Centre for Civic Education (CCE) has, at the end of May, launched a campaign on social networks called European voices from Montenegro (https://www.facebook.com/euvoicesmne/?fref=ts), within the project Homo Europeanus – Overcoming deficit of knowledge about the EU.
The objective of campaign is to contribute to improving information and knowledge of citizens of Montenegro on the EU and related issues, and to stimulate debate on various aspects of European integration of Montenegro. Campaign seeks to clarify manner in which the EU works, bring closer the processes taking place within the Union, as well as trends with emphasis on situation in Montenegro and its accession to the EU. Specificity of this campaign is that citizens are provided a direct opportunity to express their opinions, beliefs, hopes, expectations as well as fears, doubts and suspicions regarding the current situation in the EU, challenges and opportunities for its future development.
Impressions from the first phase of the campaign are that citizens of Montenegro are quite uninformed about the European Union and the process of negotiations and European integration in general. From direct communication with citizens it is noticeable that they rarely want to comment on Montenegrin path towards the EU, and on the other hand, those who “dare” to give their comment do not know enough about the integration process and are poorly informed about challenges that Montenegro encounters along that path.
Although media almost daily reports on negotiating chapters, in most cases the negotiation process remains unknown to citizens. This is supported by the fact that a small number of citzens knows how many negotiation chapters has been opened for previous four years, and how long negotiations with the EU last. However, citizens are aware that entering the EU will not automatically bring progress, but that it depends on our willingness to adopt European values and standards. Also, a fair number of citizens expressed skepticism regarding the entry into the EU and does not consider that the membership will inevitably be a positive change for society as a whole. It could be concluded that citizens are discouraged and that they have a pessimistic view on the European future of Montenegro due to the numerous crises that are occurring within the Union. When asked to comment on Brexit most citizens did not know what this term means, but when explained in detail what it meant they mainly assessed that decision of UK to leave the EU will destabilize the European Union and its power of attraction of other countries that aspire to it.
CCE believes that it is necessary to improve informing on the European Union and preparation of Montenegro for membership, and to adapt complex information relating to negotiations to citizens through targeted campaigns in relation to education and other characteristics of the target groups which particular issues concern. The so far reporting on accession to the EU is mostly dull, reduced to figures, rarely enters into the essence of changes, hence it remains unclear to the citizens how this accession process has a direct impact on their lives, what will change by entry into the EU, what do certain standards imply, and similarly.
Also, Eurosceptic attitudes are little represented in the Montenegrin public space, even though they live among citizens, and their presentations could contribute to quality and content of dialogue on all issues related to EU integration.
Project Homo Europeanus – Overcoming deficit of knowledge about the EU is implemented with the support of the European Commission through programme Europe for Citizens. This project is implemented by 14 organizations, of which nine are from EU member states and three from candidate countries, including Montenegro in which the partner is CCE. The project aims to contribute to improving knowledge and awareness of the EU at a time of challenges caused by economic and migration crisis and xenophobia, and stimulating citizens for active participation in social and political life, which should lead to overcoming long ago diagnosed ailment that the Union suffers of – a democratic deficit.
Miloš Knežević, Coordinator of the CCE Youth Group