Dukanovic: There is a desire to prolong the institutional dysfunction in order for Montenegro to join the neighbouring country
We are absolutely ready for dialogue on all issues. We are not engaged in political blackmail, but in responsibly proposing solutions to get out of the crisis, said Milo Đukanović, President of Montenegro and the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS).
In a guest interview on Montenegrin Television, he recalled that this party issued a press statement on the 2nd immediately after the adoption of the Law on the President.
We said that the adoption of this law violates the Constitution and that it threatens the constitutional and legal order of the country, that it dangerously leads to the further institutional collapse of Montenegro, and we fear that the final epilogue of this threat to sovereignty is in the final, the independence of Montenegro. We have also pointed out that this behaviour of the Parliament has called into question the viability of the functioning of this important state institution in Montenegro, and that if it continues in this way, it certainly points to the necessity of extra-institutional action, and we have put forward three proposals. The first proposal is not to introduce the Law on the President into the Montenegrin legal system, so that after the expected return of the President, its adoption would not be repeated for a second time, Đukanović recalled.
Also, he added, the proposal was to return to the beginning of the dialogue on the Constitutional Court judges.
And to try to achieve a two-thirds majority through dialogue in the Constitutional Committee, and the third proposal was to sit around the table and agree on the date of early parliamentary elections, because it is quite clear that Montenegro is in the process of a deep political, institutional, to the point of still insufficiently visible economic crisis, and that the only responsible way out of this situation is early parliamentary elections. There was no reaction of the parliamentary majority to these requests – said Đukanović.
He also pointed out that a parliamentary session was scheduled for yesterday, where it was planned to declare the judges of the Constitutional Tribunal, without first trying to reach a consensus, again two-thirds, or in this case three-fifths.
It is good that the President of the Parliament has responded to the reminder of these demands by the leading opposition party. It is good that we now have some time to attempt a responsible dialogue between the government and the opposition. What I would like to say as a party leader is that we are absolutely ready for dialogue on all these issues and that we were not interested in political blackmail, but in responsible proposals for solutions from the crisis , and of course from the position of the President, I would like to welcome yesterday’s action, wishing that the Parliament will make additional efforts to take decisions in its area of competence, which are in the best interest of the state of Montenegro , and not only in particular in the interest of some parliamentary parties – said Đukanović.
He assessed that Montenegro is certainly in a crisis of functionality of its institutions.
Indeed, I have been constantly pointing this out precisely because I fear that undermining Montenegro’s economic viability and undermining the functionality of its institutions could play into the hands of all the politicians who are opposed to Montenegrin independence and to Montenegro’s progress on the European path. That is why I wanted to remind all actors of political life that we are jointly responsible for ensuring economic sustainability and ensuring the functionality of institutions, Đukanović said.
It is impossible to be in power and not feel responsible for the problems
The President of the country said that it is impossible to be part of the government and not feel at least objectively responsible for the problems in the country.
I am not the only one who claims that the institution of the President, whoever is in office at this time, is functioning, that he is taking all the decisions within his competence and that he is taking them in accordance with the Constitution. Because I recognised the crisis in the functioning of a certain part of the government, I did not resort to extra-constitutional action – there were lawyers who suggested publicly that the Constitution provides for the possibility for the President to dissolve Parliament by decree. I replied – precisely, but under certain conditions which have not been met to date, he said.
Đukanović said that it would not be good for the President to join in the widespread overthrow of the constitution and that it would be counterproductive.
Instead, the President has constantly called for unconditional and strict respect for the Constitution. A blatant violation of the Constitution has taken place in Parliament. And I am not the only one who claims this. I am very cautious when I make this assessment because I know that the final judgment, the relevant judgment on the violation of the Constitution is made by the Constitutional Court, but some things are so obvious that it is impossible not to see them – Đukanović said.
He pointed out that some MPs who voted for the adoption of the law on the President said that it was not good to change the Constitution by law.
Not that it is not good, but it is not permissible. There is no justification for tearing down the Constitution – Đukanović stressed.
He said that the violation of the Constitution did not happen by mistake.
