The public has the right to know who the honorary citizens are and on what basis they were awarded honorary citizenships

The Centre for Civic Education (CCE) points out that since the adoption of the Law on Montenegrin citizenship in 2008 until mid-March 2020, a total of 258 persons were awarded with Montenegrin citizenship, but this process remains non-transparent and questionable in terms of consistent complience with law.

Five years ago, the CCE published a report «Honorary citizenships – awarded to whom and how?» in which, amongst other, lists the names of 203 persons who were awarded with honorary citizenship until the beginning of July 2015. Thereafter, we published 14 additional names, and then a list of another 33 persons concluding with August 2018. In the meantime, we got the information for another two persons in 2019 and six persons in 2020.

Unfortunately, the practice of awarding honorary citizenship by those who are not recognized as legally prescribed proposers by the Law on Montenegrin citizenship continues. This is accompanied by decisions with typical and crude explanations from which we cannot find out what qualified someone for this type of Montenegrin citizenship. We remind that persons awarded honorary citizenship can be nominated by the President of Montenegro, the President of the Parliament of Montenegro or the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, we still have cases of persons proposed by ministries.

To date, although we have been insisting on this for five years, the website of the competent Ministry of the Interior does not have a list of persons awarded with honorary Montenegrin citizenship nor explanations of decisions related to those citizenships, thus depriving the public of the right to know who those persons are and whether there really was a justified public interest in awarding Montenegrin citizenship within this privileged procedure. Article 12 of the Law on Montenegrin Citizenship prescribes that these may be persons of particular scientific, economic, cultural, sport, national or other interest to Montenegro.

Out of total of 258 honorary citizenships, according to the CCE’s documentation acquired pursuant to the Law on Free Access to Information, certain reference to the reasons for awarding citizenship exists in only 10 cases (eight citizenships from 2017 and two from 2016). This indicates, that it is possible, with a little more consideration for the public interest, to give explanations in order to make clear to everyone who is the person to whom the honorary citizenship is awarded and what the state of Montenegro achieves.

CCE again urges the competent authorities to make the list of persons granted honorary citizenship publicly available on its official website, to duly update that list, to ensure that only persons prescribed by law can be proposers, as well as to provide all interested citizens and other stakeholders with convincing explanations as to why someone was awarded with honorary Montenegrin citizenship. This would strengthen the responsibility of everyone in the system, but also prevent the granting of these citizenships to controversial persons and violations of procedures, as well as jeopardizing the reputation of the state of Montenegro.

Mira Popović, Democratisation and Europeanisation Programme Coordinator