Prime Minister of Montenegro

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

said that it was a great honour, as President of Montenegro, the youngest member of the Council of Europe but a country with a long and deep history, to address the Assembly. He thanked the President for the invitation and for taking the time to visit Montenegro during recent difficult events.

It was a time for reform for the Council of Europe. This was necessary for it to be able to carry out its role of protecting human rights and the rule of law. Montenegro would continue its work to become a fully functioning democracy.

The Secretary General should be thanked for his actions to make the Council of Europe a modern institution and to improve relations with the European Union and the United Nations. This was important if continued stability were to be achieved through strengthening the rule of law.

It was a particular privilege to be speaking during the 60th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights. Montenegro had recently had a referendum on maintaining independence which had been conducted to the highest standards. Montenegro was continuing to improve its democratic standards, particularly through co-operation under the Venice Convention. Montenegro was also acting to spread democratic values throughout the region.

Internally, efforts were being made to improve relationships between numerous ethnic and religious minorities. Montenegro had also successfully established a separate judiciary, legislature and executive.

It was important to continue strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law. Work was also being done to fight organised crime and corruption and to ensure that policies aimed at reducing such activity were fully implemented.

Montenegro was enjoying micro-economic stability and had had a good tourist season. It was one of the European countries that received the largest amount of foreign direct investment, with more than 80% coming from EU member states, and that trend was continuing this year. This was leading to increased investment in infrastructure energy and tourism, which was further developing the country. He thanked the Council of Europe Development Bank for taking part in so many projects in Montenegro.

Montenegro was also part of a coalition working to solve mainly international problems. Progress was being made on EU-Atlantic relations and liberalisation of the visa regime. By the end of the year, he hoped that Montenegro would have candidate country status. Work on this was going well and Montenegro had to date successfully answered all the EU’s questions.

The stability and association agreement had recently entered into force and this week in Luxembourg there had been the first high-level meeting on implementation. He had also attended a high-level summit in Sarajevo and was committed to continuing improvement of European-Atlantic relations.

Reform should be carried out for the benefit of citizens, and the positive reaction of the EU had helped encourage Montenegro to do better. European-Atlantic integration guaranteed a stable and democratic West Balkans, which would aid stability in both the Balkan region and the Mediterranean, and that in turn would aid global stability.

A lot had been done in a short time. A membership action plan for NATO had been agreed last November, and last week had seen the first meeting on the two-year plan. The first Montenegro contingent had taken part in the international security assistance force mission in the German part of Afghanistan.

Work with the Council of Europe was particularly important for improving human rights and the rule of law. Montenegro had achieved full membership in May 2007. The importance of joining the Council of Europe had been recognised in all spheres of life in Montenegro. He was hopeful that action would be taken to achieve their mutual goals. He placed a high value on the Council of Europe’s work to improve democratic stability, the rule of law and economic development.

The government would implement all suggestions made by the Council of Europe, and the plan for 2008 to 2010 showed that good progress was being made. Of the 77 conventions on human rights, Montenegro had only one more to sign and three more to ratify. He was glad that the Council of Europe was pleased with progress being made but believed that quality of actions was more important than the speed at which they were taken. That was why he was committed not just to ratifying conventions but to achieving their standards so that people could enjoy the rights of 21st century European citizens.

Work was being done to reform the law, the judicial system, education and the prison system. All this work was being done within a human rights framework. In addition, the police were being reformed, action taken to combat corruption and organised crime, and to improve tolerance and to ensure equal treatment of all citizens, including those from the Roma community.

Work with the Venice Commission had been particularly important for the improvement of democracy in Montenegro in 2008-09. Eight laws had been reviewed by the commission, including electoral law and the law of minority rights. Respect for the rule of law was a basic principle and the Commissioner of Human Rights was continuing to monitor the situation in Montenegro.

The work of the European Court of Human Rights was very important, as it provided the pinnacle of protection for human rights. He supported the form of the Court, including the new principles for filtering new applications based on the Interlaken declaration.

Strong efforts were being made to reform national courts, and these needed support from the Council of Europe. A legislative framework had been created to strengthen the capacity of the independent judiciary. This had had positive results, with 76.19% of the previous backlog of cases being dealt with. They were also involved in the project on cybercrime and training for judges run by the Council of Europe. Some 16 of the 24 recommendations had been implemented with the remaining eight partially implemented.

Recommendations in a report by the Council of Europe on the prevention of money laundering and on dealing with the proceeds of organised crime had also been adopted, with 41 of 49 recommendations being taken up.

Montenegro supported all efforts to strengthen human rights and freedom. It had worked to create new legislation and harmonise existing legislation to ensure implementation of the Convention. Institutional capacity was also being strengthened to improve implementation.

In April, the Plenary Assembly of the Council of Europe had issued an opinion on Montenegro. The situation in Montenegro had improved, and he would use the report’s recommendations to make further progress. He was determined to improve the system of law in the country by adopting best practice. He was committed to the core values of the Council of Europe.

Relations with neighbouring countries were of great importance and Montenegro was leading three important regional initiatives. He welcomed the progress made and hoped that dialogue would further improve relations.

