Last Updated: Monday, 24 November 2014, 16:50 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Montenegro : Overview

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2007
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Montenegro : Overview, 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4954ce1d23.html [accessed 24 November 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Environment

Montenegro lies on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. It borders Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Croatia. Its terrain is very mountainous.


Peoples

Main languages: in late 2006 a debate was underway about the name of the language of Montenegro. The language is very similar to Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian, all of which were considered a common language before the wars of the 1990s. Some Montenegrins have taken to calling their language 'Montenegrin'.

Main religions: Orthodox Christianity (Serbian and Montenegrin Orthodox Churches), Islam, Roman Catholicism

Main ethnic groups, according to the 2003 census, are Montenegrins 267,669 (43.16%), Serbs 198,414 (31.99%), Bosniaks 48,184 (7.77%), Albanians 31,163 (5.03%), Muslims 24,625 (3.97%), Croats 6,811 and Roma 2,601. Other estimates, for example by OSCE, put the Roma population at 20,000.

No single ethnic group in Montenegro forms an absolute numerical majority. Montenegrins, Serbs, Bosniaks, and Croats are Slavic. Most Montenegrins and Serbs are Christian Orthodox, most Bosniaks and Albanians are Muslim, and most Croats are Roman Catholic.

The 2003 census recorded nearly 7,000 Croats in Montenegro. Croats speak Croatian and are predominately Roman Catholics. They are concentrated in southern Montenegro, near the border with Croatia, at the Bay of Boka Kotorska, with highest percentage in municipality of Tivat. This part of Montenegro was previously part of Dalmatia, but has been part of Montenegro since 1918.


History

Slavs arrived in the Balkans in the sixth century. The Slavic state of Dolcea was formed on the territory where Podgorica, the Montenegrin capital, exists today. Dolcea became the territorial basis for all different stages in the state organization of the Montenegrin people. Montenegro became independent in the eleventh century, then was taken over by the Byzantine Empire and became independent again in the fourteenth century. The Ottomans conquered the country in 1496. In 1796 Montenegro de facto became an independent autonomous state, and was officially recognised in 1858. Montenegro proclaimed itself a kingdom in 1910 and expanded to its present borders during the First Balkan War in 1912. It sided with Serbia during WWI and the Podgorica Assembly voted for uniting Montenegro with the Kingdom of Serbia in 1918. However, pro-independence forces in Montenegro revolted on Christmas Day 1919; the revolt was finally brutally suppressed in 1924, and the Montenegrin Orthodox Church was subsequently incorporated into the Serbian Orthodox Church. All independence forces within Montenegro were suppressed. After World War II, Montenegro became a part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) and Montenegrins were given the status of a nation, its territory the Socialist Republic of Montenegro.

In 1992, Montenegro was the only of six SFRY republics (apart from Serbia) that did not declare independence. With Milosevic allies at the helm, Montenegro joined Serbia in formation of a new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic. As part of the rump Yugoslav National Army, Montenegrins participated in the Slovenian, Croatian and Bosnian wars of the 1990s, notoriously including the shelling of the Croatian city of Dubrovnik. In 1997, Montenegro's new leadership fell out with Milosevic. The anti-Milosevic government in Podgorica, backed strongly by Montenegrin nationalists who favoured independence, and many in the public who were fed up with international isolation, proved sympathetic to NATO forces intervening in neighbouring Kosovo in 1999. In 2000, popular protests ousted Milosevic and Serbia and Montenegro formally embarked on a process of transformation into a democratic state with a market economy. Under pressure from the European Union, a three year agreement was concluded in 2003 establishing the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro-known derisively by pro-independence Montenegrins as Solanaland, after then European Foreign Affairs Commissioner Javier Solana. With about half of the population favouring independence, the government of Montenegro largely ignored federal laws during this time.


Governance

With 86.5 per cent voter turnout in a May 2006 referendum,55.5 per cent of the electorate voted for independence. The debate on the future of Montenegro had dominated the political scene and divided the society. Generally, Montenegrins and all minorities were pro-independence, whilst most Serbs were opposed. The Montenegrin Parliament declared independence on 3 June 2006, which was almost immediately recognized by the EU, US and members of UN Security Council, and subsequently by the Republic of Serbia. Whilst Serbia is the legal successor of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, the Republic of Montenegro expressed its readiness to adhere to the international treaties ratified by the State Union, and to participate in the same international organizations. It is a member of the UN and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and is the newest member of the Council of Europe. In late 2006 the EU and Montenegro entered into a Stabilization and Association Agreement, representing Montenegrin progress on the path to EU membership ahead of Serbia.

Montenegro adopted its existing constitution in 1992. The constitution includes the principle of equality before the law, provides for official use of minority languages in municipalities where minorities form a substantial proportion of the population, freedom to practice one's own religion, equality of religions, and a provision on mother-tongue education. With the exception of Roma, minorities have generally been well represented in government at all levels. At the local level, minorities other than Roma are frequently represented in municipal councils, governments and administrations. The electoral law provides for special procedures to ensure five seats in areas where the Albanian community lives; election observation missions from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODHIR) have repeatedly criticized this law, as it benefits only one minority.

The economic situation in Montenegro has long been difficult. Internationally isolated together with Serbia for years, GDP fell dramatically from levels in the early 1990s; unemployment rates rose, whilst salaries and pensions decreased. Corruption and organized crime, including human trafficking, have has been major problems, aggravated by opaque decision-making processes. The rural population, which is disproportionately a minority population, remains poorer than the urban, majority Montenegrin population, and poverty is highest amongst vulnerable groups such as Roma, refugees, internally displaced, and the disabled. However, Montenegro's weak economy appears to be undergoing a turn-around since independence.


Current state of minorities and indigenous peoples

Efforts are underway to develop independent Montenegro's first constitution. Many existing constitutional protections lack necessary implementing legislation. A new law on the protection of national minorities was adopted in May 2006, but there is still no comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation.

Montenegro has a Ministry for Protection of the Rights of National and Ethnic Groups, a Republican Council for Protection of Rights of Members of National and Ethnic Groups, and an Ombudsperson. However, these institutions are not well integrated into decision-making processes, and too often are disregarded by other institutions. In addition to an inadequate legal framework, there are problems with implementation of existing laws. In 2006, there was little progress on new legislation in the lead up to independence, debate over which consumed all political dialogue.

Local and parliamentary elections were held in September 2006. Zeljko Sturanovic of the centre-left Democratic Party of Socialists in Montenegro became prime minister in November 2006. Albanians are represented at the national level with five MPs, and an Albanian party is a partner in the ruling coalition. Bosniaks have three MPs, and Serbs twelve.

Since the independence referendum, Montenegro has seen spikes in international tourism and a tremendous influx of foreign direct investment. It had already adopted the Euro as its official currency, and at independence, the government dismantled most of its military. As the new country experiences strong economic growth, it remains to be seen whether new sources of wealth also benefit those groups who have long been excluded.

The European Union is Montenegro's main trading partner and has the most political leverage. In March 2007, Montenegro and the EU concluded negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement, representing progress in Montenegro's desire to join the EU.

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