Initiatives of NGO sector needs to be more concrete

NGO sector needs to propose concrete initiatives because “ it is not possible that the biggest problem in the country is the director of ASK”, Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic announced at a roundtable – “Cooperation of the Government and NGOs in the EU integration “ held at the Hilton Hotel in Podgorica.
The chief negotiator with the EU, Aleksandar Drljevic, said that this is the third event they have organized this year. The first was held in July, second in September with all NGOs from the north of Montenegro and this is third time in Podgorica.

Drljevic said: “ I think this is a good opportunity for all organizations to be involved in negotiation process and I think that rule of law concerns colleagues who are actively involved in working groups for Chapters 23 and 24, as well as groups in agricultural and fisheries sector or environmental protection, as well as consumer protection.”
He added “so that is the reason why we thought it is very important for our colleagues to be invited so they can hear about the Chapters 23 and 24. The rule of law is a horizontal issues, a issue of all issues.” He said:” Leaded by that example we wanted to continue with our work which means these are all nongovernmental organizations, civil society organizations involved in negotiation process, so we can sit together and talk.”
The Prime Minister, Dusko Markovic, said that they are improving the continuity of the dialogue day by day and he is glad that they have overcome certain shortcomings featured in their previous meetings. He said he resented the fact that none of main critics of government’s policies have not showed up on the meeting. He emphasized that through several legislative activities they were able to noticeably improve the environment of NGOs sector.
For 2019, from the state budged for NGO projects has been earmarked 3.5 million euros. The tendency of budget support growth for NGO sector is evident. In last two years the Government co-financed 69 NGO projects in total amount of 1.2 million euros, Markovic said. He added
“Since the beginning of the negotiation process, Montenegro has taken a stance on honest and transparent negotiation. Not only were we the only country that brought civilian sector into working groups but we did not push our shortcomings and problems under the rug, actually we put them on the table. So we need to talk about it and to find the best and applicable solution for Montenegrin society. It wouldn’t be fair to misuse that approach and information about our problems to use for achieving some other goals or gaining short term daily political points”. In his presentation he reiterated that Montenegro is committed to fulfilling its obligations under its European agenda and that EU does not have an alternative for us. He said that negotiations are a two-way process and we are closely observing EU’s ongoing events. And they are encouraged by the choice of the European Commission and by messages which means that enlargement is in the focus of policy in Brussels – Markovic said.
“We understand the current European context and in relation to that we behave like Europeans. But, what we want is European leadership in Western Balkans and nobody else’s who does not share or belong to the European value system.” He accentuated that the focus of our efforts is to build stable and strong rule of law system as root of democratic society we are seeking to. Markovic said:” A significant affirmation of our efforts is recent new of the adoption of the Initial Benchmarks Report for Chapter 8 – Competition by the EU Council, a step further towards the opening of the only remaining Chapter of the acquisition.” He pointed out that we have met most of the provisional benchmarks in Chapters 23 and 24. Today’s meeting with NGOs which is third meeting in this year to discuss directly with representatives of the civil sector. He added that he would, in the future, involve the Ministry of Economy, Agriculture and the Ministry of Transport. On the next meeting must be more concrete initiatives. Markovic invited NGO sector to suggest initiatives because “it is not possible that the biggest problem in the country is the director of Agency for Preventing the Corruption”. The head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro, Aivo Orav said that the EU gives Government 40 million of euros and a smaller part to the NGO sector and the media. He added that they receive a lot of complaints with three arguments: we cannon survive without money; we always get money but not this time and we never got the money. Orav said: “ None of these arguments are relevant to our decision making because we are not here for opening new working places in NGO sector. There is a clear methodology of how projects are considered. My recommendation to you is to write the best possible suggestions which will meet standards and to forget three arguments I mentioned earlier.” Orav added, referring to the role of NGOs in the European integration process, ambassador Orev said that it should not be underestimated. He added that they noted progress in legislative, institutional and financial environment of civil organizations in their last report. He mentioned that the new European Commission had started operating which is significant for all countries candidates. Even if there was some mixed signals from the EU, the integration process is continuing and the Chapter 8 was proof for that. He said if the EU promises something, the EU will implement it. NGOs in Montenegro do not need to be critical to Government so they can get financial support from the EU. They just need to have good projects, said Head of the EU Delegations in Podgorica.

The president of the European Movement, Momcilo Radulovic asked whether politically neutral NGOs must become strongly anti-government in order to receive more funding from the European structures and the Government of Montenegro. A representative of Center for Civic Education, Snezana Kaludjerovic, said that the EC working document confirms allegations that Montenegro in chapters 23 and 24 is stagnant but in some parts regresses. She noted that the European Commission had failed to give adequate consideration to the Supreme Court’s legal principle which restricts the right to remedy for those illegally removed decisions of the assembly majority.
The representative of the Center for Development of NGOs, Lidija Knezevic said: “ I believe that these meetings greatly contribute better and more open dialogue between the Government and NGO sector, as well as finding solutions for many challenges which are identified in the European Commission working document for Chapters 23 and 24, which are by the way the topics of today’s meeting.” She added “ in a working document problems in the area of justice, fight against the corruption the EC expresses concern about re-election of President of the Supreme Court Vesna Medenica and the new re-election of court’s presidents despite the constitutional restriction on two terms”. Criticism was also raised about work of the Anti Corruption Agency, for its independence and the need of further strengthen true independence of all relevant institutions in this area. The critics are also directed to the work of the agency’s controversial interpretation and its legislation subject and quality of its decision making. From the other hand we are all witnesses that candidature of Radonjic, the director of agency, for council president position of Agency for personal data protection and free access to information has been supported. We can blame them for this critics in working document. She emphasized the cooperation of the Government and civil society “to welcome government’s efforts for improving cooperation with NGO sector in the north of the country. She mentioned there was more meetings like this one which had a goal to improve capacity.

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