He was committed to the rule of law and to an efficient legal system. He hoped that the Council of Europe would continue to support his efforts. A responsible attitude would help with negotiations over European integration.


Thank you very much, Mr Đukanović, for your most interesting address. Members of the Assembly have questions to put to you. I remind them that questions must be limited to 30 seconds and no more. Colleagues should be asking questions and not making speeches.

The first question is from Mr Gardetto on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

Mr GARDETTO (Monaco) (interpretation)

drew attention to the plight of refugees and displaced persons in Montenegro. Voluntary and sustainable returns should be a much higher priority in the region and he asked what could be done to achieve sustainable solutions for refugees and displaced people.

Mr Đukanović, Prime Minister of Montenegro (interpretation)

thanked Mr Gardetto for his contribution as a rapporteur. In the 1990s and at the beginning of the 21st century, Montenegro, like the rest of the world, had experienced problems with the influx of refugees. In the case of Montenegro, refugees had numbered the equivalent of 20% of the population and this had posed a major problem. Wars in the region had invariably had a strong inter-ethnic component and there had been large numbers of refugees from Kosovo and Bosnia. Efforts to resolve these issues were an important obligation in relation to the road map for visa liberalisation by the European Union. Montenegro had to work with the European Union, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and other institutions on these issues.

He believed that it was possible to resolve outstanding issues by improving the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the relationship between Serbia and Kosovo so that people could return to their homes. The international community could do much to help, but structures had been lacking and there had been insufficient action. The problem had to be solved either by returning refugees to their homes or by helping them to integrate in their new countries. Montenegro had given help with education and health but their place in society was an important question. The governments of the region did not have sufficient resources to deal with this problem.

Mr FASSINO (Italy) (interpretation)

said that Mr Đukanović had referred to his desire to improve stability by ensuring that Montenegro joined the EU and transatlantic institutions. This was a valid aspiration. The international community sought to bring stability to the region. He hoped Montenegro would be able to join the European Union as soon as possible. Security in the region was of great importance. Montenegro had been affected by irregular migration flows and organised crime, and this affected not only the country’s well-being but public opinion in European countries.

What measures did the Prime Minister intend to take to improve stability and security?

Mr Đukanović, Prime Minister of Montenegro (interpretation)

said that improved security was of the highest priority in all countries in the region and very important for European integration. Europe was all the more concerned because of experiences during enlargement, but these were unsurprising, given the history of the region. There had been ethnic wars and an embargo in the region during the 1990s. As a result, people’s salaries had been so low that they had had a motive to become involved in illegal activities. Criminals in the region were now better integrated than the politicians, so fighting organised crime had to be a high priority.

Montenegro was committed to tackling this issue. It co-operated well with both Interpol and Europol and was working hard to respond to these challenges as part of its moves towards European integration. There tended to be repeated problems with ethnicity in the region, which led to instability. The way forward was integration. This was vital for the states themselves and for the global competitiveness of Europe. Slowing down the process of European integration would have serious consequences.


Thank you. I remind colleagues to ask questions in 30 seconds, no more, and only to ask a question, not make a speech.

The next question is from Ms Keaveney on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Ms KEAVENEY (Ireland)

Thank you. Prime Minister, you mentioned two words quite a lot there: “stability” and “history”. In that context, I wonder what priority you believe history teaching should have within our education systems to assist in giving our students an understanding of the other within our society so that we can minimise the potential for future conflict through focusing on our similarities within and beyond politics, rather than our differences. What role can the Council of Europe play in assisting with this goal in Montenegro?

Mr Đukanović, Prime Minister of Montenegro (interpretation)

said that the recent history of recurring conflicts was due to insufficient tolerance and insufficient respect for diversity. It was most important to resolve the political problems in the region. Montenegro needed the help of the international community and the Council of Europe to deal with these issues. Reform of the education system and enhancing tolerance would create the conditions for good integration.


My question is almost the same as that asked by Mr Fassino. Therefore, it has already been answered. However, in my personal capacity as an active member of the Marmara Foundation in Istanbul, I warmly welcome you to the Assembly, Prime Minister, and wish you success in your endeavours.

Mr Đukanović, Prime Minister of Montenegro (interpretation)

thanked Mr Kumcuoğlu for his comments.

Mr KOX (Netherlands)

Prime Minister, the process of European integration also means the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights. That process is now finally under way, but it will need ratification from all 47 Council of Europe member states. May we expect Montenegro, as an excellent member of the Council of Europe, to support a short, smooth and efficient process of accession and ratification, as was proposed by our Secretary General, Mr Jagland?

Mr Đukanović, Prime Minister of Montenegro (translation)

Very briefly, yes.


Thank you. That was a very good and short answer.

In the absence of Mr Ivanovski, the next question is from Mr Petreski.

Mr PETRESKI (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”)

Although Montenegro is a small country, it has big responsibilities at the moment – first, as chair of the Central European Initiative and, secondly, as chair of the South-East European Cooperation Process and the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative. How important is regional co-operation for the European and Euro-Atlantic perspective? What can the country and the region do better to fulfil their aspirations?

