What was the purpose of the constitutional amendments?

The CCE estimates that selection of candidates to the Constitutional Court by the Constitutional Committee is directly contrary to spirit of the constitutional amendments that were adopted in July 2013, as part of the obligations that Montenegro as the state has in the process of accession to the EU.

The adoption of these amendments has been welcomed by the European Commission’s Progress Report for 2013, with the estimation that the ammendments strengthen the independence of the judiciary by reducing the political influence on the appointment of judicial officials through more transparent and merit-based procedures. However, precisely the process of appointment of the Constitutional Court’s judges, which is being finalized, has completely rendered meaningless this commendation of the European Commission. The media have already reported about the party agreement which result is that all political groups in the Parliament have acquired their “own judge.” Thus, a message was sent even to handful of independent candidates who believed that process of radical reforms begins – that nothing is actually being changed, and that as the basic qualification still remains party affiliation or party connections.

For example, one of the candidates for whom the DPS was fighting the most, has during the conversation with all members of the Constitutional Committee stressed that he is a member of the DPS and the public knows him the best as director of the Regulatory Agency for Energy, whose numerous decisions, on complaints of the NGO representatives, were overthrown at the Administrative Court. It is logical that the public asks: which jurisprudential expertise of this candidate has recommended him for the Constitutional Court?

The CCE hopes that MPs will, nevertheless, refuse in the plenum the complete party agreement of the Constitutional Committee, and thus preserve the spirit of constitutional changes. This is an opportunity for all those MPs who think for themselves to demonstrate this, namely, not to agree to infringement of some of their efforts through long and very complex procedure of amendments to the Constitution in this section.

The Constitutional Court should be comprised of judges with indisputable expertise and reputation and not party cronies, and during the selection of candidates, precisely the reference, demonstrated professionalism and prominence in the legal affairs should be key criteria and not which party the candidates are close to and who has been lobbying better. Therefore, the obligation of MPs who actually work in the public interest is to choose seven candidates who will perform this responsible and prestigious position with no debt to any political party.

Snežana Kaluđerović, Programme Coordinator