Montenegro

Transitional or Hybrid Regime
47
100
DEMOCRACY-PERCENTAGE Democracy Percentage 47.02 100
DEMOCRACY-SCORE Democracy Score 3.82 7
Last Year's Democracy Percentage & Status
48 100 Transitional or Hybrid Regime
The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 1 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year. The Democracy Percentage, introduced in 2020, is a translation of the Democracy Score to the 0-100 scale, where 0 equals least democratic and 100 equals most democratic.

header1 Score changes in 2021

  • Local Democratic Governance rating declined from 4.50 to 4.25 due to the Democratic Party of Socialists-engineered takeover of the local government in Budva, which led to a physical standoff that convulsed the municipality.

As a result, Montenegro’s Democracy Score declined from 3.86 to 3.82.

header2 Executive Summary

By Jovana Marović

The year 2020 started with public protests in which thousands marched against the Law on Freedom of Religion, a measure adopted in 2019 that was perceived by Serbian Orthodox faithful to target the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC), Montenegro’s largest religious denomination. The protests subsided somewhat during the deadly early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, which the government used as a rationale to further centralize its power. These developments galvanized the electorate ahead of the August parliamentary elections and subsequent formation of a new government, the first without President Milo Đukanović’s Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) since the multiparty system was established in 1990. Although it still may be too early to assess the new government’s work, as it was only formed at the end of 2020, its first weeks were marked by hasty and exclusive decision-making (including shuttering the country’s flag carrier and issuing €750 million in bonds) as well as various communication and coordination failures. All of these activities and decisions were met with public controversy.

Montenegro’s fragile democratic institutions were under attack in 2020, especially because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government responded with a heavy hand, running roughshod over the constitution and forcing problematic ad hoc legal changes through Parliament while freezing lawmakers out of the decision-making processes. From the beginning of March until the end of May, criminal proceedings were initiated against five individuals for “causing panic and disorder.”1 The government did not formally introduce a state of emergency, but the public health measures it imposed were extremely strict. This raised questions about whether the measures could have been imposed without a state of emergency. Other seemingly illegal practices abounded. In March, the National Coordination Body for Communicable Diseases published the identities of persons ordered into 14-day self-isolation on its website. In addition to violating the constitution and the Law on Personal Data Protection, this move enabled the misuse of personal data, exemplified by the creation of a third-party app utilizing geolocation technology to identify persons in self-isolation near the user.2

In 2020, regular parliamentary elections and local elections in five municipalities were held on August 30. To the surprise of many, three opposition coalitions—“For the future of Montenegro,” “Peace is our nation,” and “Black and White”—grouped around the right-wing Democratic Front (DF), the centrist Democrats, and the liberal United Reform Action (URA), respectively, won. They backed the formation a government without the DPS. Several factors influenced this outcome. The grouping of the opposition in three rows prevented the dissipation of votes among parties that might not otherwise cross the electoral threshold. High turnout of 76.65 percent, reflecting an unprecedented level of mobilization against the incumbent government, also contributed to the opposition’s victory. Other important factors included great public dissatisfaction with the situation in the country and the Law on Freedom of Religion in particular. During the campaign and after the election, the SOC played an active role on the ground, eventually mediating the agreement between the leaders of the three coalitions that now make up the parliamentary majority.

The 2020 elections were held in nearly the same environment as 2016. In the electoral race, the ruling coalition had an institutional advantage and greater media coverage in state-sponsored and state-linked media. The transition of power was carried out peacefully, but the deep political polarization in Montenegrin society remained a major hurdle, with identity issues also dominating the campaign. While there were tense scenes and sharp rhetoric ahead of the elections, as well as excessive use of force by the police—especially in relation to the DPS takeover in the town of Budva just months before—the campaign and election day passed in a rather peaceful atmosphere. Still, in incidents shortly after the elections, minorities were targeted. In the northern town of Pljevlja, the windows of the Islamic community center were destroyed, and hateful messages appeared in public. Although invited, political parties representing Montenegro’s ethnic Albanian and Bosniak minorities refused to participate in the work of the new government after talking with the prime minister designate, concluding that the government would feature parties with a conflicting program and ideological orientation whose leaders have made exclusionary statements.3