Mr Đukanović, Prime Minister of Montenegro (interpretation)

agreed that regional co-operation was extremely important and would be a bridge to reconciliation. Many barriers to regional co-operation dated to the wars of the 1990s but he was doing his best to remove them. He viewed regional co-operation as a good resting ground for further European integration. The three initiatives on regional co-operation to which Montenegro was party were a sign of the trust that could be placed in Montenegro.

He highlighted problems that had recently arisen regarding the attendance of representatives from Serbia and Kosovo but reiterated that only a full forum of regional co-operation would prepare the countries of the region for future EU membership.

Mr GALATI (Italy) (interpretation)

highlighted a recent report from Amnesty International which had praised Montenegro’s progress on respecting human rights. He asked what policies were in place to encourage further progress on human rights ahead of EU membership and possible candidate status for Montenegro in 2011.

Mr Đukanović, Prime Minister of Montenegro (interpretation)

said that Montenegro had demonstrated persistence and responsibility to maintain progress and had challenged those who doubted the Montenegro’s viability as a state. The Montenegro people had vigorously met the obligations placed on them and had responded vigorously to all European Commission challenges and questions. He accepted that these were small steps and the big challenge remained the rule of law and corruption. How Montenegro met those challenges would be the key issue in the development of Montenegro’s democracy and economy.

The past three years had seen a large amount of economic growth in Montenegro and much foreign investment. In order to give confidence to investors and to tackle the problems around the rule of law, Montenegro had harmonised its legal system with that of the EU.

Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania)

Prime Minister, you rightly said that your country is still not a member of the European Union, and is not even a candidate, but your national currency is the euro. Somehow, in a non-legal sense, your country is a member of the eurozone. My question is about the future of your national currency. Do you plan to introduce a national currency or do you plan to remain with the euro? What is your relationship with the European Central Bank?

Mr Đukanović, Prime Minister of Montenegro (interpretation)

said that Mr Vareikis was correct to say that Montenegro’s use of the euro supplied a precedent. He referred to Montenegro’s time as part of the former Yugoslavia, an era of hyper-inflation. To tackle that problem, use of the Deutschemark had been allowed in Montenegro and this had ultimately been replaced by the euro. Use of the euro was an advantage, but at one time had involved painful reforms at a heavy price. He believed that the large amount of foreign investment in Montenegro owed much to the adoption of the euro as an official currency.

Montenegro was trying to be responsible and although it was not bound by the Maastricht criteria, its national debt level was only 36% of GDP. This was much lower than in other, more developed economies in the eurozone. He was conscious of the problems but remained committed to a responsible policy. He confirmed that there were no plans to reintroduce a national currency.


I congratulate Montenegro on its achievements on its way to becoming a member of the European Union. Montenegro is one of the programme priorities for Slovenian development aid. We hope that your country will soon correct its insufficiencies in the fight against organised crime and corruption, and the freedom of the media. We also hope that your country will be given candidate status in 2010. It would therefore be interesting to hear what your main expectations are for Montenegro in relation to accession.

Mr Đukanović, Prime Minister of Montenegro (interpretation)

said that Montenegro had chosen the path of reform to gain a higher quality of living. European integration would be welcomed but was not an end in itself, merely an incentive to further reforms. Full EU integration must not be hurried and he did not want to set a deadline on this.

Montenegro had the potential to be the most developed state of the former Yugoslavia; GDP was around €5 000 below potential but planned improvements in infrastructure and transport would raise GDP and kick-start the economy. His priority was to raise living standards but he believed that Montenegro had everything in place to achieve candidate status and a date for beginning negotiations for full EU membership this year. He was keen to avoid the bad precedent of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” which had achieved candidate status without being given a date for the start of negotiations.

Mr IWIŃSKI (Poland)

Your country is an oasis of stability in the region, and thanks to that you have had many investments from the EU and Russia. My question is about minorities. One reason for instability in the region used to be the poor approach to minorities. What is the situation in your parliament? In the past, you had an original project for minorities of more than 5% to have an additional three members and for those of less than 5% to have at least one representative. How is that project going, because it used to be a bone of contention in Montenegro?

Mr Đukanović, Prime Minister of Montenegro (interpretation)

reiterated his pride in how Montenegro had managed the rights of minorities. After the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, Montenegro was the only state without a war on its territory. Even though Montenegro was small, underdeveloped and multi-ethnic and had received many refugees in its territory, it had no outstanding issues regarding minority rights, an achievement which went back to the Petrovic dynasty. Problems existed but were very marginal.

He noted that the government coalition voluntarily included parties representing Albanians and other ethnic minorities in Macedonia and the government had shown itself willing to co-operate with all parties which supported Macedonia as a civic state. Electoral legislation did exist with a provision for the Albanian minority who were guaranteed seats in parliament. He said that this system would soon be replaced by an integrated system giving representation to all minorities, and that this system had been approved by the Venice Commission.


We must now conclude the questions to Mr Đukanović. On behalf of the Assembly I thank him most warmly for his address and for the answers that he has given to questions.