President of Montenegro, Jakov Milatović, stated at the closing of the 2BS Forum that he had expected the government formation negotiations to proceed more quickly, despite Prime Minister Milojko Spajić negotiating with 18 political entities.
Milatović noted that, unlike other European countries, Montenegro provided an extended period for the formation of the government.
What is also a characteristic of our system is a very long period in which someone can form a government. In many countries, when you receive a mandate, you must propose a government within a month. In Montenegro, the constitution provides for a 90-day deadline, but no one has elaborated on whether the prime minister can hold the mandate during that entire period, so the conclusion is that he can. Holding the mandate for a period that is so long allowed all participants in the process to position themselves, and all of this, it seems to me, complicates the process of forming a government, said Milatović.
He expressed his belief that with a much shorter deadline, Montenegro would have already had a government.
Milatović reiterated that he had expected the process to move faster.
After the elections on June 11, we have a new situation, with a large number of actors in the new Parliament, a total of 18. When you have 18 political actors negotiating a government, it should be kept in mind that all of this complicates the process. I have said that neither Spajić nor anyone else had an easy task, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been done more quickly, assessed Milatović.
He pointed out that Montenegro is not the only country in Europe that forms a coalition government.
This government, like the previous ones, will be a coalition government, no matter how it looks. Every coalition government is formed following programmatic principles, and it seems to me that this was lacking here. I believe that he could have better and more adequately used the process to obtain answers from political actors to important programmatic questions. That is what I most criticize about the process, not him personally or anyone else, the President added.
When asked if he still wants the “For the Future of Montenegro” coalition in the government, Milatović said he has been clear from the beginning and that it is not for him to say who will be in the government and who will not.
For me, it must be a politically stable government, and I believe that a government supported in Parliament by a larger number of MPs is more stable than one supported by fewer MPs. This is clear and mathematically precise, and in the case of Montenegro, it is important in the context of the majority needed to unblock judicial reforms that are crucial for progress on the EU path, emphasized the President.
Milatović reminded that Montenegro has been ruled by four regimes: the first was the Petrović Njegoš dynasty, the second the Karađorđević dynasty, the third was the communist regime, and the fourth, which governed Montenegro for thirty years, was under the DPS (Democratic Party of Socialists).
The first democratic change of power in elections occurred in 2020. It is essential to say that – we as a nation in our history democratically changed the government in 2020. These four regimes, no matter how you observe them, were essentially very authoritarian, almost autocratic. True democracy came after the first democratic change of power in 2020, said Milatović.
When asked if he believes that they did not show authoritarianism in 2020 and that it immediately dawned on Montenegro, Milatović replied, Of course, those who came to power at that time did not fully meet the challenge. To be genuinely democratically oriented in power, you must have a fear of losing elections because the fear of losing elections drives you to be better and democratically inclined. For the first time, that ‘fear’ came to Montenegro in 2020, Milatović added, emphasizing that in the past three years, there has been a change of government at the national level because, as he said, only changing the government can make the government better.
When asked about the relations within the PES (Pokret Evropa sad) and the responsibility for the ongoing stagnation in government negotiations, Milatović said that the blame should be placed on those who have the ball, and the ball is with the Prime Minister.
But he is yours? remarked the moderator, Adnan Rondović.
He is primarily his own, Milatović replied.
Milatović stated that he does not participate in the presidency of the PES and therefore does not know what is happening within it.
A dozen smart heads know how to come out of this situation even wiser and stronger. I don’t want to advise only the PES but every party in Montenegro, said Milatović, adding that it is up to us to show that this is a fundamental change and that the older politicians have become extinct, making way for younger, fundamentally better ones.
When asked about the importance of the United States as a partner to him, Milatović stated that compared to other politicians, there is continuity with him, and he is principled and grounded on three priorities: on the foreign policy front, those are accelerating Montenegro’s EU path, credible NATO membership, and good neighborly relations. On the domestic front, it’s economic progress through a sustainable economic model, judicial reform, and Montenegro as a society of social cohesion and equal rights for all.
He mentioned that the United States has helped Montenegro on its path to democratic maturity and assisted in identifying individuals from criminal structures within Montenegro’s judiciary.
Milatović compared the process of democratizing Montenegrin society to a child learning to walk.
As a child learns to walk, it stands up and falls. That’s how we learn democracy, but it’s important to learn to walk, he said.
When asked whether he is an ethnic Serb or Montenegrin, Milatović stated that he is ethnically Montenegrin.
I am ethnically Montenegrin, and I believe these are the personal attributes and feelings of people in Montenegro. I am fighting for a Montenegro where people can feel the way they want to feel, and where we will stop convincing each other of who we are and what we are, said Milatović, adding that everyone should feel as they want to feel.
But in the previous period, due to certain feelings, people did not have equal opportunities. Montenegro should be a country where, regardless of how someone feels, they should have an equal right to success in life, emphasized Milatović.
He also mentioned that he has a feeling that someone, instead of building a society of equal opportunities, used identity divisions for their own gain, and that’s why, in the past 30 years, we have had a group of people who used autocratic power to enrich themselves.
When asked what he would do to prevent the political instrumentalization of the census and the formation of a third Serbian state, Milatović stated that Montenegro is committed to a unified Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it is not true that there is any other Serbian state in the Balkans.
We see Bosnia and Herzegovina as a unified country, and that needs to be clearly reiterated and stated, said Milatović.
Regarding the census, Milatović said that Montenegro is a Montenegrin state, has been, is, and will be.
It is a state of citizens who identify themselves as Montenegrins, Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks… As for the census, I think the more we mention it as a topic, the more we politicize it. I believe the best thing we can do is not to mention it. The census is a statistical matter that happens in every country; it will take place from November 1 to 15 in Montenegro, and it must happen. I don’t mention it, and I think that is the best contribution to avoid politicizing this issue, Milatović concluded.
He mentioned that after the census, we will know how many people live in Montenegro, how many have left in search of a better life, and how many Ukrainians have come to the country.
The most important thing in the census is for people to freely express themselves. That is the principle I promote. If there has ever been a time in Montenegro when someone could say what they think and how they feel, it is now, emphasized Milatović.