Precisely in knowing that there is no Constitutional Court that has previously been blocked by the irresponsible actions of that same parliamentary majority, therefore with the desire to obviously show that Montenegro is institutionally dysfunctional, and that as such, for the first conclusion, it does not deserve further progress on the European path, and I think that the final conclusion is that Montenegro does not deserve to exist as an independent sovereign state and that, after its economic unsustainability is proven, and its institutional dysfunctionality, it follows the conclusion that it should be annexed to a larger neighboring state- said the President of Montenegro.
We are in the final phase of preparations for the intra-party elections
Asked how much longer you will be on the political floor as leader of the Democratic Socialist Party, Đukanović said that smart people do not inform their rivals in advance about their plans.
However, he warns that the issue of candidates for the presidential and intra-party elections will soon be on the agenda.
The moment will come and it is not far away when we will choose our candidate for the presidential election. It could be anyone. We are in the final stages of preparation for the internal party elections. We have worked very seriously in the previous period, made a serious revision of membership because we want to elect the leadership of the Democratic Party of Socialists by direct vote of registered members. So both things will be on the agenda very soon and when the conditions are created, I will inform the public. I don’t think I would do a favor to the policy I represent now if I ran with an early explanation – Djukanovic said.
“I wouldn’t be bored without politics.”
Asked what he would do in the continuation of his life if for some reason he stopped doing politics, Djukanovic said that he failed to fulfill many wishes for himself, family and friends.
I have many affinities, from sport to literature, to various cultural subjects, which I would be happy to indulge in, so that I don’t feel deprived or bored at all. On the contrary, it seems to me that whatever time I have left will not be enough to achieve everything I would like to achieve. We should focus here now on the best moves, that Montenegro is doing well, and then, when we get to the formula of new functionality, economic sustainability, a higher level of rule of law, an open path for Montenegro to move towards the European goal, I think the main obligations are fulfilled, and then we all have, I would say, more than a clear moral right to focus on our affinities, Đukanović concluded.
The country urgently needs a responsible government
Đukanović believes that the country is in serious fiscal and economic difficulties and that the way out of this situation is early elections.
What will now be the balance of power after these early elections – we can only speculate, but it is unlikely that Montenegro will have two such bad governments in the previous two years. Such a crisis situation, however, makes it imperative to organise early elections, with the hope that citizens now have a better understanding of the whole Montenegrin political scene, he said.
He believes that citizens now have a better stake in deciding who to trust with their future in the upcoming early elections.
Asked whether the DPS is fit for elections at this moment, given that this party is no longer in power in 20 municipalities, Đukanović pointed out that this question is not appropriate.
Driven by partisan interests, I could say to you, “Let’s let this go on for a little while longer, let ‘this rot’ continue, so that the people understand that this policy that is on the scene today is not good for their perspective and so that we can waver and regain some of the trust that we lost on 30 August.” But that would be a juristic reason. The national reason is – this country needs an accountable government – immediately, whoever was in charge. It certainly cannot be led by
He recalled that the DPS won 40% of the vote in Nikšić, while in Podgorica it has around 35% of the vote.
It won power in Bijelo Polje and Bar. And that is four municipalities. These four municipalities represent at least two thirds of the Montenegrin electorate, just over two thirds. So, do you think it is a small number?” asked Đukanović.
In European democracies, he said, 25% takes for granted that you have a representative.
But I agree that we are now learning some new lessons in democracy and that we need a new level of democratic culture and a culture of accountability. We will therefore have to wait until we have learnt these lessons. It may turn out that even 35% and 40% of the DPS will not be enough for a government. Of course, we will be ready to form a coalition with others and to try to build a responsible government that will continue to lead Montenegro along the European path, but I repeat to you, that is not our primary interest. Our primary interest is that Montenegro gets a responsible government, which unfortunately has not been there for two years and three months, Đukanović said.
DPS prepares for new challenges
He stressed that the DPS will continue to reform its ranks and that it will continue to prepare for new political challenges with the immediate election of a new party leadership.
There should be no doubt that this will happen, that we will see it in the very near future, because the Democratic Socialist Party has never spoken irresponsibly, promised something and then forgotten those promises, Đukanović said.
He said that the political opponents of the DPS believe that his party should be weakened.
