Granting Montenegrin passports must not be an expression of the discretionary will of any political structure

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) expresses concern over the announcement of Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić on the introduction of the so-called golden passports intended for “all important persons who have common ground with Montenegro”.

CCE has pointed out many times that the existing manner of awarding the so-called honorary citizenship is worryingly non-transparent and undermines the reputation of the state. Non-transparency and discretionary power, which in practice were also exercised by persons who do not have that legal option, have led to the fact that we have some controversial persons to whom such citizenships have been awarded. At the same time, there are no explanations as to why many of these persons acquired citizenship through that procedure and not through the regular one that must be followed by all those who, for example, want to tie their destiny to Montenegro, that is, by which they obliged us as a state to obtain a privileged position in acquiring Montenegrin citizenship.

The CCE considers that this lightly given promise of awarding the so-called golden passports will bring even more confusion into an insufficiently regulated system. It should also be noted that similar institutes have been the subject of criticism by the European Union.

As a reminder, in 2020, as many as 115 honorary citizenships were granted, of which over one-third were issued by the former Government in the period between the end of the parliamentary elections and the arrival of the new government. From 2008 to 2020, 390 honorary citizenships were given non-transparently, while the available supporting documentation consists of unclear and poor decisions without even a minimum of data on the proposers or the reason for someone’s admission to honorary citizenship, and even today there is no publicly available official register of these persons. The current system has also been burdened with illegal proposers who called into question the legality of the issued decisions on granting citizenship. After the last CCE reaction on this issue, in January this year, the media reported that the Ministry of Interior was examining the legality of the decisions that led to the acquisition of these honorary citizenships, but there is still no information on the results of these controls.

Within the recent public polemics over the Decision on amending the Decision on the criteria for determining the conditions for the acquisition of Montenegrin Citizenship, the CCE recommended more precise regulation of the issue of acquiring honorary citizenship to include it into the legal and transparent framework.

Golden passports, as the Prime Minister called them, can only further complicate this unregulated system. In addition, golden passports that are promised without any prior public discussion cause concern that they could easily be misused as there is no basis for their granting. Finally, given the current circumstances, all this reopens and unnecessarily raises sensitive identity issues that dangerously divide society.

The CCE urges the Government of Montenegro to address lingering issues instead of creating new problems in already problematic areas. This is the only way to make a discontinuity with the previous government to which we have given a reasoned critique because of these and many other issues. In a particular case, this entails abandoning such plans not to further, through discretionary decision-making without criteria, complicate and undermine the system of granting citizenship, but also in the long term jeopardize the credibility of such issued documents and cause damage to those whom these documents are granted in this manner, as well as the reputation of the state of Montenegro.

Mira Popović, Democratisation and Europeanisation Programme Coordinator