VIENNA – Through the development of local communities and their citizen contribution from below, Montenegro can help accelerate the reforms needed for the country to become an integral part of the EU, the policy brief concludes. “Rebuilding democracy from below: a case of local communities in Montenegro”published within the WB2EU network.
It is added that the civil inputs could also improve the socio-economic position of vulnerable groups in several parts of the state and reduce social and political inequalities among different individuals and groups.
“The democratic potential of local communities, as legally defined governing bodies, must be used to address the current crisis of democratic government in Montenegro and help the country accelerate key reforms in the EU accession process », underline the authors.
They recommend that local authorities should have their own work spaces from the start, as well as the professionalization of the people working with them, whose work will be paid by the municipalities.
The second recommendation states that all local communities should open bank accounts and that municipalities should allocate specific funds from the budget to them. “Control of cash outflows from local community bank accounts should be carried out by local communities. Official email addresses and dedicated websites should be created for more effective communication with citizens, ensuring full transparency.
The Policy Brief recommends that local communities have a population register compiled for their locality on their websites.
The authors explain that local communities (LCs) in Montenegro are, above all, a fundamental community for solving local problems. According to the Montenegrin law on local self-government, they are defined as a starting point for solving the problems of citizens in the narrowest localities. A local community is therefore a governing legal entity which has the possibility of complete and separate functioning in relation to local self-government (LSG), where the LSG governing a municipality, as a higher authority, must delegate some of its powers to an LC governing a certain locality within the municipality, add the authors.
Policy Brief cites the results of the investigation carried out by the Center for Civil Liberties (CEGAS) and the media Vijesti on the theme of the role and activities of local communities. From a sample of 682 citizens from 22 municipalities, 76.7% of citizens responded that they had never had contact with the LC governing the locality where they live, while only 6% responded that their LC had them. helped to obtain some of their rights at a given time. According to a survey, 97% of citizens responded that they knew nothing about the finances managed by their LC.
The authors believe that the principle of decentralization, as a key principle of local governance, as well as the legal solution defining the work of local communities in Montenegro, therefore does not exist.
“LCs do not function in practice and do not fulfill the role assigned to them as such. In the pat, they were generally more visible during election campaigns, when they typically served as a gathering space for those who supported the structures in power. Without knowledge of CLs, as the survey results show, citizens are often forced to refer immediate local problems to the National Assembly or the central government, which is not responsible for solving immediate problems in localities specific,” write the authors. .
They emphasize that the examples from Montenegro alone can help to better understand why LGs, their activities and practices, as well as the active participation of citizens on the ground, can be catalysts for social change.
The policy brief presents some examples of CLs from Montenegro that managed to establish themselves as functional through citizen initiatives and actions that transformed the communities in which they were active.
“Examples of three different LCs in three different Montenegrin municipalities used alternative, innovative and active citizen participation initiatives, mechanisms to promote change, sustainable development, environmental, educational and cultural practices, community building, etc. However, they also show how the lack of institutional channeling of these practices through LCs and local engagement presents a challenge to establishing such practices as norms rather than exceptions,” the authors assess.
They conclude that examining CLs in the context of democratic transformation in Montenegro is a case worthy of further investigation, given its potential as field case studies of democracy, democratic institutions and democratic governance in practice, but also for the development of society and governance. more inclusive and sustainable economic policies and strategies.
The Policy Brief is published as part of the WB2EU project. The project aims to establish a network of renowned think tanks, do-tanks, universities, higher education institutes and policy centers from the Western Balkans, neighboring countries and EU Member States that will be the most decisive for the process of enlargement and Europeanization of the European Union. the region in the years to come. The WB2EU project is co-financed by the European Commission as part of its Erasmus+ Jean Monnet programme.