Because also in these two and a half years, the DPS has shown itself to be a hard obstacle politically to Montenegro’s independence, its civil, multi-ethnic character and its European path, and they are against this. They want Montenegro to be part of the ‘Serbian world’. That is why they want to weaken this political structure. And now they are proposing how the leadership of the Democratic Socialist Party should be. It is a long time since we have reacted to this madness. We have been thinking seriously for a long time about what is good for us, what would be good for Montenegro, because I think that if Montenegro wants to insist on its civic concept, on its civic organisation, it will need a strong civic party for some time, that is to say, the backbone of its state politics. It would be good if there were more such offers. At the moment, it seems to me that the only such offer is the Democratic Socialist Party, Đukanović assessed.
We are ready to talk to DF, but we are not changing the platform
He believes that it is desirable to have a political dialogue, even if the entities involved are on the furthest ideological platforms, stressing that the DPS is always ready to talk to the Democratic Front (DF).
The DFt is the clear representative of the big Serb politics in Montenegro. Although I do not like it, it seems to me to be a legitimate political freedom, as long as it does not violate the Constitution, as long as it does not violate the rule of law and as long as it does not become subject to criminal legislation. The Democratic Socialist Party is a strong defender of a civic, multi-ethnic and European Montenegro. We are distant, but that does not mean that we should not talk and we are talking. Maybe it is not so public and we do not talk at the level of leaders, but our Members communicate regularly on all issues. That is why we are ready to have this conversation at any time, of course with a very clear message that we have no intention to change our platform, Đukanović said.
The judiciary will be influenced by politics as long as we have irresponsible people in power
Asked how long the judiciary will be under the influence of politics, Đukanović said that it will last as long as we have “irresponsible behaviour of people from Montenegrin state politics – especially those who make up the parliamentary majority and the government”.
I think we have been in this phase of political life for the last two years. The Montenegrin Constitution was amended in 2013 with amendments making it compulsory to elect the judges of the Constitutional Court by a two-thirds majority, and at the time I was sceptical about this idea – precisely on the assumption that Montenegro was deeply politically divided, and that it was not a modern society. Knowing that the roots of these divisions are historically old, I knew that we would need a long time to overcome these divisions and that, in the meantime, the Constitutional Court had to be alive, had to be filled with two-thirds support in Parliament. … – Đukanović said.
He said that he remembers very well the elections of the Constitutional Court judges, and the most renowned Montenegrin jurists came to the Constitutional Court.
These were judges of higher courts and professors of constitutional law or some related legal specialism. By introducing this rule of a two-thirds majority for the election of judges, we have politicised the process. When you have to elect judges by a two-thirds majority of Members of Parliament, you are in a position where, if you want your proposal for a pair of reference figures for judges of the Constitutional Court to be accepted, you immediately demand, expectation, from the parliamentary party whose support you need and which has its own candidate. So, in fact, in our best wish to make the procedure additionally democratic with a two-thirds support for the election of the Constitutional Court judges, we have actually further politicised it and made its outcome dependent on the political will of the parliamentary parties, Đukanović said. .
The problem has escalated over the past two years
He assessed that the selection of US judges had gone relatively smoothly in the previous administration.
You had all seven judges of the Constitutional Court – he said.
Đukanović said that the problem has emerged and escalated in the last two years – when the new government refuses to stick to the rule that two-thirds support is achieved through consultations between the government and the opposition.
The last proposal was tabled by the Constitutional Affairs Committee and was adopted by a majority of 41. So a simple majority. It selected four proposals and gave them to the opposition for approval. Well, it does not work like that. Well, I think it is clear that it does not work like that. And now you expect the opposition to support you and you expect us to discuss the quality of the candidates. Well, no, we have not come to that topic. We have the previous topic. In the Constitutional Commission, we have to try, through dialogue between the government and the opposition, to come up with a candidate who can count on two-thirds support. It cannot be done otherwise – Đukanović stressed.
He said that in the first years after independence, we had previous solutions where judges were elected by the Parliament.
And in this way it was still possible to object, so to speak, to the standard of judicial independence, because there was always a realistic assumption that MPs, guided not by the criterion of judicial independence but by some kind of self-interest, could choose one judge and not choose another. The reform of the judiciary, for which the prerequisites were created by the constitutional amendments of 2013, has created structures that are completely along the lines of the solutions in European democracies. You know that the Judicial Council and the Prosecutorial Council were established at that time, so there are people sitting there who are, I would say, selected from different structures, from the structure of prosecutors or judges, depending on which council we are talking about. And I think there is one person from the executive branch of power in one and the other council, – Đukanović said.