The foreign policy course of the new government emerged as a central issue after the elections, as the coalition parties expressed different attitudes towards NATO membership, relations with Russia, and other decisions taken by successive DPS-led governments, such as recognizing Kosovo. Shortly after the election, the leaders of the three coalitions reached an agreement on the key principles that would form the basis of the new government’s work, including, among other things, preserving the foreign policy course and decisions of the previous government, particularly on NATO membership, and accelerating the country’s EU path.

During the year, Montenegro opened the last chapter in the EU accession negotiations,4 and in May accepted the new methodology of the enlargement process, which was presented by the European Commission (EC) in February.5 The methodology envisages new, stricter conditions for negotiations and accession; it groups negotiating chapters into six clusters instead of the previous 35; and it introduces incentives and sanctions for the candidate country depending on its actions and results in the area of rule of law. However, these moves have a symbolic character, since many of the outstanding reforms required by the EU remained “pending” in 2020, and the EC’s assessments in the annual report were poor in the area of rule of law, which is the most important precondition for progress in the negotiations.6 Notably, though, pursuant to its obligations within the European integration process, Montenegro passed a law on same-sex civil partnerships in July, becoming the first country in the Western Balkans to do so.

Montenegro’s judicial system remained gridlocked during the year due to unresolved political tensions between the DPS and its opponents. The term of the Supreme State Prosecutor expired, and a new one has yet to be elected. The new position of “presiding judge” (which the Montenegrin legal system does not recognize) was established by the Constitutional Court after its members failed to elect a president. Furthermore, the Judicial Council’s membership is still incomplete. All of this has contributed to low public confidence in the work of the judiciary. As much as 57.3 percent of citizens believe that the judiciary does not protect the interests of Montenegrins, according to a public opinion poll from March 2020.7

The economic situation in the country was particularly worrisome. Montenegro’s large fiscal deficit pushed public debt to 105.15 percent of GDP in 2020.8 In large part, this stems from guarantees related to the construction of the Bar-Boljare highway, which is being built by the China Road and Bridge Corporation at the cost of €1.3 billion, borrowed primarily from China’s Export-Import (Exim) Bank.9

Identity issues aside, the main challenges facing the new government include improving public finances, maintaining Montenegro’s foreign policy course, and consolidating institutional respect for the constitution. These challenges are compounded by the wide range of coalition parties, from right-wing to moderate, that currently support the government. What there seems to be broad agreement on is the resolute fight against corruption and organized crime, which are burning issues and the chief obstacles to strengthening rule of law.

Considering the SOC’s influence—and after the death in October of power broker Metropolitan Amfilohije Radović, bishop of Montenegro and the Littoral (the SOC’s largest diocese in Montenegro)10—it is important to note that the appointment of a new Metropolitan bishop in 2021 will undoubtedly have an impact on political events and dynamics in the country. His relations with government representatives and DF leaders will be relevant, given that there are two factions in the SOC: one close to Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, who closely cooperates with and supports the DF; and the other in Montenegro itself, close to the late bishop and the current prime minister.

Although the three winning coalitions backed the government formed in December, the grouping led by the DF was dissatisfied with its non-participation in the government and gave its support only conditionally. This yielded shaky and unstable support for the government by Parliament from the first days of its term, an aggravating factor that potentially limits the government’s capacity to accelerate reforms in the country. The current prime minister and the DF have formed two camps, and the SOC’s support has similarly split. Thus, increasing polarization, nationalistic crosscurrents, and the role of Belgrade and the SOC (given the role they played in the campaign and the post-election period) will greatly influence events on the political scene, including the democratization process itself.

