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Democracy Without Institutions – New Balkan Invention

 

Political influence prevents the much-needed democratic development in our states – creation of institutions of sufficient level of integrity and credibility which really deserve the trust of citizens. Lack of trust in state institutions cannot be an ally of democratic norms, values or stability of our societies.   Continue reading Democracy Without Institutions – New Balkan Invention

Overwhelming problems in field of electoral integrity

Montenegro is facing overwhelming problems in the field of electoral integrity, said executive director of the Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) Dragan Koprivica, adding that the institutions tasked with the elections are biased and ambiguous.

CDT, that analyzed the work of the Anti-Corruption Agency (ASK) and the State Electoral Commission (DIK), organized on Thursday the panel discussion “How to achieve electoral integrity”.

Opening the panel discussion, Koprivica said that DIK failed several important tests and expressed hope that in the following period things would change form roots.

“We can hardly speak about independence and unbiasedness when the institutions lean on what parties tell them without thorough investigation and content control. We can hardly speak about existence of accountability when the Agency says that there is no abuse of national resources in Montenegro, or that ASK is transparent when it does not release its own decisions”, said Koprivica.

ASK assistant director Savo Milasinovic said that the Agency has been acting upon the complaints and media allegations, reports and data regarding violation of the law on financing of political entities and election campaigns.

Commenting on the allegations that the Agency is carrying out formal control of the reports without carrying out essential investigative activities, he explained that ASK does not have any investigative authorities, but that it is an institution of prevention performing within its legal competence.

Branka Bosnjak of the Democratic Bloc believes that ASK implements double standards towards the opposition and the ruling majority.

She believes that finances donated to the political parties must be much more transparent.

DPS MP Marta Scepanovic said that there is always space for ASK and DIK’s improvement, and added that it is hypocritical to speak negatively about the Agency’s work only when its decisions do not suit one side.

President of the United Montenegro Goran Danilovic said that those institutions are not functional and professional since electoral process is not legitimate, and added that the only fair elections would be those prepared by the interim government.

Road Map for Good Governance for the state institutions in Montenegro

Good governance is key to rule of law. And while issues of corruption, transparency, rule of law and good governance are always in the spotlight, there remains a lack of understanding and systemic problems that hardly receive sufficient coverage.

The “Accountability, Technology and Institutional Openness Network in South East Europe – ACTION SEE” project aims to raise awareness of such challenges by facilitating cooperation among civic organizations and consolidated strategic efforts for representation.

In cooperation with partners from a regional network of NGOs Action SEE, Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) prepared the Roadmap for Good Governance for the State institutions in Montenegro, based on the Regional Index of Openness. 

We analyzed a level of transparency, openness and accountability of institutions in Montenegro and provide action steps for improvement.

The Regional Index of Openness of institutions is developed in order to establish to what extent citizens of the Western Balkans receive timely and understandable information from their institutions.

Coach site visits to ACTION SEE grantees

ACTION SEE coaches that work closely with grantees on implementation of their project, have organized coach site visits to awarded CSO’s. The purpose of these meetings was to advise and assist grantees in their project implementation.

Tasks of the coaches are to: facilitate the monitoring visits, complement the capacity building efforts and provide follow-up support to the CSOs, conduct outreach towards their constituents, the media and the relevant state institutions…

Coach site visits are organized with:

* Biciklo me. on 4th June, 10th July, 14th September 2018

* New Order on 15th May, 21st June, 11th July 2018

During these meetings coaches and grantees discussed on project activities, goals, plans, timeline, including both programme and financial component. Awardees from Montenegro are:

NGO – New order that implements “Citizens for better Local community” project that aims to provide the higher level of involvement of the citizens in the policy making process on local level as well as to increase reliability and accountability of the officials during electoral campaign as well as during their whole mandate.

Rising awareness of the citizens about the importance of their involvement in the functioning of the local government and decision making process is one of the key goals of this project, strongly related to the increasing of interest of citizens for the important topics and problems on the local level, based on their needs and obtained information about functioning of the municipal administration.

Also, establishing of the transparent and swift method of generating the needs of the citizens through public campaign is equally important, hence not less than to increase level of accountability of local officials in their regular and electoral activities.

Furthermore, increasing of reliability and responsibility of political parties for their actions during electoral campaign and after the elections and establishing of direct communication between citizens and officials, based on the mutual interest for the improvement of the local community is crucial for aiming the main goal of this project.

