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PACE rapporteurs, ending visit, praise Montenegro’s stabilising role but list areas needing further action

At the end of a fact-finding visit to Podgorica, Terry Leyden (Ireland, ALDE) and Ionut Marian Stroe (Romania, EPP/CD), co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for post-monitoring dialogue with Montenegro, have welcomed the continuing positive role played by the country in stabilising the region, and in setting a good example to other countries of the region in its negotiations leading to EU membership.

While welcoming the ongoing reforms carried out since the adoption of PACE Resolution 2030 (2015) in January 2015 concerning the judiciary, the fight against corruption as well as the electoral framework, they emphasised the need for newly-adopted laws to be fully implemented so as to ensure the reforms are sustainable.

Over the last few months, Montenegro has been facing a political crisis which has led to the boycott of parliament by a part of the opposition. “While reiterating our conviction that boycotting the parliament can by no means be considered as a correct political stance, we also believe that the concerns and shortcomings expressed by the opposition – and reflected in previous PACE reports – need to be fully addressed,” the rapporteurs said.

The new electoral legislation needs to be fully implemented, in order to restore trust in the electoral process, well before the 2016 general elections. “We believe that such trust is essential for the proper and stable functioning of democracy,” the co-rapporteurs said. They welcomed the legislative reform undertaken notably with regard to party funding. “The oversight role of the new agency for prevention of corruption must effectively be performed in practice, in particular as regards misuse of public office and public funds during elections,” they said.

The co-rapporteurs encouraged all political forces to re-engage in a constructive political dialogue in order to overcome the crisis and to prevent it from escalating any further, in the interest of the people of Montenegro.

They called on the Montenegrin authorities to effectively investigate the violent events that erupted in Podgorica last October, and insisted on the importance of ensuring justice if excessive use of force by enforcement officials is proven. They urged swift and transparent investigations and recalled that there should be no tolerance for impunity.

In addition they stressed that journalists must be able to carry out their work in a free and safe manner. “The authorities must end impunity by ensuring that all cases of attacks against journalists in the country are thoroughly investigated,” they said. The lack of progress in this regard raises questions about the whole democratic system and could further undermine the people’s trust in their democratic institutions and in the functioning of their justice system, they added.

The rapporteurs will report on their visit to the PACE Monitoring Committee at a forthcoming meeting.

The co-rapporteurs met with the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, the Ministers of Justice and the Interior, the President of the State Election Commission, officials from the newly established agency for the prevention of corruption, the Supreme State Prosecutor, as well as the delegation of Montenegro to PACE, leaders of political factions from the majority and the opposition, and representatives of international organisations, the media and NGOs.