The Government’s work program is not providing answers to very important questions

The 44th Government of Montenegro’s work program does not provide answers to questions about where the country would be at the end of its term, and fails to set out benchmarks and deadlines for achieving the administration’s priorities. Proclaimed visions of Montenegro as the Singapore of Europe and the Switzerland of the Balkans are meaningless if there is lack of clarity as to how this vision is to be achieved.

The exposé outlines the incoming government’s priorities in broad strokes and identifies some of the critical points of development; however, it does not specify what outcomes could be expected from individual departments. The quality of the content varies, so some sections paint a clearer picture of activities, whereas others are riddled with commonplace rhetoric and overly general goals.

These are the main findings of the Center for Democratic Transition (CDT), which published an analysis on the content and quality of the new government’s work program.

This will be the first coalition government in which a political group not aligned with all of the national, EU, and NATO values and policies will play a major role. Spajic’s government will therefore find it challenging to demonstrate its commitment to the principles and policies it identified as priorities.

While the exposé rightly addresses certain issues that are relevant to the coalition government but are not directly under its purview, this is not the case with the eagerly anticipated electoral reform. It is not even mentioned, with the exception of the section regarding the funding of political entities. It is reasonable to wonder if the coalition government has given up on the very cause they have been staunchly advocating for years, especially in light of the fact that the newly elected parliament speaker made no mention of electoral reforms whatsoever in his speech. It appears as though electoral roll, depoliticization of election administration, the introduction of open lists and other major issues have all of a sudden lost their relevance. We hope that the government’s future actions will

dispel our current impression that it “forgot” about actions on improving key democratic instruments and postulates.

The situation is similar with the principles of equality, transparency, and meritocracy, which are only mentioned in passing in some of the sections, but are insufficiently articulated into a clear intention to free institutions from party control.

There is no mention of how institutions, like the parliament, should improve their functioning or how it should carry out its constitutionally mandated role of upholding checks and balances. Prime Minister Spajic humiliated the Montenegrin Parliament by refusing to present the government’s work program in line with Article 103 of the Constitution, and in doing so, sent out a devastating message about how he views the relationship between government and parliament from the outset.

It is extremely concerning that the document does not even mention the adoption of the Law on Parliament and Law on Government.

In his exposé, Prime Minister Spajic highlights the need for optimization of public administration. However, given the number of departments in the new government and media reports on 40% of senior government “deep placement” posts being reserved for ZBCG under the coalition agreement, it is unclear if the government will have the will or desire to implement a merit-based hiring system in addition to other important activities that should help streamline public administration reform.

Government work program envisages amendments to the law on confiscation of proceeds of crime and the criminalization of public officials’ illicit enrichment. However, aside from citing EU recommendations, it is unclear how the government plans to lock horns with individuals who have amassed wealth unlawfully, as there is no such information in the exposé.

The prime minister fails to provide the long-awaited clarifications on subjects that helped him secure a favorable election outcome, although his campaign message was succinct and to the point – minimum pension 450 euros, minimum salary 700 euros, average salary 1000 euros, seven-hour working day.

Let us hope that these and other flaws of the program are simply a matter of differing opinions about what the appropriate structure and content for such a document should be; hopefully, this is not the case of coalition in power abandoning key program principles. We would like to think that this does not mean they have given up on crucial and much-needed activities that would strengthen our democracy and the cornerstones of our path to EU membership.

We call upon the new coalition government’s representatives to clearly and unambiguously address these and other concerns, to publish the coalition agreement that has been signed, and to publicly explain to citizens their intended actions for the coming period, as all democratic governments do.

The publication is available on the following link.

Milena Gvozdenovic,

CDT Deputy Executive Director