Citizens of Montenegro are becoming more aware of the possibilities of applying mediation and the benefits of this type of dispute resolution, and from next year, after the adoption of the Law on Alternative Dispute Resolution, staffing of the Mediation Centre will be required.
This was announced at the roundtable “Mediation in Montenegro – Results, Challenges and New Legislation”, organised by the European Movement in Montenegro, which is the closing event of the project “Let’s settle justly”, implemented in partnership with the Ministry of justice.
The director of the Mediation Centre, Marina Lutovac, reminded that comprehensive reform in the area of alternative dispute resolution had begun in recent years.
“The government has recognised the importance and benefits of implementing peaceful dispute resolution and has therefore adopted a mid-term government work programme, one of the main goals being to improve access to justice through the development of alternative dispute resolution,” Lutovac said.
According to her, one of the main goals is to increase the awareness of citizens about alternative dispute resolution, stating that all the researches conducted so far indicate that citizens are not sufficiently familiar with this method.
Lutovac said that more than 150 cases were referred to the Mediation Centre, stating that they have about 2.4 thousand cases so far, and that the number of successfully resolved cases exceeds 150 percent.
“There has been a significant increase in the number of motions submitted to the Centre before the court proceedings are initiated. We had about 300 of them this year. This is one of the indicators that our citizens are becoming more aware of the possibilities of applying mediation, with the benefits that mediation brings to them. Our expectations for the next year, regarding statistics, are very high,” said Lutovac.
She said that when it comes to the Basic Court in Podgorica, this week and last week, the Centre resolved about 400 cases.
“We still have about 100 mediations today. We are in daily communication with the judges and we encourage each other. All this indicates that mediation has a great chance and that next year is an opportunity to really do something when it comes to alternative dispute resolution in Montenegro,” Lutovac believes.
She clarified that mediation is not opposed to litigation.
“We are, on the one hand, an aid to the judiciary, and on the other hand, we provide citizens with an opportunity for them to decide whether to resolve their dispute amicably or to decide before a court,” Lutovac added.
Speaking about the problems facing the Centre, she said that the problems were the same as in other countries.
“Now every state is trying to find a way to motivate the advocacy. What we have noticed is that this year there is a significantly higher number of lawyers who accept mediation. We have lawyers at the Centre every day who have solved a large number of cases in the mediation process,” Lutovac said.
She pointed out that there was also a certain problem in paying rewards and fees to mediators.
“Until last year, in 99 percent of cases mediators worked for free. Now the situation has changed significantly, with the passage of the Law on Amendments to the Law on Mediation in March this year, family mediation is free for parties, states in which the state was sued, criminal mediation was free, so this is one of the achievable mechanisms that the state provides to improve the implementation of mediation in Montenegro,” Lutovac said.
She said that by passing the new law, she would no longer use the term conciliation, but mediation.
“We currently have about 100 mediators. We had trainings this year, so we trained a new 36 mediators. It is expected that next year, with the passage of the new law, the Centre will face great challenges, that we will have a large number of cases that will only be referred to the first meeting with the mediator, and then further it will depend on the mediators and parties whether mediation will be accepted or not,” Lutovac said.
She assessed that professional recruitment was needed for the Mediation Centre, announcing that a call for new mediators from cities outside Podgorica was planned next year.
Director of the Directorate for Civil Legislation and Oversight, Ministry of Justice, Ibrahim Smailovic, said that the Law on Alternative Dispute Resolution regulates alternative dispute resolution in civil-legal relations, mediation, early neutral evaluation.
“Mediation is the same as conciliation in current law. Early neutral assessment is a new method of alternative dispute resolution. It is not common in the European-Continental area. It is more characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon legal area,” Smailovic said.
He clarified that the law does not refer to the resolution of disputes before an arbitrator, nor to the resolution of disputes for which the exclusive jurisdiction of the court is provided.
“The alternative way of resolving disputes will be implemented only if the parties exclusively want it, in no other way,” said Smailovic.
He clarified that the settlement of the dispute in the mediation procedure starts from the moment of signing the agreement on the implementation of the mediation procedure.
“The first meeting with a mediator is something that is not mediation itself, but the mediator at that first meeting explains to the parties the benefits of mediation and issues them confirmation of participation in the first meeting. If parties then accept to proceed with mediation, only then will they conclude an agreement and enter mediation proceedings,” said Smailovic, explaining that the parties can withdraw from the mediation process as well.
The president of the Basic Court in Podgorica, Zeljka Jovovic, said that the judges were fully committed to mediation, noting that they had very successful cooperation with the Mediation Centre in court.
She said they had several hundred cases in which the defendants did not accept mediation and that they now see that they were wrong.
“What is essential for mediation and what puts it ahead of court proceedings is that justice is very swift, effective, that secrecy of proceedings is ensured, unlike the court. The procedure before the court is strictly formal, in mediation it is informal and the rules of procedure are determined by the parties themselves, with the mediation of the mediator,” explained Jovovic.
She said 427 cases were referred to the Mediation Centre last year.
“This year so far we have 1,100. Before mediation days, it was about 600 cases,” Jovovic said.
Barrister and member of the Bar Association of Montenegro, Olja Mihailovic, assessed that the importance of the bar as a profession in the mediation process is indisputable.
“It’s the lawyer who starts it and ends it. It is difficult for mediation to take place without the active involvement of a lawyer. The law profession provides the best platform for all kinds of comparisons,” said Mihailovic.
She does not consider lawyers a limiting problematic factor for the mediation process.
“The benefits to lawyers when it comes to mediation are multiple. First of all, it is the advancement of the practice of law, modern law practice requires the development of such skills, and certain knowledge that does not imply the traditional knowledge that we have acquired at law faculties,” stated Mihailovic.
The president of the European Movement in Montenegro, Momcilo Radulovic, said, when presenting a forthcoming analysis of the Review of Media Announcements about the Mediation Centre, that the period from 1st April to 30th June and from 5th September to 5th December this year was analysed.
He explained that the analysis included all Montenegrin media (print, portals and televisions) and that the analysis did not cover promotional content.
“The total number of bulletins from 1st April to 30th June is 30. Labor disputes, state disputes for employees were predominant, 18 bulletins. The Mediation Centre and the importance of mediation as a topic were in eight cases, the Mediation Centre and the Law on Alternative Dispute Resolution appeared in two media reports and the Mediation Centre – a call for training for mediators in two reports,” stated Radulović.
He said that the tone of media reports is neutral in most cases and positive in 33 percent of cases.
“The print media has 11 publications, 19 were in the electronic media, daily newspapers 11, television two publications and web portals 17 publications. Pobjeda was reporting the most – six publications, Dnevne novine three, Portal analitika two, Cafe Del Montenegro, Fos media and Volim Podgoricu two each, and the others one,” said Radulovic.
Speaking about the announcements from 5th September to 5th December, Radulovic said that they mostly covered Mediation week.
“21 media releases related to mediation week. For the Mediation Centre – Proposal for a Law on Alternative Dispute Resolution 12 and the Mediation Centre – a consensual divorce three,” Radulovic said.
He said that print media had two publications, and electronic 35.
“We see that this topic is best represented on web portals. In 84 percent of cases, it was present on portals, and it is worrying that the daily newspapers did not favor this topic. At the most, in that period, reported Antenna M, five posts, four were Cafe Del Montenego’s, RTCG published four posts, same as Kodex, Portal analtika three,” Said Radulovic.
He said one of the recommendations of the analysis was to make a seminar for journalists to get acquainted with the essence of mediation.
“It is noticeable in the articles that journalists did not go deep into the essence and issues of mediation and what the benefits of mediation are,” Radulovic added.