Government of Montenegro must protect Montenegrin diplomas

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) has again submitted the Request for URGENT resolving of problem of non-recognition of Montenegrin diplomas in Serbia to the Ministry of Education and Government of Montenegro. Since September 2017, CCE has been pointing out to this problem through communication with the relevant institutions. Unfortunately, it has not been solved but the escalation that we are witnessing nowadayas has occurred.

As a reminder, almost a year ago, we have opened the question of (non)recognition of diplomas of the Faculty of Law of the University of Montenegro in Serbia for the needs of the labour market. The Ministry of Education then replied that they were familiar with this situation, that they have excellent cooperation with ENIC centres in the region, including Serbia, as well as that they will contact the Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia in order to solve this problem. Since in the meantime there was no progress, the CCE has sent the first Urgency to the Ministry of Education in November 2017.

Now, students are contacting the CCE with an additional problem – since June this year the recognition of Montenegrin diplomas even for continuation of education in the Republic of Serbia has been stopped, which is in the exclusive jurisdiction of the universities there.

Hence, in addition to the ENIC Centre that does not recognise the Montenegrin diplomas for the labour market in the Republic of Serbia, it is now widespread practice that even universities in Serbia do not recognise them for the needs of further education!

CCE assesses that the urgent and most adequate measure for resolving this serious interstate issue can only be implemented by the Government of Montenegro and the authorised Ministry of Education, in order to protect the credibility of Montenegrin higher education institutions in the regional and international labour market and higher education, as well as the interests of students who have finished our faculties.

We remind that this is a violation of the Lisbon Convention by the Republic of Serbia as its signatory state, thus there is no doubt that Montenegro must protect its interests also through the Committee of the Convention on Recognition of Qualifications in the Area of Higher Education in the Region of Europe, which has one representative of each signatory, thus Montenegro too, as well as in bilateral communication with the Republic of Serbia.

The Ministry of Education of Montenegro has previously announced addressing the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia in order to resolve this problem. However, it remained unclear whether this really happened and what was the response of the relevant Serbian Ministry, i.e. in what manner does our Ministry of Education intend to protect the interests of our higher education institutions and students.

The fact is that the problem is not resolved, but in the meantime, it has escalated. The damage to the Montenegrin university graduates is growing because they cannot continue their master and doctoral studies in neighbouring Serbia as until now, nor can they seek employment in the labour market in Serbia.

For clarification, the new situation is related to the politics of the universities in the Republic of Serbia, and not just to the adoption of new Law on Higher Education in Serbia, as it was ‘justification’ for the problem of recognising Montenegrin diplomas for labour market by the ENIC Centre. In brief, today Serbia challenges the recognition of all study programmes from Montenegro whose basic studies as per Bologna have lasted three years, and especially specialist studies, which are no longer recognised as the fourth year in Serbia. It is unclear why there has been a change in politics and practice in Serbia, since the recognition of the same diplomas from Montenegro and as per model 3 + 1 for continuation of education has been done previously regularly, and since this year it was stopped with processing of these requests from Montenegro.

The current situation is worrisome and it is important that the state finds a way to protect all those who have completed their studies at accredited and licensed higher education institutions in Montenegro. Each state must defend its educational documents and influence the implementation of international regulations institutionally, because individuals in this case remain powerless, while the non-governmental sector cannot significantly influence it.

Therefore, the CCE again appealed to the Government of Montenegro to urgently activate appropriate measures through its legal competencies and mechanisms and to ask the Republic of Serbia to solve without delay all requests for recognition of qualifications in the field of higher education coming from Montenegro for the needs of the labour market, as well as for continuing education, in accordance with their applicable, and not planned, national regulations, as it is done reciprocally in Montenegro, for all educational documents coming from Serbia in accordance with the Lisbon Convention and the applicable Montenegrin legislation.

Snezana Kaludjerovic, Senior Legal Advisor