Sealed damage

Russia’s aggression on Ukraine changed the bloodstream of international relations. However, there is an impression that there is a lack of that understanding in some parts of the Western Balkans, including Montenegro, which is particularly dangerous given how vulnerable the region is to malignant external influences, and thus a suitable ground for destabilization.

Is there added a justified fear that the crisis could have a spillover effect, the countries of the region need more than ever an open stance and a sincere commitment from the European Union to providing a more credible membership perspective. At the same time, they must unequivocally demonstrate that they stay on the side of civilization’s values, not with the aggressor.

Despite the chaos in Eastern Europe, the EU has not forgotten the Western Balkans, as indicated by the messages of its top officials, which have two complementary lines. The first one emphasizes that the countries of the region have a perspective in the EU and that the EU does not give up on them. It is complemented in terms of content which it follows that there will be no shortcut in the accession of any state, nor tolerating the persistence of governing structures, in some states, in defending their own interests while bypassing official policies and values of the Union. Therefore, it is not the time for illusions about accelerated membership, it is time for value-based policies that can lead to accelerating the fulfillment of commitments concerning EU membership.

Unfortunately, some key decision-makers in Montenegro demonstrate that they have remained within the provincial framework of policy thinking and conduct, overestimating their role and underestimating fundamental principles.

The outgoing government of Zdravko Krivokapić has been using various maneuvers for a long time to avoid imposing effective sanctions on Russia, after a quick declarative agreement with the sanctions policy. The last such maneuver was performed at the session on 17 March 2022, when the alleged non-compliance with internal procedures was used as an explanation. In that manner, Zdravko Krivokapić, together with his ministers, inflicted enormous political damage on the state of Montenegro, which he positioned as an unreliable partner to NATO and the EU, and this is when it is specially assessed and remembered. Although this Government will leave soon, Montenegro will wear that stamp for a long time and it will be difficult to remove it.

On the other hand, there is the formation of the so-called minority Government, which is unjustifiably late. That process began before the Ukrainian crisis, and the reflections of that crisis are lightly ignored during political negotiations. It seems that it does not reach the key actors that the Government will be perceived as pro-European only if each of its constituents and members has an explicit position on Ukraine, which will be in line with the position of NATO and the EU. Also, it is equally understood that every constituent and member must have a deviation and resistance to hegemonic projects, whether they have their source in Russia and/or Serbia, and which includes the actors through whom these projects are aiming to achieve.

The first step toward solving the problem is recognizing its existence, and ours is primarily of an internal nature. Therefore, the future of Montenegro in the EU depends exclusively on us and our internal readiness and will to give a strong impetus to this process, to strengthen the functional rule of law and institutions, but also to protect the civic character of the state. Accelerating or slowing the enlargement process will depend in part on the development of the situation in Ukraine. However, in any scenario, the EU will insist on the execution of the undertaken domestic tasks, and it is not certain that it will risk the admission of unprepared states into the already burdened Union.

Daliborka Uljarević and Milica Zindović, Centre for Civic Education (CCE)

Note: the text is published on okruž