How significant is Milo Djukanovic’s defeat in the recent presidential elections and his resignation as DPS head? Can we really talk about the end of an era?
Indeed, Djukanovic’s defeat at the presidential elections and accompanying resignation from the position of the party leader mark the end of an era in Montenegro, but more in a symbolic than substantial manner, as all challenges remain due to the continuing lack of quality of political elites, and nowadays even lack of resilience of the new decision-makers to malignant influences.
Djukanovic’s legacy is dual, with positive aspects linked to his pro-Western course, from the period of distancing from Milosevic and being an important support to the West and Serbian opposition in the fight against Milosevic, through sheltering Albanian refugees in 1999 from the Serbian military and paramilitary forces, to restoring the statehood of Montenegro, opening the EU integration process and getting NATO membership.
However, his ruling is also marked by the kleptocratic approach, along with the development of endemic corruption, organized crime that deeply penetrated institutions, and nepotistic-clientelist ties that limited the necessary professionalization of public administration.
What do you think of the new president in Montenegro, Jakov Milatovic, and what to expect from the forthcoming parliamentary elections? And do you believe Milatovic is the right person to help stabilize the nation and build stronger, more stable, and equal relations with neighbouring countries like Kosovo and Serbia?
Milatovic comes from a right-wing populist party, and he is strongly backed by the Serbian Orthodox Church. On that wave, his party – the Europe Now movement – will undoubtedly emerge as the single strongest or one of the strongest parties after the extraordinary parliamentary elections in June 2023.
His stance on some of the important issues is unclear or far too aligned with political aims of Serbian President Vucic, which is raising questions about his ability to stabilize the nation and maintain/build relations with neighbouring countries, especially as he seems to underestimate the sources, complexity and depth of the polarization in Montenegro.
Do you believe the EU admission process, which has been effectively stalled in recent years also due to various political crises, will resume and proceed quickly enough? And how important is it for Montenegro to join the EU in a foreseeable future?
Accession to the EU is of key importance for the democratization of Montenegro, but it has been stalled due to the lack of effective political will and long-lasting political crisis. We have 11 years of lost chances behind us and the common denominator of all our politicians during that period, regardless of which spectrum they come from, is that, when faced with possibility for loosing monopolies of power in application of EU benchmarks, they choose to retain power to the detriment of our EU path. Simply, our politicians see the rule of law as the right to rule over the law, and that is far away from the EU standards and best practices.
What about Russia’s impact in the region? Do you believe Montenegro, a NATO member and EU candidate, is ultimately safe from external destabilization attempts?
Russia’s influence in the region is growing, while Western partners are losing leverage, and this is posing challenges to Montenegro’s stability. Hence, Western partners need to pay more profound attention to support democratic consolidation of the country.
Russian influence in Montenegro is primarily mainstreamed through certain media that unhinderedly spread Russian propaganda, political groups that do not hide their attachment to Russia, but the most powerful mechanism is the Serbian Orthodox Church.