CCE’s representatives shared suggestions for improving the Draft Law on Government with Venice Commission experts

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) has shared, at their invitation, its assessments on the Draft Law on Government with experts from the Venice Commission, who are working on an opinion related to this important text.

On that occasion, CCE emphasized its decades-long commitment to advocacy for the enactment of the Law on Government, but also presented an Initiative submitted by CCE and specific proposals to improve the draft version of this law. It was noted that the work process on this text lacked transparency, inclusivity, responsibility, and consideration for the opinions of the critically oriented civil society.

In July 2022, CCE submitted an Initiative to legislate the requirement for medical examinations for members of the Government (Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers) and the Secretary-General. This initiative includes also specific mental and psychological assessment for performing the highest public functions, along with initial and periodic unannounced testing for psychoactive substances. Notably, there has been no response from the Government to this Initiative, which in the meantime has also received significant public support. A remarkable 65.4% of citizens believe it should be legally defined, while only 16.6% hold a negative view, and 18% remain uncertain.

In a detailed review, CCE pointed out to the Venice Commission experts, among other things, the parts that need alignment with the existing legal framework, such as the Law on the President or the Law on the Royal Capital.

Given the challenging situation in Montenegro withe the Government in a technical mandate for over a year, there has been an emphasis on the significance of legally defining the functioning of such a Government to curb abuses and overstepping of authority during the technical mandate. In this context, during the meeting, CCE’s data regarding the excessive number of appointments during the technical mandate of the Abazović Government sparked particular interest.

In the part of defining the composition and organization of the Government, CCE emphasized that Montenegro needs a smaller, more rational and efficient Government. Accordingly, the recommendations included limiting the number of Deputy Prime Ministers to one, instead of the current four, with a clear stipulation that a minister cannot simultaneously be Deputy Prime Minister, because these are positions that require full commitment. Furthermore, CCE also advocated for the removal of Ministers without portfolios, and limiting the number of State Secretaries to one per ministry. A large Government with numerous political appointments contradicts the need for streamlining and professionalizing the Government, as demonstrated in the previous period. An accountable approach to its legal definition should remain independent of partisan trade-offs.

The draft envisions the Government having six mandatory ministries (justice, defense, internal affairs, finance, foreign affairs and health), with a total up to 15. CCE believes that education and culture must also be defined as separate ministries among the mandatory ministries. For a country of Montenegro’s size and complexity, it is of crucial importance that there is a determination by the authorities to prioritize these two areas, and in order to improve the quality of education for its citizens, and work on the systematic preservation of cultural heritage and the development of the cultural scene.

Furthermore, the draft law should define mandatory secretariats, such as the Secretariat for Legislation, and, following the example of the Law on the Government of the Republic of Croatia, introduce secretariats for gender equality, human rights, and NGOs. This approach ensures that these issues have a cross-cutting dimension in the Government’s work.

CCE also emphasized the need for more explicit definitions in the text regarding the Government’s relationship with the Assembly and the Government’s obligations in relation to the Assembly, as well as the composition and role of the Government’s cabinet, which would have to be the main negotiator with the EU, as well as the internal organization and competencies of the General Secretariat of the Government, should be clarified in the legislation.

CCE will continue to monitor this process, with the expectation that the new Government will consider the recommendations and that the new Parliamentary convocation will promptly, responsibly, and without partisan and personal calculations, engage in the discussion and adoption of this legal text.

Nikola Mirković, Program Associate