tion are ener­gy, ener­gy effi­cien­cy, com­mu­nal infra­struc­ture and tourism. Devel­op­ment aid from Ger­many to Mon­tene­gro is allo­cat­ed to the imple­men­ta­tion of struc­tur­al reforms, con­sol­i­dat­ing and advanc­ing the finan­cial sec­tor, infra­struc­ture projects, devel­op­ment of the econ­o­my (small and medi­um enter­pris­es) and tourism. For the last 14 years, Ger­many has been con­duct­ing devel­op­ment projects in Mon­tene­gro, whose com­bined val­ue is approx­i­mat­ly 300 mil­lion Euro. These num­bers make Ger­many Montenegro’s largest bilat­er­al donor. Fur­ther­more, there was sig­nif­i­cant human­i­tar­i­an aid pledged by the Ger­man human­i­tar­i­an organ­i­sa­tion HELP, as well as some sup­port for civ­il soci­ety projects deal­ing with some of the most chal­leng­ing issues in Mon­tene­gro. The num­ber of Ger­man tourists is also increas­ing and rep­re­sents an impor­tant income to this part of the Mon­tene­grin econ­o­my.

It is impor­tant to note Germany’s vis­i­ble inter­est in Mon­tene­gro in terms of the estab­lish­ment of the rule of law and Euro­pean val­ues. Over­all, Ger­many is per­cieved as one of the most impor­tant deci­sion-mak­ers in the EU, sup­port­ing the Mon­tene­grin efforts on the way to the EU but at the same time remain­ing very vocal in express­ing con­cerns about major chal­lenges to the country’s democ­ra­ti­sa­tion.

Austerity vs. growth – following the French model

The eco­nom­ic cri­sis that occurred in 2009 and affect­ed all coun­tries world­wide inevitably also had strong effects on Mon­tene­gro. There­fore, Euro­pean debates on aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures vs growth have spread to Mon­tene­gro as well, due to the ten­den­cy of a decreas­ing stan­dard of life, dete­ri­o­rat­ing eco­nom­ic con­di­tions and fear of author­i­ties from social unrest. There­fore, in the Mon­tene­grin polit­i­cal con­text, the dom­i­nant posi­tion is that, for the boost­ing of eco­nom­ic growth and the cit­i­zens’ stan­dard of liv­ing, mod­er­ate aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures should be applied. This would also address the need to respond to prob­lems in the econ­o­my and decrease the cur­rent social insta­bil­i­ty.

Con­trary to the Ger­man mod­el aim­ing to ensure real growth through a strict aus­ter­i­ty pol­i­cy, Mon­tene­gro adopt­ed the clos­er French eco­nom­ic and social mod­el as its frame­work for action. Assum­ing that it will sig­nif­i­cant­ly improve the eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try and influ­ence the imple­men­ta­tion of inter­nal and for­eign pol­i­cy activ­i­ties, with the focus on bal­anc­ing rev­enues and loss­es, pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion reform (espe­cial­ly in the con­sol­i­da­tion of the pub­lic sec­tor through a decrease of pub­lic spend­ing), strength­en­ing of capac­i­ties for func­tion­al rule of law, a reform of the judi­cia­ry sys­tem, as well as on the over­all EU inte­gra­tion process.

Brexit – Little discussion about a potentially relevant ally

This top­ic is not present in Motene­grin pub­lic dis­course and the UK remains one of the coun­tries that strong­ly sup­ports Mon­tene­grin EU acces­sion as well as the EU’s sup­port to civ­il soci­ety activ­i­ties, although with a rather lim­it­ed finan­cial scope.

This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March 2014. Most of the reports were deliv­ered in June 2014. This issue and all pre­vi­ous issues are avail­able on the EU-28 Watch web­site: www.eu-28watch.org.

The EU-28 Watch No. 10 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained there­in.