National Democratic Governance 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Considers the democratic character of the governmental system; and the independence, effectiveness, and accountability of the legislative and executive branches. 3.253 7.007
  • In the first half of 2020, the DSP-led governing coalition further centralized its power by introducing strict public health measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the government initially had the full confidence of citizens in managing the situation, in March it published the names of those under mandatory self-isolation, sowing distrust in its handling of the pandemic. Such an action violated the constitution and enabled the misuse of citizens’ personal data. In September, more than 300 citizens filed a lawsuit against the state for this violation.1
  • Early in the year, several citizens were detained by law enforcement on the basis of their posts on social networks; one post showing an activist insulting the police chief led to an arrest that was condemned by the U.S. ambassador and deemed a limit on freedom of expression.2 Nevertheless, the DPS-led government, explaining that posts on social networks are reported by citizens themselves, continued to closely monitor online speech.3
  • Part of the opposition (the Democrats and URA) had boycotted the work of Montenegro’s unicameral, 81-seat Parliament since the 2016 parliamentary elections—and continued to do so until after the elections in August 2020 and establishment of a new convocation. This greatly affected the oversight role of the legislature. During the first wave of the pandemic (March-May), Parliament was completely excluded from deciding on and monitoring the situation and did not meet from early March to late April,4 when it approved controversial amendments to the Law on Financing Political Entities and Campaigns (see “Electoral Process”) and the Law on Local Self-Government (see “Local Democratic Governance”). Given that even a state of emergency must be carried out under parliamentary control, there was no justification for marginalizing the legislature when no emergency had been declared. Part of the opposition accused the government of ignoring constitutional procedures,5 while the work of Parliament in its full composition began in September.
  • During the election campaign, the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) gave active support to the coalition “For the Future of Montenegro” by organizing processions in which members of the (DF) and their sympathizers also took part (see “Civil Society”). The SOC also mobilized a campaign of door-to-door voter engagement. In the post-election period, there were also hints that the church was behind the appointment of the coalition’s leader, Zdravko Krivokapić. Based on statements by DF leaders, it may be concluded that the SOC influenced the choice of Krivokapić as the head of the coalition’s electoral list6 and, later, as Prime Minister. The SOC also played an important role in the post-election events by organizing meetings between the leaders of the winning coalitions.7 It is unclear how much of a role it played in staffing the new government, but a number of ministers are close to the church. The SOC’s elevated role in the campaign was highlighted by monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) who stated that it was significantly involved in confronting the DPS.8
  • After the elections in August, a new convocation of Parliament was constituted in which President Milo Đukanović’s DPS holds the largest number of seats (30), but not a majority (i.e., 41 seats). As a result, the new majority consists of “For the Future of Montenegro,” a conservative populist coalition headed by the DF (27 seats); the coalition “Peace is Our Nation,” led by the Democrats (10 seats); and the coalition “Black and White,” led by URA (4 seats). The Bosniak Party (3), the Social Democrats (3), the Social Democratic Party-SDP (2), the Albanian Coalition (1), and the Albanian List (1) are also represented in Parliament.
  • The new Parliament was constituted in September. The leader of the Democrats, Aleksa Bečić, was elected parliamentary president by the 41 members (MPs) from the new majority, while also supported by three MPs from the Bosniak Party and one from the Albanian List.9
  • The new government was elected on December 4, 2020, with Zdravko Krivokapić, who earlier headed the electoral list of “For the Future of Montenegro,” appointed Prime Minister.10 The cabinet includes 4 women, and the number of ministries has been reduced to 12. This is the first government without the DPS since the establishment of Montenegro’s multiparty system in 1990. Although a fully technocratic government was initially announced, the president of URA, Dritan Abazović, was appointed Deputy Prime Minister.
  • Amid the turmoil of forming the new government, the establishment of a new party was announced by a local businessman,11 which will further complicate Montenegro’s already polarized political scene.
Electoral Process 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Examines national executive and legislative elections, the electoral framework, the functioning of multiparty systems, and popular participation in the political process. 4.254 7.007
