Letter of the representatives of the Centre for Civic Education (CCE), Centre for Development of NGOs and Institute Alternative (IA) to the representatives of the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration

Podgorica, 28.07.2014.

In the capacity of the members of the Working Group for the preparation of negotiations on Chapter 23, we are addressing you with the intent to inform the public about details of the difficulties that we, as representatives of the NGO sector in this body, are facing. The specific motive is the fact that the Government of Montenegro, at its session held on 10/07/2014, passed the Third Report on the Implementation of the Action Plan for Chapter 23, and that we – members of the Working group – did not have access to this document prior to a formal referral for adoption. This procedure is unacceptable, and it inevitably brings into question our status in this body.

From the very beginning of the Working group, we – representatives of the NGO sector – did not have equal status with other members appointed by the state bodies. However, this inequality in the last year has seriously started to endanger the purpose of our membership in this body and the possibility of the contribution to the function of the Working group. We are talking about, very specific problems and obstacles of which depended, and still depends our work in this body.

Namely, in the past period, after the adoption of the Action Plan for Chapter 23, whose drafting we gave wholehearted contribution, in line with our abilities and capacities, the Working group is tasked to regularly monitor the implementation of this document and to report, on a quarterly basis, on its application. We are not able to participate in the realization of this task for the reasons as follows:
1. NGO representatives don’t have access to the portal, where all authorized members of the Working group enter the data about the implementation of the Action Plan. The portal is available to all government representatives in the Working group;
2. NGO representatives have had, so far, only one access to segments of the Second report, not an integral version, to which they provided certain comments. None of the comments was not included in the final version of the report;
3. NGO representatives absolutely had no access to the Third report on the implementation of the Action Plan, prior to its adoption by the Government.
All of the above mentioned problems are easily solvable, but in spite of previous initiatives similar to this one, and presented at meetings of the Working group, we have not received any feedback from the authorities. Therefore, reasonably we conclude that there are clear reasons that these are not addressed, and there is an intention to deprive the non-governmental sector of the information on the work of state bodies in the implementation of the Action Plan and conducting the reforms, are undoubtedly the most sensitive issues such as judicial reform, anti-corruption policy and human rights.

Our continued participation in the work of the Working Group will depend on overcoming the above mentioned problems. Otherwise, we do not see a way to contribute to the work of the Working Group and justify our participation in the body, according to the same organizations that we represent, as well as to the entire public.

Unfortunately, these moves make, once a very brave and, in our opinion, mature and correct decision of the Montenegrin government to include the non-governmental sector in the process at this stage pointless. In order to keep this, qualitative step forward compared to the current practice of EU accession, once again we require that:

1. NGO representatives receive open access to the website, where all authorized members of the Working group, enter the data about the implementation of the Action Plan, in order to contribute to the development of quality reports;
2. Quarterly and semi-annual reports on the implementation of the Action Plan should be submitted at least 7 days prior to the meeting of the Working Group;
3. Working Group should hold meetings twice a month, in order to better coordinate the reporting process and inform the representatives of the NGO sector;
4. NGO representatives have access to the final version of the Report, after the recent changes, and just before submitting for approval to the Government.

In addition, about our future involvement in the work of this Working group, we will timely notify the Montenegrin public, after receiving final information about our requirements.

Respectfully Yours,

Ana Novaković, Center for Development of non-governmental organisations
Boris Marić, Centre for Civic Education (CCE)
Jovana Marović, Institute Alternative