2021 Montenegro: Exporter of Crime to the Region

IFIMES has analyzed the situation in Montenegro after the 100 days of the new government. We bring the most important and interesting parts of the extensive analysis titled “2021 Montenegro: Exporter of Crime to the Region.” 

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The parliamentary elections in Montenegro, which were held on 30 August 2020, marked the defeat of the 31-year long regime headed by Milo Đukanović and his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS).

The new government was established on 4 December 2020 and it comprised three coalitions: “For the Future of Montenegro”/Koalicija za budućnost Crne Gore/ 32.55% (133,267), “Peace is Our Nation”/Mir je naša nacija/ 12.53% (51,297) and “Black and White”/Crno na bijelo/ 5.53 (22,649).

The newly established expert government does not include representatives of minorities, who under different forms of pressure had rejected the invitation to participate in the Government because they are still under the control of Milo Đukanović and had been his political puppets in the previous period.

Upon its establishment, in order to prevent bankruptcy of the state the Government of Montenegro issued bonds for a period of seven years in the amount of € 750 million and with an interest rate of 2.8%. The issuing of bonds was necessary so that the government could pay in March 21 the due installment of the € 525 million loan, while the remaining funds from the bonds have been earmarked for economic development. The indebtedness of Montenegro now amounts to over 100% of the GDP. The biggest short-term challenge for the Government is to address the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences and prepare for the upcoming tourist season, because Montenegro cannot afford itself another lean tourist season. Montenegro has still not adopted the budget for 2021.

Analysts believe it is important that the Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Legal Status of Religious Communities had been modified in order to eliminate the tensions in the Montenegrin society. The current government took over management of the state at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic and with a very difficult legacy of Milo Đukanović and the DPS. The citizens have great expectations from the new government. Significant steps forward have been made in the first 100 days of the new government in the area of social justice (“justice for all“), nondiscrimination and resolute fight against crime and corruption. Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović, who heads the criminal octopus, and the DPS members present in all segments of state institutions are a constant impediment to the activities of the new government. Symbolically speaking, Montenegro is a ship on which the helmsman is Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić, while the crew is comprised of DPS members. These are impossible conditions for work, because of the permanent imputations, frame-ups and obstructions by members of the former regime, as well as President Đukanović. Montenegro is to face groundbreaking changes, and first of all establishment of strong national institutions, which will discontinue the previous practice - the rule of individuals combined with weak or subordinated institutions.

Bosniaks and Albanians to build their future without Đukanović

The 31-year rule by Milo Đukanović's regime had left far-reaching consequences on the Bosniaks and Albanians in Montenegro, who were an inevitable factor of his rule. Namely, individuals from the two ethnic communities made it possible for his authoritarian regime to remain in power. Although Montenegro has no majority ethnic community, the political leaders of Bosniaks and Albanians have “voluntarily” agreed to be a minority community in the country with no majority community.

Milo Đukanović was one of the main protagonists of the wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. Namely, during the war in BiH he was the Montenegrin Prime Minister and occasionally attended the sessions of the Supreme Defense Council (VSO) of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. His responsibility is also related to the developments in Montenegro itself. During the war in BiH, Đukanović managed to separate the Islamic Community in Montenegro and appoint the leadership of the Islamic Community that is loyal to him and has no institutional connections with the Bosniaks-Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In that period the multi-century-long relationship between Muslims in Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina were interrupted and have never been institutionally renewed. In addition to the well-known war crime cases in in Bukovica and Štrpci, the deportation of Bosniaks-Muslims, the Morinj concentration camp, there are also numerous other cases of maltreatment of Bosniaks. After the war, the Bosniaks found themselves under the pressure of strong assimilation, the so-called “new montenegrinhood“.

Đukanović managed to divide the Bosniaks by creating at least three ethnic communities: the Bosniaks, the Muslims and Montenegrins of Islamic faith. As a result, the Bosniaks in Montenegro stopped being an independent political factor. In fact, the intention is to reduce them in the future to just several percentages of the population, whereas majority are to become Montenegrins of Islamic faith who speak Montenegrin language. Therefore, it is no coincidence, and the analysts also are asking questions about his role, that an ethnic Bosniak had been appointed the Dean of the Faculty of Montenegrin Language and Literature. The upcoming census of the population in Montenegro will have historic importance for the Bosniaks, because it has been envisaged that the census is to be used to reduce the Bosniaks to just a few percentages of the overall population and make them an irrelevant political factor.

Furthermore, Đukanović has even managed to become an honorary senator of the Bosniak Institute in Sarajevo. This is a rare example in the world in which the victims express admiration and respect to their “deathsman” – which is exactly what some Bosniaks had done to Milo Đukanović, an untried war criminal. In fact, while a part of the current Montenegrin government negates the genocide in Srebrenica, Milo Đukanović had participated in it.