  • In June 2020, President Đukanović called for parliamentary elections to be held on August 30. The constitutionality of this decision was debatable, since early elections may not be called without the sitting parliament shortening its mandate, which it had not.1
  • Still, the parliamentary elections were held, and under similar conditions as in 2016. Although election-related laws were adopted and amended in late 2019, such as the Law on Territorial Organization, relevant provisions of the Criminal Code, and the Law on Financing Political Entities and Election Campaigns, many problems remained,2 including selective implementation and the lack of independence of oversight institutions, such as the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption and the State Election Commission. The same concerns applied to the overall election atmosphere, as well as the institutional advantage maintained by the ruling majority.
  • Moreover, amendments to the Law on Political Parties and Election Campaigns (adopted by the ruling majority in April) enabled the one-time payment of welfare benefits in an election year, the decision justified by the intention to reduce the consequences of the coronavirus crisis. These social benefits are a widely used tactic for gaining voter support. The government paid €1.8 million in one-time social assistance one month before the vote, having created the conditions for this through its third package of socioeconomic measures for citizens and the economy.3
  • As in 2016, the preelection period was again marked by scandals related to voter abuse and pressure. The “Register” affair erupted in June when excerpts from the database for two polling places in the coastal town of Kotor were published, revealing that the DPS had access to data from the voter list and the central population register. In addition to voters’ names, ID numbers, and places of birth, the records contained data that the voter list did not and which could only be found in the central population register maintained by the Ministry of Interior, as well as notations on whether voters were living abroad or enjoyed certain benefits (as elderly persons, social beneficiaries, and so forth).4 These leaks were seen as evidence that the DPS had likely engaged in vote buying and voter intimidation.
  • As in previous elections, the ruling DPS had an institutional advantage and greater coverage in state-sponsored and state-linked media compared to opposition parties.5
  • The pandemic changed the way that elections were run, but turnout was not affected by either the virus or the restrictive public measures. The electoral authorities took steps to enable citizens who were in quarantine to vote. However, a ban on gatherings (see “Civil Society”) prohibited political parties from holding rallies, although some did nevertheless.6
  • According to the official results, “Decisively for Montenegro! DPS–Milo Đukanović” won 35.06 percent of the vote; “For the Future of Montenegro” won 32.55 percent; “Peace is our Nation” won 12.53 percent; “Black and White” won 5.54 percent; the Social Democrats won 4.10 percent; the Bosniak Party won 3.98 percent; SDP won 3.14 percent; the Albanian list “Nik Đjeljošaj-Genci Nimanbegu” won 1.58 percent; and the Albanian coalition Jednoglasno (“Unanimously”) won 1.14 percent.7
  • Prior to the adoption of amendments to several laws (including the Law on Freedom of Religion) on December 28, the State Electoral Commission took the unprecedented step of refusing to verify the mandate of a candidate on the URA list, although Parliament later verified the mandate, thus enabling the vote on amendments.8
Civil Society 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Assesses the organizational capacity and financial sustainability of the civic sector; the legal and political environment in which it operates; the functioning of trade unions; interest group participation in the policy process; and the threat posed by antidemocratic extremist groups. 5.255 7.007
  • Despite a solid legal framework guaranteeing freedom of assembly, arbitrary decisions by authorities are common practice in Montenegro, and this was particularly noticeable during the implementation of public measures to combat COVID-19. Most of 2020, before the August elections, was marked by mass protests led by the SOC against the Law on Freedom of Religion, which was adopted by Parliament in late December 2019. The law stipulates that the properties of religious groups could be transferred to the state unless the SOC and other groups can prove they owned these properties before 1918. Although the public demonstrations were temporarily blocked due to pandemic measures, they continued through the summer in the form of car processions. There were violations of a temporary public health measure banning religious rites but no major incidents until May, when a bishop and several SOC clergy were detained in Nikšić, sparking angry protests.1 Notably, restrictions were not applied for the mass celebration of Independence Day on May 21.2