The systemic assumptions for the independence of the judiciary in Montenegro, he said, are identical to those in other European democracies.
Therefore, neither the previous nor the current government can be blamed for not changing those systemic solutions, for not wanting to build in systemic solutions that are a necessary condition for the independence of the judiciary. I believe that the judges have acted in accordance with their professional responsibility, with their high moral standards, which presuppose that people are elected to these positions who, in the end, will always protect the rights of every citizen of Montenegro. Vesna Medenica has been in office for a long time, and her right to stand for office has not been decided by the President, the Government or the DZ, but by the competent state bodies, which have declared that she has the right to do so. There was a section of the Montenegrin public that found this interpretation problematic. Remember that there were doubts about Mr Vujanović’s third term as President of the country – said Đukanović.
He pointed out that the Constitutional Court had taken a position on the matter.
There is a part of the public that thinks this is not the right interpretation, but we cannot relativise everything. If we give in, in fact, up to now we have been interpreting someone’s right, passing by, as the Constitutional Court has interpreted it, this is certainly not a contribution to the democratic life of Montenegro, but it is a contribution to the disrespect for institutions, a disorder that creates confusion and relativises everything that should be the inviolable standards, the inviolable rules generated by the Constitution of Montenegro. Vesna Medenica has been certified as eligible for this mandate. When there was some controversy in the public, Medenica withdrew from this position – this issue is now over, Đukanović said.
“I didn’t need to invite all sides to the meeting”
Asked whether he had violated the constitution by not inviting several parliamentary parties to the debate on the appointment of Miodrag Lekic as MP, and whether he was wrong about the constitution, Đukanović said he was guided by the principle of rationality and did not need to invite all parties, because he did not need to invite all parties before.
First of all, let us recall that on this occasion Parliament, that is to say the parliamentary majority, adopted certain decisions, sent a petition to the Constitutional Court and there is no doubt that the Constitutional Court, when it is constituted, will adopt its position on this matter, which I will respect without question. I would just like to tell you that, in reality, there was no ulterior motive, no aspiration. I acted as I have done in all previous cases. So let me remind you that I have given two mandates in this parliamentary term – one to the former Prime Minister, Mr Krivokapić, and one to the current Prime Minister, Mr Abazović, who is still at the head of the government in a technical mandate. So, when I invited the representatives of the parliamentary parties to the consultation, I was guided by the principle that this should be rational … – Đukanović said.
He further reflected on this situation.
If I invite the Democratic Front, on whose list there was a majority of those who now oppose, and if the DF says that there is no need for consultation, that they are currently working on creating a majority that will support the President and that until the last day, then there is a 30-day constitutional deadline for proposing a candidate, to fulfil their promise, according to their letter, the content of their letter, the signatures of 41 Members as an assurance that they stand behind their candidate for the mandate, then it is really pointless for me to tweet within the DF right now, so I am looking for someone to maybe respond to this conversation. No, I understand that the DF does not need to be consulted, that it will send me its proposal, which will be signed by 41 MEPs, and I will naturally propose that candidate as a representative to form a government. That has not happened. And now they are trying to find grounds to challenge the constitutionality of the President’s actions. I do not think there is any violation of the Constitution, but as I said, I think that the initiative of the Parliament is legitimate and, as far as I am concerned, what the Constitutional Court decides will be inviolable, Đukanović said.
He said that they could reach a quorum very quickly, if there is real political will and if they share the same objectives.
If we want Montenegro to be functional and to continue on the European path. Then we can reach this agreement very quickly, Đukanović said.
Asked whether the European Union’s (EU) position had changed in declarative terms, Đukanović said he welcomed the EU’s changed narrative.
I believe that we all need very clear messages in our communication with each other, so that we understand each other in the first reading and decide whether we are partners who want to work together on the path of Montenegro’s further European progress or not, Đukanović said.
He stressed that the DPS supports the election of a minority government, currently in office, with a technical mandate.
