After a long experience in the NGO sector, Jovana Marovic decided to get involved in politics with the URA movement. In this interview, she tells us about her choice and her vision on the path to European integration of Montenegro.
“In Montenegro, the wind is blowing changes, reforms, the political will to launch the fierce fight against corruption, organized crime, and at the same time to strengthen institutions and the rule of law.” Long-time civic activist Jovana Marovic explains in an interview with OBC Transeuropa her decision to enter the Montenegrin political arena, accepting the vice-presidency of the URA civic movement from Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic.
“I spent 11 years in the NGO sector, it was a very productive time, but also frustrating given the disappointing results on the reform agenda. In that sense, it made sense, at least for me, to try to change something where decisions are made, ”explains Jovana Marovic. “Even though the URA is part of the government, during the next period I will devote myself completely to working within the party. I believe that it is necessary to strengthen the parties which cultivate European values in order to stay the course of foreign policy in Montenegro and to strengthen “civic consciousness” in society ”.
What most motivated you to enter politics, the historic moment in which Montenegro finds itself after the change of regime that has reigned over the country for 30 years, or the program and results of the URA in this day ?
Both. The URA is the only party that has goals and a program that I can relate to, while in Montenegro the climate is now more conducive to the implementation of reforms than a year ago.
Montenegro recently “celebrated” nine years since the start of EU accession negotiations. What about the fact that no country except Turkey has been involved in the negotiation process for so long?
Montenegro has not been able to achieve adequate results in areas that strengthen the rule of law because the DPS (the party of President Milo Dukanovic) has effectively taken over the institutions and, therefore, it has failed. It was not possible to solve the most serious problems, because this meant deeply touching the interests of the hierarchies of the regime and carrying out a real fight against corruption and organized crime.
Montenegro is a vivid example that – even on the part of the EU – something is not progressing well with regard to enlargement to the Western Balkans. Unlike Serbia, which faces various obstacles on its way to the Union, Montenegro apparently has none but, despite everything, stands still. Why?
Besides the lack of concrete results in Montenegro, the speed and duration of the negotiation process are influenced by developments within the EU itself: we are talking about the various crises that have hit the Union. Then there is the chronic problem of the democratic deficit in the EU and in some member countries, and finally the pandemic. Having said that, it is understandable that the EU has focused on itself, but one of the collateral damage has been the health of democracy in the Balkan region, which has opened the door to the region for others. non-Western powers. I believe that strengthening democracy must be done quickly at all levels.
The new government has been in power for more than six months. In your opinion, is it ready to change the pace and break the deadlock in negotiations with the EU which has now lasted three or four years?
The change of power finally created the conditions to “erase” from public discourse the expression “lack of political will”, which referred to the anemic fight against illegality and corruption among state officials. However, the situation within the judiciary is not encouraging and it will take time to get it back on track. However, it is up to Montenegro to take seriously the commitments made in the negotiations with the EU and the democratization process. This is the only way to meet the conditions. The commitment is there, I believe that progress is not far.
Do you have the feeling that the EU, or rather some Member States, are using the problems of the region to slow down European integration rather than using European integration as an extraordinary means of solving the outstanding issues in the Western Balkans?
For a long time, the EU has used so-called “stabilization” to maintain the status quo in the region, keeping the countries of the Western Balkans at bay, to the detriment of the reform process. Nevertheless, I think this approach would have at least partially changed if some countries had shown better results in the reform program.
Can we say that the EU is not right since it applies much stricter conditions for the countries of the Western Balkans than those used for the countries which joined the EU in 2004 and 2007?
In view of the problems the EU has had to face since the accession of countries which did not achieve the level of democratization required at the time of enlargement, I believe that stricter conditions are not necessarily unfair. What had to go hand in hand with the negotiation process was a more active engagement of the EU “on the ground” and better monitoring of the effective implementation of reforms.
What do you think when you hear once again that Montenegro and the other countries in the region have a European perspective and that the EU will not be complete without the accession of the Western Balkans?
I think it is a truth that no one can deny, but the rhetoric and the theoretical will to integrate the Western Balkans is not enough. At this time, a new impetus is needed, using the new methodology to motivate countries in the region to seize the incentives and benefits offered by the new approach, which should however be better specified and implemented.
What could the countries of the Western Balkans do, individually or together, to improve their image and that of enlargement in the public opinion of the countries of Western Europe and Scandinavia, which have historically been opposed to further enlargements?
The countries of the Western Balkans must work to strengthen democracy for the benefit of their citizens. Any movement in this direction will affect the change in public opinion in the countries of Western Europe.
Is the EU’s support for the idea of creating a sort of “mini Schengen” in the Balkan area another sign that Berlin, Paris and Brussels do not see enlargements on the horizon and are looking for an alternative? ?
“Regional integration” initiatives are numerous, the “mini-Schengen” is only one. We have often had discussions and controversies about their ability to replace membership and these are the best that the EU can offer the countries of the Western Balkans. I am not against this type of regional integration, but the EU should “anchor” them to the new methodology and make it clear that they are part of the conditionality policy and the path to accession.