  • Similarly, following a so-called Patriotic Rally in September, a civic activist called on authorities to file charges against the participants, including Milutin Simović president of the National Coordination Body for Communicable Diseases (also deputy prime minister at the time), who broadcast the rally live on social networks. The demonstration was attended by around 50,000 people, as assessed on the Police Directorate Twitter account, vastly more than the 100 people allowed to gather under the COVID-19 measures in force. The case against Simović was eventually dismissed.3
  • There were massive violations of pandemic measures by supporters of the new parliamentary majority in celebration of the election victory, as well as during the funeral for Metropolitian Amfilohije Radović, who died on October 30 from complications due to COVID-19. The violations involved mourners kissing his coffin and queuing without social distancing or wearing masks.4 After the parliamentary elections in August, the outgong government found it difficult to be consistent in enforcing public health measures, especially because of the large number of violations on all sides.
  • In February 2020, then prime minister Duško Marković launched an initiative called “Alliance for Europe,” holding a series of meetings with civil society organizations (CSOs) but without clear criteria or explanation for why certain other organizations were excluded.5
  • Shortly after the parliamentary elections in August, many incidents in the northern town of Pljevlja targeted the Bosniak community and provoked reactions from Bosniak officials in the country and wider region.6 Assailants smashed the windows of the town’s Islamic community center, leaving a note that read, “Pljevlja will be Srebrenica.”7 Two criminal and two misdemeanor charges against four persons on national and religious grounds were filed. The police did not make a public statement on the incident, and this lack of proper official reaction, according to local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), only promoted the suspicion that the DPS was behind the attack.8 However, the imam of the Pljevlja mosque claimed that the attackers were supporters of the victorious coalitions.9
  • The authorities’ varying responses to violations of public health measures prescribed by the National Coordinating Body for Infectious Diseases provoked negative reactions from Montenegrins, while the ban on rallies was characterized as unconstitutional by local NGOs.10
  • In October, the Nikšić Basic Court annulled the 2017 parliamentary decision to dismiss CSO representative Nikola Vukčević from the council of the public broadcaster RTCG,11 which is another in several decisions that have favored illegally removed CSO representatives from key state institutions and regulatory bodies.
  • Pressure on NGO activists continued during the year, the most obvious example being the attack on the deputy director of the NGO MANS by the mayor of the capital Podgorica. Due to criticism of his work in the municipal administration, the mayor accused the deputy director of politically motivated action.12
  • After an unsuccessful attempt in 2019, Parliament passed the Law on Same-Sex Civil Partnerships in July, making Montenegro the first European country outside Western Europe and the EU with such a framework, which will enter into force in 2021.13
  • Following the change of government, Parliament amended the Law on Freedom of Religion on December 29, without prior public debate or consultations with interested parties, including religious communities.14 This lack of stakeholder involvement in amending important laws is a poor sign for democratic changes and processes in the country. On the day of adoption, citizens protested in front of Parliament against the amendments to the law, which suggests it will continue to be a source of polarization.15
  • In 2020, many local protests were recorded. Although planned, the Ministry of Defense postponed a military exercise on Mount Sinjajevina in October after a protest by activists and local citizens claimed it would damage the environment.16 On the occasion, a citizen was jailed for 15 days for insulting the Minister of Defense on Facebook.17 Several protests were organized against the construction of power plants in the Kolašin municipality.18
Independent Media 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Examines the current state of press freedom, including libel laws, harassment of journalists, and editorial independence; the operation of a financially viable and independent private press; and the functioning of the public media. 3.253 7.007
  • Limiting freedom of expression is not a new phenomenon in Montenegro, and this infringement of democratic norms was displayed in various forms during the year. In early 2020, three journalists were arrested for allegedly publishing fake news and causing panic.1 Following the arrests, the Ministry of Culture reacted by announcing that Montenegro was at the center of an unprecedented campaign to spread disinformation because of the Law on Freedom of Religion, and it urged citizens to be careful in sharing information on social networks.2 The media scene in Montenegro continued to be deeply divided along political lines.
  • The government adopted several economic measures in March, including providing print media with competitive funds totaling €150,000 as well as assistance to commercial media. The sector’s financial situation is complicated even under normal circumstances but especially as a result of the pandemic, during which most media faced a recession.3