We have given our support for a mandate to a man who has exactly three Members of Parliament and a fourth who is a representative of CIVIS. Therefore, there is not enough legitimacy to run the government, but we had a good deal before. And that is – we are giving you our support for one year, we are not going to participate in this government, you have two tasks – one is to urgently continue to fulfil the obligations of the European agenda, to unblock Montenegro’s European path, which has been blocked since the election of the previous government of Prime Minister Krivokapić . And secondly, you must work on restoring investor confidence in Montenegro and its business environment, because this confidence is under threat and this is dangerously threatening to cripple Montenegro’s economic development. We have also agreed to make an analysis after one year. If the results are not good enough, we will go to parliamentary elections, and if the results are desirable or above our expectations, the conditions are created for the continuation of the government’s mandate, Đukanović said.
He drew attention to developments in the meantime.
On 24 February, Russia invaded Ukraine. Until then, we had been very critical of the European Union and its enlargement policy – we constantly complained that the EU had forgotten about enlargement policy, that it had unfortunately stopped in the most sensitive region. The Western Balkans are the traditional soft underbelly of Europe, through which European enemies threaten the security of Europe as a whole, that this is geopolitically unwise and that the enlargement and integration of the countries of the Western Balkans must continue. These messages have not been so well received by the European public. However, after 24 February, following Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Europe was shaken. And Europe then opened the door and said that we must now continue with the enlargement policy, we must complete the process of uniting Europe, and here a great opportunity for Montenegro presented itself. Montenegro was the best example for Europe to show that the enlargement policy is alive – because Montenegro is a country that has opened all negotiating chapters, Đukanović said.
In his words, everything pointed to the conclusion that we have an ideal opportunity for Montenegro to become a member of the European Union in a relatively short period of time.
Instead, the current government has abandoned the European agenda, abandoned the deal, decided to resolve some issues that have nothing to do with the future of Europe. These are issues from the deep history of Montenegro that need to be resolved, and we supported the signing of the treaty with the Serbian Orthodox Church, but we only said that it had to be done in a sufficiently inclusive way, in a sufficiently transparent way, and therefore in relation to contentious issues. Institutions must be involved – when it comes to the issue of the preamble, the Montenegrin Historical Institute, when it comes to the suspicion that the normative part violates the Constitution of Montenegro – the Faculty of Law of Montenegro. But all this was ignored, so something was wanted to be done behind the scenes and this was done to the detriment of the state of Montenegro – said Đukanović.
I’m not sure there is enthusiasm in the EU to put pressure on Montenegro
He added that the enthusiasm on the EU side is not what it was immediately after 24 February.
I cannot say that the door is closed. No, I think that the door is open, I think that Europe will continue with its policy of unification, but I am not sure that, after we have frustrated their expectations, we will put our European interest before our other national interests, I am not sure that there is so much enthusiasm among them today to push Montenegro through the door for membership of the European Union. This changed EU narrative is the result of the realisation that in Montenegro over the past months there has not been the expected response and the expected cooperation for the renewal of the partnership that will eventually result in Montenegro’s membership of the European Union, the President of the State said.
Đukanović said that he would absolutely respect all European institutions, as he considers them as partners.
During our reign, it has never happened that Montenegro has ignored any recommendation of the Venice Commission, that we have embarked on any adventure of changing the Constitution or some key laws without consulting them, and above all the obligation to align with the European acquis. has never been neglected, Đukanović said.
He said that every law adopted during the previous government’s term of office was subject to mandatory consultation with the relevant EU institutions.
Sometimes, he said, it took up to half a year.
We were waiting for an assessment that it was in line with the European acquis, because you cannot go against the European Union if you have not previously aligned your constitutional and legal system with the European one, Đukanović said.
We cannot allow ourselves to remain homeless without a state
Đukanović pointed out that there is only the action of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which from the first moment has not accepted Montenegro as an independent state and Montenegrins as a national entity.
If we agree to something like that, under whatever explanation, I am afraid that we will regret it at some point in the future, because that is exactly what could happen to us – to remain nomads, homeless, without a country, to remain, because we were left without an identity, not so long ago. I think we have to fight against that. Of course, always keeping in mind that issues of state policy are one thing, that issues of the internal organisation and functioning of the church are another, that the autonomy of the church is understood, but that it must also be understood that the church has no right to act to the detriment of the state in which it serves – Đukanović stressed./Pobjeda