Analysts believe that the Bosniaks and Albanians have to start building their future together with their other countrymen and without Đukanović, who is history. Specifically, they have to be cautious not to become the biggest collateral damage of the independence of Montenegro- particularly as without them it would not have been possible for Montenegro to become a sovereign and independent state.

Involving Bosnia and Herzegovina in the defense of Đukanovic

In 2017, Montenegro became a full-fledged member of NATO. In fact, in order to ensure his rule Đukanović made a political turn overnight and proclaimed the intentions of Montenegro to become a NATO member.

Although Montenegro had become a NATO member, Đukanović still uses political manipulations and spreads (dis)information about the alleged endangerment of Montenegro- particularly by Russia and Serbia. Namely, there is no record that Russia had ever attacked any single NATO member county since the inception of NATO, while Serbia was bombed by NATO in 1999.

Analysts believe that Milo Đukanović is trying to include Bosnia and Herzegovina, and particularly the Bosniak political factor in the defense of his rule and not Montenegro, which is a NATO member but should allegedly be defended and protected by Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is not a NATO member but a vulnerable country endangered by a range of internal and external threats and challenges. Đukanović is trying to mobilize individuals, nongovernmental organizations and the civil society in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the aim of allegedly protecting the endangered Montenegro, a NATO member, while he is actually trying to protect his survival in power, as well as his freedom. The attempt is to implement a process of “humanization” of a war criminal in the eyes of the public.

Montenegro exports crime to the region

Following the arrival of the new government Montenegro has become unsafe for (organized) crime. Namely, during Đukanović's rule Montenegro has become a haven for regional and international crime. There are numerous reports that indicate that Montenegro has become a refuge for crimes. This was tolerated by the West under the justification that peace and stability are more important than democracy and the rule of law. The roots of crime in Montenegro go back to the period of wars in the region and the international sanctions. In this period unbreakable bonds were established between political and criminal structures.

After the establishment of the new government, organized crime had started to slowly leave Montenegro and seek refuge in other countries in the region, particularly Serbia. It rather suited Đukanović to “relocate” a part of the crime and mafia to Serbia, as well as other countries in the region so that he could became a political factor in these countries. By exporting crime to the region Đukanović is trying to preserve his role of a regional actor. A testimony of that is the “hybridization” of Montenegro after the model of Nikola Gruevski's regime (VMRO-DPMNE) in North Macedonia, where intelligence services had registered more than 150 internet portals for publication of fake news. Namely, Đukanović is currently applying the same model in Montenegro. The goal is to forcibly overthrow the Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić (SNS) from power, in order to destabilize Serbia and bring into question the finalization of the dialogue between the official Belgrade and Pristina, which would once again destabilize the region and create new divisions. Specifically, Đukanović pursued a policy of division because it has helped him remain in power all this time.

Analysts believe that predominantly Serbia, and partly Bosnian and Herzegovina, are at risk because of the exporting of crime from Montenegro. The imported and domestic criminal structures, a part of the political structures and a part of the foreign factor are involved in the attempts to topple the government headed by the current Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić (SNS), who has recognized the threat in a timely manner and embarked on a showdown with crime.

Analysts believe that the key move made by the Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić is the showdown with crime in his own ranks, because the true fight against crime starts when you combat crime in your own ranks. Hence, this is a herald of success that the state of Serbia will achieve in the showdown with crime and criminals. Serbia has chosen the right path in the showdown with crime and will therefore succeed. This will also initiate the same and/or similar processes in other countries in the region, which will not suite specific political leaders.

The export of crime and mafia from Montenegro does not constitute a threat just for the countries in the region, but also for EU member countries. An investigation into financial transactions would reveal that enormous amounts of “dubious” money have massively been transferred from Montenegrin banks abroad.

Failure to disband ANB is the key mistake of the new government

Montenegro still has the national security authority (UDB), which was never disbanded because of the constantly raised issue about the threats to Montenegro and how much potential it has to defend itself. However, Montenegro is actually threatened by highly organized criminals, which means that a qualified, equipped and strong police force and Office of the Prosecutor is required. In Montenegro crime and corruption are present in all pores of the society, and the solution to this problem should be sought using the “top to bottom” approach. The Agency for National Security (ANB) acts as if it is in the service of the crime.

Analysts believe that the new government has made a key mistake by not disbanding the Agency for National Security (ANB), whose members are still destabilizing both Montenegro and the region, while acting as a service of criminal structures. Essentially, the ANB is a criminal organization. The Czech Republic had disbanded and dissolved its national and military security services. This is the best option for such services, despite the fact that for a period of time the state will not be able to get or use information relevant for the decision-making process. In the example of Montenegro, the ANB has fed crime and criminals with the required information. Criminals cannot exist if the state and its institutions do not allow them to exist.

Analysts believe that stability, peace and prosperity of the Western Balkans require a strong engagement by NATO. However, there is no example in the history of NATO that a political leader had damaged the image of NATO in such a short period of time as Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović has since 2017, when Montenegro became a full-fledged member of NATO. Therefore, for quite some time already Đukanović is a real and serious problem for NATO and its image.

