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Nations in Transit 2009 - Montenegro

Publisher Freedom House
Author Lisa McLean
Publication Date 30 June 2009
Cite as Freedom House, Nations in Transit 2009 - Montenegro, 30 June 2009, available at: [accessed 21 February 2018]
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.

by Lisa McLean

Capital: Podgorica
Population: 0.6 million
GNI/capita: US$11,780

The data above was provided by The World Bank, World Bank Indicators 2009.

Nations in Transit Ratings and Averaged Scores

Electoral Process5.504.753.753.753.503.253.503.503.253.25
Civil Society5.
Independent Media5.754.503.503.
National Democratic Governancen/an/an/an/an/a4.504.504.504.254.25
Local Democratic Governancen/an/an/an/an/a3.503.503.253.253.25
Judicial Framework and Independence5.755.504.
Democracy Score5.675.044.003.883.833.793.893.933.793.79

* Starting with the 2005 edition, Freedom House introduced separate analysis and ratings for national democratic governance and local democratic governance to provide readers with more detailed and nuanced analysis of these two important subjects.

NOTE: The ratings reflect the consensus of Freedom House, its academic advisers, and the author(s) of this report. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s). The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 7 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year.

Executive Summary

In the 17 years since the introduction of a multiparty system, the same political force – albeit with various splits – has dominated the political and economic scene in Montenegro, leading it through years of state breakup, regional conflict, sanctions, independence – and, now, toward integration with the European Union (EU) and NATO alliance. Its second full year of independence, 2008, was one of symbolic achievements for Montenegro. In addition to winning the European championship in water polo and attending its first Summer Olympics, the country submitted its application for a membership action plan from NATO as well as its application to become a member of the EU. Strategies were developed, action plans put into place, and legislation adopted – much of it aimed at addressing European concerns related to judicial independence, corruption and organized crime, and a bureaucracy built on years of political patronage.

In 2008, Montenegro faced the challenge of bringing about fundamental change in a small society comfortable with the tradition of using relationships to get things done. Through repeated violations of the Law on Implementation of the Constitution, which enjoyed the same force of law as the Constitution, the ruling forces failed to uphold respect for the basic law underpinning all other laws in the country. Yet with limited criticism from opposition forces, the media, civil society, or independent institutions, few other forces in society rose to the challenge of reshaping fundamental values. Thus, Montenegrin society embraces the prospect of European integration and its promise of economic growth in a country long plagued with poverty that had difficulty creating the political basis for economic change.

National Democratic Governance. In 2008, with a stable governing majority, the government and Parliament adopted a number of pieces of legislation, strategies, and action plans designed to advance the government's combined goals of NATO and EU membership. However, missing from the equation was development of a changed system of governance to reduce the predominance of the executive branch and to open up the process to additional voices in order to create a shared vision of the future. Making few efforts from its dominant position to open a dialogue, establish trust, fashion compromises, or enable oversight, the governing coalition blamed the governance situation on forces that it accused of often opposing the state. Given the inability on the part of the ruling parties, which dominate the public and private sectors, to find common ground with the opposition, the national democratic governance picture remained one subjugated to the disproportionate power of the executive branch; thus Montenegro's rating for national democratic governance remains at 4.25.

Electoral Process. Elections in 2008 were held largely in line with international standards. But a number of campaign and election day irregularities allowed opposition parties to spread doubts about the outcome and accuse governing parties of overwhelming advantages. While the Law on Voter Lists was adopted without the presumed need for a two-thirds majority, nothing was done to reconcile the election law with the Constitution and define legal means to guarantee ethnic minority representation in elected bodies or to address long-standing objections about certain provisions raised by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The obvious lack of political will to adopt internationally recommended changes to the legal framework or to create a level playing field for all competitors suggests that Montenegro's rating for electoral process should remain at 3.25.

Civil Society. While there have been small changes to the legal framework, civil society continues to exist in a precarious and competitive environment, even though some larger nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) increased their profile and influence. The government reluctantly included civil society in policy-making processes – especially in sensitive areas that claim the attention of the NGO watchdogs; but the government welcomed civil society organizations' efforts to help with public education and policy promotion. Slowly but surely, civil society is becoming an alternate voice that variously supports and criticizes official actions and policies; but institutional obstacles it continues to face cause Montenegro's civil society rating to remain at 2.75.

Independent Media. In 2008, cases involving violence against journalists remained unresolved, and courts assessed significant monetary judgments against the media for slander. In an effort to secure an independent source of funding for and independent management of the public service, changes were made to the Law on Public Service Media that some fear could restore governing party control. In addition, the independent Broadcasting Agency was merged into a new government-controlled agency, threatening the prospects for independent distribution of broadcasting frequencies. With no change in official attitudes toward violence against journalists or slander, and with the threat that legislative changes may restore government interference in the media scene, Montenegro's rating for independent media remains at 3.75.

Local Democratic Governance. In 2008, local municipalities began to focus on improving their management capabilities, and the Union of Municipalities became more active in that process. Still, serious efforts to professionalize the local civil service were limited. The property boom at the coast and in the capital created a huge disparity in fiscal revenues and consequent developments in local communities, despite efforts to transfer more state funds to the poorer northern municipalities. Without serious efforts to transform the local administrations into capable, nonpartisan, service-oriented organizations, Montenegro's rating for local democratic governance remains at 3.25.

Judicial Framework and Independence. Legislative changes in 2008 moved the process of personnel appointments further away from the political arena, but the criteria for appointing judges remains imprecise, nontransparent, and open to subjective selection. Furthermore, the amendment to the Law on the State Prosecutor was adopted despite being contrary to the suggestions of the Council of Europe for establishing the service's independence. The concerning number of cases of police torture, high amounts awarded by the courts in cases of slander, and continued public distrust of the independence of the judiciary presented worrying trends in 2008. Although the legislative framework for judicial independence improved in 2008, continued public distrust in the judiciary's independence, disregard of the Council of Europe's suggestions in amending the Law on the State Prosecutor, and a concerning number of cases of police torture and politically motivated violence suggest that the rating for judicial framework and independence worsens from 4.00 to 4.25.

Corruption. For the international community and the print media in Montenegro, corruption was one of the biggest concerns. Legal and institutional reforms were introduced to strengthen the state's ability to deal with the problem. But without any cases ending in convictions for serious corruption, there was no challenge to the culture of impunity. The activities of the State Audit Institute, as well as of some NGOs and governing bodies, did change perceptions and improved public information about corruption. Given that the domestic public improved its understanding of the corruption challenge through the many reports and activities of nongovernmental and international organizations and information increasingly provided by government institutions, the power of public pressure has developed in Montenegro in order to address the issue; for that reason, Montenegro's corruption rating has improved from 5.25 to 5.00.

Outlook for 2009. The EU expects the large number of strategies and action plans that have been put in place to deal with the identified key challenges to yield concrete results. But given the precarious economic environment created by world events, the government is expected to move parliamentary elections, which were scheduled for the end of the year, forward to the spring of 2009. Thus it will be important not to let the election fervor and the world economic crisis distract from the long-term goal of Euro-Atlantic integration, which will require the adoption of European governance values that include transparency, accountability, and political consensus.

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