Not to repeat bad experiments with the resurrection of the Ministry of European Affairs

Centre for Civic Education (CCE), following the announcements on the structure of the new Government, which includes the formation of the new Ministry of European Affairs, points out that it would be a bad solution, systemically incompatible and without foundation in the good comparative practice of the countries accessing to the EU.

The CCE reminds that the Ministry of European Affairs (MEA) has already existed, in the first half of the work of the Government of Duško Marković, and that it was dissolved in May 2018, among the others, at the CCE’s proposal. The Ministry was headed by Aleksandar Andrija Pejović, who, following the CCE report, was found by the Anti-Corruption Agency to have violated the constitutional provision on the incompatibility of office, but also some other Montenegrin laws and international conventions. After that, the European Integration Office (EIO) was formed, within the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, which still exists today. MEA proved to be a failed experiment, and resulted in numerous situations of confusion within the institutions. Namely, the artificial insistence on that solution often led to overlapping competencies, and it was clear even then that it was created only to satisfy someone’s ambitions.

The CCE remains at the position that such a ministry is unnecessary, because there is no rational justification for it, and it can only serve party combinatorics, to the detriment of the strategic and professional approach in the public interest. It would not be good if the upcoming Government, which is fixed-term for one year, is guided by bad practices from the period of DPS rule, when ministries were formed and dismantled without any previous assessments, to balance party needs.

It is worth reminding that after the abolition of the MEP, the representatives of the Civic Movement URA, publicly stated that the MEP should not exist, giving arguments with which the CCE agreed. ‘It is now clear that the MEP was formed only for Pejović to call himself a minister. It was not enough for him to be a chief negotiator only, but he has also accumulated functions and salaries’, said Mileta Radovanić, Secretary General of URA at the time. However, a few days ago, a completely different position was expressed by Filip Adžić, Vice President of URA, announcing the re-formation of the MEA.

The CCE believes that the negotiation process can and must be strengthened in many other ways, which will not lead to additional problems. Namely, the existing Office within the Prime Minister’s Cabinet should be retained, this model proved successful in the case of Slovenia, but it should also include the appointment of a negotiator who has credibility, integrity, expertise and strength, and who would unlock and put forward this process, with the Prime Minister’s ‘political umbrella’. The CCE constantly points out that European affairs are domestic affairs, and that all ministries are equally in charge of carrying out these tasks, and one minister cannot, in that respect, position himself as a parallel prime minister, as Pejović tried to do through the formation of MEA, which caused counter-effects for the process of European integration of Montenegro.

In addition, it is necessary to put focus on the negotiating structure, which in the Government of Zdravko Krivokapić is not adequately harmonized with the new methodology and has remained cumbersome, bureaucratic and inefficient, and has lost significant institutional memory and expert staff. This requires depoliticization, optimization and staff strengthening of OEI, as indicated by the European Commission’s Report for Montenegro for 2021. Additionally, the EC Report states that the reorganization of the negotiating structure was carried out without sufficient ex-ante analysis or strategic approach, something that should be a lesson to the new Government, which should not enter into this kind of danger in the same way by forming the new Ministry.

Finally, this practice in the region exists only in Serbia, which has taken over this bad solution from Montenegro, and in which it proves unsuccessful. After all, the dynamics of Serbia’s European path is not an example that Montenegro should follow, unlike the Slovenian model, which gave concrete and good results, because in Slovenia the public interest was ahead of the party interest in personnel and institutional organization of negotiations.

The CCE regrets that even after ten years of negotiations, this process has not been detached from narrow-party politics. Furthermore, by introducing such ideas, without any previous analysis, and especially in the Government, which will be short-lived, European partners may get the impression of frivolity, inconsistency, lack of commitment, but also instrumentalization of the negotiation process.

Milica ZINDOVIĆ, Programme Associate