  • According to a report by Reporters Without Borders,4 Montenegro has the worst press freedom index in the Western Balkans. Many cases of physical assault on the media, including the 2004 murder of an independent editor-in-chief, remain unsolved. From 2004 through 2019, there were 92 attacks on journalists and media properties in Montenegro according to a 2020 report by the Podgorica-based Center for Civic Education.5
  • Strong political influence on the public broadcaster and its work continued in 2020. During the parliamentary electoral campaign, DPS received the most time and coverage on TVCG.6
  • In July, Parliament adopted the Law on Media and the Law on National Public Broadcaster after two years of consultations. The media law envisages the establishment of a Fund to Encourage Media Pluralism and Diversity, and support for this from the current state budget will be determined by the annual budget law in the amount of at least 0.09 percent.7 However, this amount is likely insufficient.8 This and other changes have already criticism from Reporters Without Borders, among others.9
  • In a second-instance verdict in October, prominent journalist Jovo Martinović was found guilty of participating in drug trafficking, but he was acquitted of charges of organized crime activity.10 Martinović had been in contact with drug traffickers as part of his investigative reporting. Advocacy grouns condemned the verdict, calling it a “black day” for media freedom and democracy in Montenegro.11
Local Democratic Governance 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Considers the decentralization of power; the responsibilities, election, and capacity of local governmental bodies; and the transparency and accountability of local authorities. 4.254 7.007
  • Along with parliamentary elections, local elections were also held on August 30, 2020, in five Montenegrin municipalities: Budva, Kotor, Tivat, Andrijevica, and Gusinje. Although planned for April, President Đukanović had postponed local elections in Tivat due to the pandemic.1 In the three coastal municipalities of Budva, Tivat, and Kotor, and in the northern town of Andrijevica, the opposition won, while in Gusinje, the DPS remained in power.2
  • This was somewhat expected given the unrest in Budva in June. The town had been governed by the opposition since 2016, but the DPS, together with the party Crnogorska (“Montenegrin”) and the Social Democrats, took power after a local parliament member switched sides and gave the DPS enough votes to oust the mayor, a DF member. However, the mayor and the town management refused to hand over power, leading police and a private security company to bar them from entering the town hall.3 A similar scenario, where a former SDP member provided support to the DPS in forming a majority and taking over power, happened in Kotor a year earlier, while in Tivat, the previous DPS-led local government left the municipality with major financial problems.
  • While in August, just before the elections, the government provided €1.6 million from the current budget reserve for salaries to employees, in the Budva municipality, after the change of local leadership, the central government demanded that the money be returned.4
  • Despite overstaffing in Montenegrin municipalities, local governments continued to hire in 2020, although the central government, under the Public Administration Optimization Plan, had obliged municipalities to reduce the number of employees by 10 percent by the end of the year.5 Poor staffing plans and employee redundancies significantly affect the financial sustainability of municipalities. Additionally, these issues are linked to elections and used to put pressure on voters, which disrupts any semblance of merit-based employment. Numerous scandals and documented cases of abuse contribute to this quagmire, such as the “Recording” affair in which an audio recording from a 2012 DPS board meeting exposed the use of employment in public administration bodies as a mechanism for gaining public support.6
  • At the end of April, Parliament adopted amendments to the Law on Local Self-Government that enable the extension of local assembly mandates if they expire during a state of emergency or an emergency situation but for no longer than 90 days after the cessation of the circumstances which caused the emergency.7
Judicial Framework and Independence 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Assesses constitutional and human rights protections, judicial independence, the status of ethnic minority rights, guarantees of equality before the law, treatment of suspects and prisoners, and compliance with judicial decisions. 3.504 7.007
  • In 2020, Parliament could not secure a sufficient majority to appoint the four non-judicial members of the Judicial Council (responsible for appointing and dismissing judges), which continued to work with its incomplete composition.1 Parliament’s latest attempt to vote for members was in July, after the publication of the call for applications in January. The same situation applies to the Supreme State Prosecutor, who has served in an acting capacity since October 2019. As for the position of special state prosecutor (who prosecutes organized crime, corruption, terrorism, and other high offenses), the Prosecutorial Council (responsible for appointing and dismissing prosecutors), chaired by the acting Supreme State Prosecutor, re-elected Milivoje Katnić in June for a second term.2 Katnić is perceived to have close ties to the DPS.