Expulsion of Ambassador Božović – test for Prime Minister Krivokapić

Milo Đukanović's regime expelled the Ambassador of the Republic of Serbia Vladimir Božović several days before the parliamentary elections due to his alleged interference in internal affairs of Montenegro. Expelling of an Ambassador is a measure rarely applied in practice and particularly between friendly or neighboring countries, because it factually implies a kind of a situation of imminent war in which it is expected that a country will declare war to the other country or permanently disrupt the relations with it. Prior to the expulsion of Ambassador Božović, Montenegrin authorities banned access to institutions of the state of Montenegro for the Minister-Advisor with the Serbian Embassy.

According to analysts, the new Montenegrin government should relax the relations with Serbia and other neighboring countries. The analysts suggest that Montenegro could organize joint sessions with the governments of neighboring countries. As a sign of friendship and friendly neighborliness, the Montenegrin government should adopt a decision on return of Ambassador Božović to Montenegro the sooner the better and in such a way at least partly restore the relations between the two countries. This will be a true test for Prime Minister Krivokapić. However, it will also be an opportunity for him to show that he shall pursue a policy of discontinuity from Milo Đukanović's regime and that he is not just a branch of Đukanović's regime.

Montenegro’s dependence on Russia and China

Although it is a full-fledged NATO member country, Montenegro has (pro) Russian personnel strongly infiltrated in its security-intelligence-defense system. Đukanović brought Russians to Montenegro “through the front door”. Montenegro is economically tied to Russia, because 20% of its companies are owned by Russians (and 20% of companies are owned by citizens of Serbia). At the same time, China has gained control over Montenegro’s public finances through the loan awarded for construction of the highway. Specifically, because it controls the key investment, the Bar-Boljare highway, it can endanger public finances of Montenegro at any time. At the time the construction of the highway increased the foreign debt of the country to more than 70% of the GDP, whereas the foreign debt is currently over 100% of the GDP. The Montenegrin government entered this project despite the strong warnings by Brussels and Washington.

Analysts believe that there is no NATO member country that is depended on Russia and China to such an extent as Montenegro.

Analysts believe that Montenegro must develop strong state institutions because practice has shown that a state without institutions is more often than not in the hands of mafia, and thus becomes easy pray for Russian and Chinese influence. Montenegro is a textbook example of such a state.

New government must send clear messages to the West

The new Montenegrin government must send clear messages to the West, like Montenegrin Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić had done during his visit to the EU and NATO headquarters in Brussels, not the ambiguous messages like the ones disseminated by specific representatives of the current authorities and then exploited by the defeated autocrat Đukanović. By joining the “Mini Schengen” regional initiative Montenegro will promote regional cooperation and its position in regional and international relations. Montenegro relies on the countries in the region, tourism and services.

Analysts also believe that this is the end of Đukanović's political career, and beginning of his career as an indictee. At the local elections Milo Đukanović lost in his hometown of Nikšić. This confirms that the wave of democratic changes in Montenegro is an unstoppable process and marks the beginning of the post-Đukanović era in Montenegro. A thorough investigation and search for the plundered money/ property of the citizens of Montenegro should be implemented through the institutions of the system, in accordance with the law and on the basis of the rule of law. In this respect, it is necessary to establish a separate fund for return of the property illegally obtained by members of the former regime, their family members and persons who accumulated enormous wealth and robbed Montenegro on their behalf. The recent departure of Hashim Thaci (PDK), as a Đukanović's political-criminal Siamese twin, to The Hague (Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor's Office (KSC-SPO)) shows that justice may be slow, but is attainable. As on Kosovo, Thaci is dubbed “criminal of war” and “criminal of peace” - Đukanović could be dubbed in the same way.

According to analysts, in the context of shedding light on the overall situation in Montenegro it is of paramount important to, inter alia, publicize the names of all the foreign officials, primarily EU officials, who had ventured into criminal arrangements with Milo Đukanović and were “remunerated” by him with dubious money. The fact that an untried war criminal is at the helm of one of the NATO armed forces remains a problem. Specifically, the fact that Đukanović, as an untried war criminal is a commander in chief of an NATO armed forces- the Montenegrin Armed Forces, constitutes a major problem. Joining the “Mini Schengen” initiative also means decriminalization of the region. Therefore, it is crystal clear why Đukanović has been refusing this project the whole time. It is important that positive processes have been initiated in the region and they will slowly but definitely eliminate the proponents of crimes such as Nikola Gruevski (VMRO-DPMNE) and Hashim Thaci (PDK) - while next in line are Edi Rama (PS), Boyko Borissov (Gerb) and Milo Đukanović (DPS)./IFIMES

Ljubljana/Brussels/Washington/Podgorica, 17 March 2021