Why is the Government hiding information on the implementation of EU accession process activities?

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) points out the insufficient level of transparency in the government’s work, especially regarding the so-called oral information about the implementation of activities in Montenegro’s accession process to the European Union. If the Government truly believes that it is achieving significant results in this area, then logically, such information should not be hidden from the public.

According to the latest MNE Pulse data, a periodic survey conducted by the CCE in cooperation with the Damar Institute, as many as 60.4% of citizens do not support the decision of Milojko Spajić’s government to abolish the live streaming of government sessions. Although this practice, even during the term of the Dritan Abazović’s Government when it was established, did not guarantee substantive transparency of sessions and was often abused for political gain, it provided the public with insight into the manner of work, contributions, and capacities of individual members of the Government. Of course, the new Government had the freedom to improve this mechanism, but instead, chose to abolish it.

In November 2023, the CCE submitted an initiative to the General Secretariat of the Government to reinstate the live streaming of government sessions. However, the initiative was rejected on the grounds that it was not feasible due to security, financial, and technical reasons. The response also emphasized that the Government believes it sufficiently informs citizens about its work through other channels such as press conferences and press releases. Additionally, the Government stated that all decisions and materials are published on the official government website.

This justification is unsustainable, and the consequences of closing government sessions to the public are already being felt by the media, non-governmental organizations, and other entities interested in monitoring the work of the executive branch. Moreover, press conferences after government sessions are irregular, and journalists’ questions are thematically conditioned, while statements from Government session are terse, incomplete, and lack the substance of the so-called oral information.

The CCE emphasizes that oral information on the implementation of activities in the EU accession process, which is the first item on every agenda, is important for understanding the dynamics of this process, and we all are deprived of their content. Therefore, the CCE, following the negative response from the General Secretariat of the Government to CCE’s initiative, in accordance with the Law on Free Access to Information, requested audio recordings of government sessions to familiarize themselves with the content of oral information on the implementation of activities in Montenegro’s EU accession process. However, the General Secretariat refused, informing us about it almost a month later, exceeding the response deadline and filing a complaint with the Agency for Personal Data Protection and Free Access to Information (AZLP). The explanation of the General Secretariat of the Government is related to the principle of compromising secret data, but it remains unclear what constitutes secret data when it comes to the work of institutions to expedite our path to the EU.

The CCE underscores that transparency is one of the values of democratic governments and an indicator that the EU takes into account when evaluating the work of our institutions. Withholding information breeds distrust, and the public has the right to know who in the government is actively contributing to EU negotiations and who are the obstacles.

Nikola Mirković, Programme Associate