news 30 Nov 15

EU Accepts Backstage Role in Montenegro Talks

The EU has welcomed the Montenegrin speaker's move to start talks on solving the political crisis in the country - but Brussels will not be directly involved in the negotiations.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
The Eu said the new electoral legislation needs to be fully implemented | Photo:skupstina.me

The speaker of Montenegro's parliament, Ranko Krivokapic, is in Brussels on Monday to meet Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn ahead of crisis talks on new elections in the country, due to begin on Tuesday.

The Montenegrin opposition has been boycotting parliament for months after the ruling parties refused to implement new electoral legislation.

The crisis has deepened since anti-government protests turned violent in October, when police fired tear gas to disband protesters and dozens of people were injured.

Some in the opposition have urged the EU to engage directly in negotiations, as it did in the crisis talks in Macedonia, but Brussels has so far rejected calls to participate directly in negotiations on a new electoral law and on the formation of a transitional government in Montenegro.

The opposition parties, the Democrats, the Civic Movement URA and DEMOS, in October called on European institutions to moderate crisis talks on organizing new elections.

But the EU said that negotiations between the ruling coalition, led by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and the opposition should stay within the country's parliament.

"Any solution to the current political situation must come from Montenegro, and political dialogue and discussion should be held in the parliament," the European Commission spokesperson, Maja Kocijancic, said.

However, BIRN has learned that Brussels will be involved to some degree in negotiations on implementing new laws designed to address irregularities in voter lists and abuses in the use of budget funds for party purposes during elections.

"'Brussels will offer a 'technical assistance', so it will still participate in the process but not as a direct actor," a senior parliamentary official told BIRN on Friday.

In his first attempt to resolve the crisis, Krivokapic last week wrote to the leaders of all parties in Montenegro's parliament, inviting them to a "parliamentary and democratic dialogue at the highest political level".

Krivokapic said it would lead to commonly acceptable solutions aimed at building fundamental trust and achieving indisputable results in the next general elections.

He said Montenegro faced a challenge in resolving a crisis that was predominantly caused by a lack of confidence in the organisation of fair and free elections and distrust in the institutions in charge of ensuring and conducting this process.

"The initiative I have launched, which has been welcomed by the European Commission, is aimed at reaching commonly acceptable solutions for building fundamental trust and achieving indisputable results in the next parliamentary elections through democratic dialogue at the highest political level," Krivokapic explained.

Montenegro's main opposition alliance, the Democratic Front, rejected the speaker's offer of talks, saying a change of government had to come through mass anti-government protests.

Other opposition parties have also said they are not ready to talk with the ruling coalition, led by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, which they accuse of corruption. But they are willing to disscus the formation of an interim goverment.

The EU Progress Report on Montenegro, released on November 10, said the new electoral legislation, adopted in 2014, needs to be fully implemented and any future elections should take place according to the new laws.

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