Finally, not less important is promotion of the importance of the NGOs and local media in the creating of policies on local level.

At the end of the project we will have more informed citizens about functioning of local government and its competence and responsibility toward community, widely educated citizens about methods of the involvement in the policy making and functioning of the local government, public officials that are aware of the importance of their accountability for their statements and actions, open and reliable promise making of the officials based of the registered citizens’ needs and interest of the local community, reinforced direct communication between citizens and officials and raised public awareness of the importance of involvement of local NGOs and media in the functioning of the local community.

NGO Biciklo.me that implements “Project “Better Traffic – Better City” project, that aims to analyze problems arising in Podgorica as a result of inadequate and outdated public policies that regulate traffic.

Through online, desk and field research we will show how these problems impact the people and the space in the city, and propose solutions that could improve the current situation. Public debate about the present challenges and future plans for better and more efficient traffic system is significant part of the project, which is envisioned as an effort to help local institutions in tailoring better traffic policy.”

Less openness, institutions stagnate

On the occasion of the International Day for the Right to Free Access to Information, CDT organized a conference “Openness of Institutions of Executive Power in Montenegro and the Region”.

Milica Kovačević from CDT spoke about the regional Index of Openness of institutions which showed that institutions stagnate and do not meet the recommendations of the non-governmental sector to promote openness.

“The worrying trend is falling openness in Montenegro and the region,” Kovacevic said, and reminded that the Government of Macedonia, according to the latest research conducted by a network of organizations from this region Action SEE, is the most transparent government in the region and has overtaken the Government of Montenegro.

“There are still no policies that define openness. The institutions from the government through the ministries to the administrative bodies achieved results that are very different. Openness still depends on the will of the institution’s managers, not on clear policies and procedures, “she said.

Minister of Public Administration Suzana Pribilovic believes said that this year’s indicators are more numerous and more demanding, which affected the weakening of the results. “We appreciate that given recommendations are significant for future action, and I believe that this direction has been adequately defined by a number of measures and activities in the Draft of the National action plan for the Implementation of the Partnership for Open Government initiative,” said Pribilovic.

She also said that openness, efficiency and accountability in managing represent condition without which it is not possible to develop participatory democracy or democracy in general, which is a process that still lasts. While representing research results in detail, Biljana Papovic from CDT said that differences in the results of the institutions are very large.

On average, the ministries in Montenegro meet 60% of the openness criteria. The Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism ranked the best with 76% of the openness indicators met. The Ministry of Transport and Maritime Affairs ranked the lowest and meets only 34% of the openness indicators.

“Such large differences in results are an evidence of unequal access to openness policies, and the need for strategic planning and development of openness at the level of all ministries”, Papovic said.

On average, the administration bodies meet 36% of the openness indicators.

A large number of administration bodies are not committed to meeting the highest standards of openness, and not even to meeting the legal minimum of proactive disclosure of information. Such practice is unacceptable and needs to be changed urgently.

In our sample, the highest ranked were the Tax Administration (72.5%), the Secretariat for Legislation (55%) and the Statistical Office of Montenegro (51%). The lowest ranked were the Directorate for Execution of Criminal Sanctions (15%) and the Directorate for Development of Small and Medium Enterprises (16%).

Liljana Pecova Ilieska from the Metamorfosis Foundation from Macedonia said that if there is no legal obligation to publish the information, institutions will not do it on their own initiative.

“We have to change that way of thinking. To change the awareness of officials – so to promote ourselves and the institution”, she said.

Danira Karović from the Association of Citizens Why not? from BiH, believes that in BiH it is noticeable that the higher the level of the institution, the greater the percentage of transparency.

She believes that the problems of institution openness are similar in all countries.

Vujo Ilic from the organization CRTA from Serbia believes that political will and legal solutions that will not depend on political will in the future, are necessary. In the continuation of the conference, the implementation of the Open Government Partnership Initiative in Montenegro and the region was discussed.

Transparency in Decision-making Processes in the WB

   

This paper “Transparency in Decision-making Processes in the Western Balkans” presents  the results of an inquiry into transparency of public decision-making in four Western Balkans countries – Serbia, Montenegro, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

It was inspired by a similar study conducted by Access Info Europe and partners during 2017, which found “an appalling lack of transparency of decision making across Europe, which prevents members of the public from following and participating in decision-making processes, as well as from holding public officials to account for their exercise of power”.