In cooperation with the European Parliament, the Parliament of Montenegro convened a randomly selected Citizens' Assembly for the first time. From 29 - 31 October 2021, the focus was on corruption in the health system and in the public sector. A major problem in this Balkan state. On 4 November, representatives of the Citizens' Assembly presented their recommendations to Parliament.
The recommendations of the 50 assembly participants had been adopted by them with a two-thirds majority. Some of the recommendations even achieved unanimous approval. To combat corruption, the Citizens' Assembly recommends, among other things, that members of the medical profession who hold public office should have their licence to practice medicine revoked during their term of office. In addition, the transparency of all institutions is to be increased. Furthermore, an improvement of the Freedom of Information Act is proposed.
Laws against corruption are to be comprehensively revised, boycotting parliament is to be treated as a violation of MPs' duties, and privileges of MPs are to be abolished. For example, they are to pay their own telephone bills. Fair and honest competition in personnel administration is to be ensured through the introduction of control mechanisms in the administration.
"New opportunities for the development of democracy"
The presentation of the Citizens' Assembly recommendations was attended by members of the Montenegrin Parliament, members of the European Parliament, citizen representatives, non-governmental organisations involved in the project, and experts in the field of deliberative democracy.
The Parliament of Montenegro is the first parliament where the European Parliament has supported the implementation of such an innovative project. Parliament President Aleksa Bečić positively assessed that "such examples create new opportunities and contribute to the development of democracy and the achievements of new democratic standards".
"Strengthening trust in parliament"
Stressing that democracy needed active citizens, the President of the Parliament of Montenegro said that "it is our obligation as elected representatives of the citizens, to strengthen their trust in the Parliament. I am sure that the Citizens 'Assembly will contribute to that goal as well." Vladimír Bilčík, Chair of the European Parliament Delegation to the SAPC EU-Montenegro, congratulated MEPs and "especially the President of the Parliament, dear Aleksa, for supporting this innovative European project of the Citizens 'Assembly."
"By supporting this project, your Parliament is showing regional leadership when it comes to openness and democratic development. Some EU member states and the European Union have developed similar tools with this conference, but no other Western Balkan country has applied it - and this truly represents a historic moment for Montenegro and your region," Bilčík said.
In a second edition of the citizens' assembly on 24 and 25 September 2022 in Podgorica, the citizens formulated and specified their views and recommendations regarding corruption in the health and public sector, exploring at the same time the possible strategies aimed at resolving these issues in a systematic manner.
A group of 50 citizens, who had participated in the first edition of “Citizens' Assembly”, explored measures to fight corruption in the health and public sector. By conversing directly with the representatives of the MP groups of the Parliament of Montenegro - MPs Ms Daliborka Pejović, Mr Dejan Đurović, Ms Tamara Vujović, Mr Vladan Raičević and Ms Božena Jelušić, they dealt with the level of implementation of the original recommendations, discussing also the views of the citizens regarding the given topic, as well as specific proposals for solving key issues for citizens in the field of healthcare and the public sector.
Recommendations to be presented to Parliament and MEPs
After two-day debate, the assembly participants adopted the recommendations by a qualified majority, to be officially presented to the members of the Montenegrin Parliament and MEPs during the special sitting in the Parliament of Montenegro.