Who can benefit out of the unlawful honorary citizenship awarding?

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) continued monitoring the manner in which the honorary citizenships are awarded in Montenegro, for which we already pointed out on established negative practice, i.e. not in line with the Law on Montenegrin citizenship, and the fact that it resulted with significant number of unlawful citizenships in terms that these were not proposed by legally prescribed proposers.

According to the information which the CCE gathered, during the period from 22 July 2015 till 11 April 2016, 14 new citizenships were awarded. That means that the state of Montenegro, with the earlier figure of 203 honorary citizenships awarded till July 2015, awarded a total of 217 honorary citizenship from May 2008 (when the Law on Montenegrin citizenship came into force) until mid-2016. Out of these 14 citizenships, 2 were proposed by the President of Parliament, 2 by Prime Minister, and neither was proposed by the President of state, all of whom are the authorised proposers. The remaining 10 were proposed by public administration bodies, which makes them disputable in terms of legal procedures, since they were not proposed by legally prescribed proposers.

Based on the insight in those 14 decisions, the CCE notes with regret that the content of these decisions is identical to content of decisions that were adopted before the CCE published the analysis Honorary citizenships – awarded to whom and how, in which we presented in argument based manner a number of deficiencies within the procedure of awarding the honorary citizenships. Namely, more recent decisions still note and cite the provisions of Law on Montenegrin citizenship and Law on General Administrative Procedure, without specifying the reason, and an adequate explanation behind the reception of individual persons in Montenegrin citizenship. Hence, essentially the citizens of Montenegro were deprived of the information regarding the reasons for which these persons were awarded with honorary citizenships, i.e. what have these people done for Montenegro, or what have they done to better it, or keep doing to better its representation worldwide.

With the Decision of Ministry of Interior Affairs no.03-UIP-211/16/1607/3, the CCE was informed on 14 new persons who were awarded with honorary citizenship, with an indication of when they were proposed and when these 14 persons received the honorary citizenship. However, more detailed explanations are still missing, and it is clear that they are being proposed by those who are not legally prescribed to do so. Hence, the Law is not being implemented consistently, and the whole process remains opaque and unavailable under the same conditions for every interested party. Also, the Ministry of Interior Affairs does not inform the public timely on awarded citizenships, and there is no up-to-date list on the website of this institution, thus only at the CCE website one could find a list of persons who were awarded with honorary citizenship by July 2015. This illustrates the unnecessary containment of system, thus raising further suspicions in terms of the abuse of system when it comes to awarding of honorary citizenships.

Ministry of Interior Affairs continually fails to implement the existing Law on Montenegrin citizenship in this part. CCE made an attempt to prevent this poor practice and remediate the damage made to public interest, and for the sake of every other citizen who makes a daily effort to solve the issue of citizenship within a highly complex legal procedure without a privileged treatment thereby. In this context, a criminal complaint was submitted to the Prosecution, as well as the request to the Ministry of Interior Affairs to abolish 82 decisions related to this matter. Unfortunately, instead of regulating this area, the Prosecution chose not to deal with this issue substantially, and approved the interpretation of Ministry of Interior Affairs. Given that such interpretation of implementation of Law on Montenegrin citizenship is hard to explain due to intertwined interests in which none wants to stick their nose, CCE proposes to change and amend Law on Montenegrin citizenship in order to render public sector bodies as proposers, as well as to prescribe clear procedures of nomination, in order to terminate this practice.

Finally, it remains unclear: who can benefit out of the unlawful awarding of honorary citizenships, and who and when will rectify the errors and damage made to state of Montenegro?

CCE will continue monitoring this matter in an effort to render this process within the frameworks of legal and to contribute so that this institute is not a subject of controversy, as was the case so far. Honorary citizenships should be awarded to persons who truly contributed to economic, cultural and sport interest of Montenegro. Also, the public must be informed on every awarded citizenship, because the citizens deserve to know who are our honorary citizens, as well as the merits for which they were awarded.

Mira Popović, programme associate