  • In January, the Constitutional Court established the function of “presiding judge,” as the term of the president of the Constitutional Court had expired and no judge had received the required majority replace him. The elected “presiding judge,” Desanka Lopičić, had earlier served as president of the court, a position that cannot be held twice according to the constitution. The Montenegrin legal system does not recognize the function of “presiding judge,” and after 276 days, the court presidency was taken over by the oldest judge as required by law.3 Apart from its apparent illegality, electing a “presiding judge“ also conflicted with Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) recommendations on judicial independence.4 The Judicial Council reelected the same president of the Supreme Court for the third time in July 2019, as well as seven presidents of other courts, although the constitution limits service to two terms to avoid overconcentration of power.
  • After the parliamentary elections, and sharp criticism from the latest EC annual report, there were rumors that the three-time president of the Supreme Court could still resign from the position as “she would not want to be an obstacle on the EU path,”5 and she did in fact resign at the end of the year.6
  • The EC’s reports have repeatedly assessed challenges in the work of the Montenegrin judiciary. The 2020 report highlights problems related to independence, professionalism, efficiency, and accountability.7
  • During the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Constitutional Court was extremely passive. Only months after the outbreak did it start to perform its role, whereas at the outset it was silent in the face of numerous demands to rule on the legality and constitutionality of adopted emergency measures such as publishing the names of persons in mandatory self-isolation, which a local NGO pleaded with the court to review.8
  • In June, the Law on Amnesty was adopted, which, among other things, envisages a reduction in the sentences of incarcerated persons by 15 percent.9
  • In September, the State Audit Institution (SAI) identified financial mismanagement in the judiciary, including an unexplained outlay of over €100,000.10
Corruption 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Looks at public perceptions of corruption, the business interests of top policymakers, laws on financial disclosure and conflict of interest, and the efficacy of anticorruption initiatives. 3.003 7.007
  • Montenegro lacks a proper strategic framework for curbing corruption, as it has failed to update its anticorruption plan1 since 2015. The measures foreseen by this plan are outdated.2 The existing integrity mechanisms have limited effectiveness, while the country’s anticorruption legislation is hindered by selective implementation.
  • Following three failed attempts, and after the position had been vacant for seven months, a new director was finally appointed in July 2020 to the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption,3 although the institution continued to be plagued by a lack of independence, proactivity, and low-quality decision-making.4
  • In its so-called technical period—that is, from the announcement of the election results to the appointment of the new government—the outgoing government continued to secure places in the administration for its loyal staff, appointing managerial positions according to a well-tried formula based on a public competition with only one candidate.5
  • Numerous political scandals, such as the “Envelope” affair on illegal financing of the DPS6 or the “Flats” scandal involving apartment loans granted on favorable terms to members of the government and other DPS officials,7 were ongoing at year’s end.
  • The latest in a series of corruption scandals that emerged just before the August elections involved the Možura wind farms in Montenegro.8 Police in Malta are cooperating with Europol in an investigation into Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech, the alleged mastermind of the murder of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who made an inflated profit on the sale the Možura power plant near the southern coastal town of Ulcinj.9 The money trail in this project reportedly leads to previous top officials in Montenegro.10
  • In the early weeks of the new government, lawmakers from the ruling coalition amended the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees to significantly reduce criteria on necessary previous experience for managerial positions, as well as to allow persons under criminal proceedings to apply for positions in public administration.11

Author: Jovana Marović is Executive Director of the Politikon Network, a think tank based in Podgorica.

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  • Global Freedom Score

    63 100 partly free