Daniel Serwer: Montenegro lacks good opposition

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Montenegro has done a fantastic job in international integration the past ten years. Good work was done on the economic front as well, alongside consolidating institutions, which is all good news, and not many countries in the Balkans can say that they’ve had that much good news, Daniel Serwer said in an interview with Dnevne Novine daily.

Professor at the Washington’s Johns Hopkins University and long-time vice president of the US Institute for Peace, Serwer recently visited the Faculty of Political Science in Podgorica, where he spoke to students about the reaches of Montenegro’s independence.

Mr. Serwer said the most important thing Montenegro did in the past decade is avoided the war and the worst ethnic divisions. He said he then opposed EU’s condition for 55 percent at the independence referendum in 2006, because he thought it was unfounded. In retrospect, however, he said he is pleased because Montenegro got its independence this way, because no one can ever dispute it.

In the meantime, accelerated integration EU and NATO processes started taking shape. Serwer said everything was done in record time, and that Montenegro was wise to direct its military forces from the start to be compatible with NATO.

“Many were previously skeptical that Montenegro is in a position to negotiate membership in the EU, but you denied them. You kept your inner multiethnic community and good relations with neighbors, even with Croatia, with which there is still an open question of Prevlaka. You established borders with Kosovo and BiH, and you have good relations with Serbia, despite Serbia’s opposition to your independence.”

DN: Many analysts estimate that Montenegro still lacks a change of government as “proof” of democracy. How do you explain the long life of Milo Djukanovic in power?

SERWER: He simply had the votes. And he still does. Also, a major part of the opposition behaved unconstitutionally. This is the opposition which cannot ascertain how they want to run this country, because it did not want a country, it did not want the independence of Montenegro. So I do not see how they could come to power in this manner. And democracy requires an opposition able to come to power, to take it over. It is necessary to have an opposition that has a real chance of winning power. I think this is what Montenegro lacks.

DN: Are these changes really necessary, if the government is achieving results that you spoke of yourself?

SERWER: I’m not talking about the good results of the government, but the health of the system. A real, healthy democratic system is one that has the capacity and the power to change the course by democratic rules. Take US elections for example. No one today can know who the president of America will be until January. This is an example of a real chance to change the government. Of course, democracy does not exclude that a party could receive most votes in the continuity of 20 years, or even longer, but again, what Montenegro lacks is a solid opposition, but a pro-constitutional opposition.

DN: How do you see Djukanovic’s decision to open his government for the opposition leaders before the October parliamentary elections?

SERWER: A wise move. If you can organize elections that no one will be able to question, it is a wise move. There are examples in other Balkan states, Macedonia and Kosovo, where such attempts got out of control. Even in Serbia, there are certain doubts about the purity of the electoral process. What is most important is to enable the people to be sure of free and fair elections.

Commenting protests of the opposition, Mr. Serwer said this is nothing extraordinary. However, he added it became obvious to him that these particular protests were led with the use of Russian logistics.

SERWER: Russia, which did not resist Albanian, Slovenian and Croatian accession to NATO, has now changed its position and is now trying to halt any expansion of NATO. In this way, in fact, Russia is best showing the people in the Balkans, Ukraine or Georgia why they need NATO membership in the first place. The Russian pressure is actually very counterproductive in practice.

Source: Cafe Del Montenegro