Centre for Civic Education (CCE) is taken by surprise with the reaction of the Ministry of Interior of Montenegro (MoI) in which it stated series of superficial, inaccurate and baseless alleged denials of issues that were not either contained in the analysis “Honorary citizenships – awarded to whom and how?” or stated by the CCE representatives at the press conference on 27/10/2015.
For the public, we emphasise the following:
1) In its research on the number of awarded honorary citizenships, the CCE documented the period from 5 May 2008 till 22 July 2015, during which 203 persons received such citizenship. It is an undisputed data supported precisely by the documentation which the CCE acquired from MoI, and that timeframe was clearly indicated at the press conference, properly publicised in 12 media, while in only three the general framework of 7 years was indicated. Furthermore, page 15 of publication, which is available at the CCE website, also list this period. We are sorry that competent persons from MoI failed to carefully review, in line with professional standards, the media reporting about this number or to read the publication. Therefore, the data that 206 honorary citizenships were awarded till 1 October 2015 does not deny at any stage the CCE.
2) Additionally, MoI claims that it is not true that the background security check is not performed or existence of international arrest warrant. If so, how come that Thaksin Shinawatra acquired Montenegrin passport in 2009 even though at that time he was criminally convicted for two years in his homeland for corruption, with a mortgage of arrest warrant, on which domestic and international media widely reported, and which damaged the reputation of Montenegro (1). As a reminder, Article 8, paragraph 1, line 5 of Law on Montenegrin Citizenship prescribes that Montenegrin citizenship cannot be acquired by a person who has been convicted in Montenegro, or in any other state, to unconditional punishment of imprisonment for a term exceeding one year on the count of a criminal offence prosecuted ex officio or ceased legal consequences of a conviction.
3) Also, CCE did not elaborate anywhere special institute of economic citizenship. That linguistic construction, commonly used by government officials, was instead used in the document and in the presentation in the context of those persons for whom it is known, or assumed that have been awarded with honorary citizenship on the grounds of particular economic interest. Besides, that was the public “explanation” for the Montenegrin citizenship awarded to Thaksin Shinawatra (2), which is why CCE, among other things, recommended additional reviews when awarding citizenship on this ground
4) CCE did not deal with regular procedures of acquiring Montenegrin citizenship either in the publication “Honorary citizenships – awarded to whom and how?”, nor during the press conference, except that it stated general legal provisions. Thereby, MoI’s imputation that CCE referred to “thousands of citizens waiting for Montenegrin citizenship” is incorrect.
5) One of the six CCE’s recommendations is: “All proposals alongside justifications, as well as decisions, must be made public and available on website of the competent state authority since the acquisition of this type of citizenship is based on national interest of Montenegro, which means that the public interest is established, and consequently the right of public to know. Regional experiences are not examples that should be used as role models, since these practices are also non-transparent. However, this should not be an obstacle for Montenegro to establish full access of public to these data as the legal obligation”. Complete public availability of information does not imply responding on requests for free access to information to NGOs and other subjects, but constant availability of lists and accompanying documentation on the site for all interested citizens. At the moment, the only publically available list of 203 awarded honorary citizenships by July 2015 can be found at the site of CCE. Competent persons in MoI should know the difference between these levels of access to data.
6) Finally, CCE did not counted the Prime Ministers from 2008 to 2015, hence, there is no need of MoI to inform us of their number since it is not relevant for this matter. However, what is important and relevant is the following: in the Law on Citizenship of Montenegro, Article 12, paragraph 2 prescribes that the Ministry of Interior and state administration decide on the admission in Montenegrin citizenship on the grounds of state and other interest of Montenegro based on the proposal of President of Montenegro, President of Parliament of Montenegro or President of Government of Montenegro. Hence, the Law recognises only three proposers, and CCE possesses the information on two out of those three proposers (President of state and President of Parliament), who, out of 203 honorary citizenships, proposed 8, which logically leads to conclusion that the remaining 195 were proposed by the President of Government. If it is true what MoI states, that president of Government only proposed 26 persons, then we have to ask who, and based on which procedure not stipulated by this Law, proposed the remaining 169 persons!?
CCE conducts its researches in line with best practices and methodologies in areas it deals with, and draws the conclusions based on facts. The attempt of official bodies to try to discredit the work of NGO sector which reasonably indicates on identified problems is not good, and what is of special concern for us is when in those reactions we receive elements that indicate on potential illegalities in the work of those same bodies.
Mira Popović, programme associate
(1)http://www.vijesti.me/vijesti/sinavatra-i-subotic-juce-zajedno-u-budvi-180944 , http://www.vreme.com/cms/view.php?id=922135, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/19/business/global/19montenegro.html?_r=0