In addressing participants at the annual anti-corruption conference, Aivo Orav, the EU Ambassador to Montenegro, stated that corruption is an affront to the very foundations of political, economic, and social values, and to societal well-being. The effects of corruption are serious and widespread, as it undermines the rule of law, chokes off investment, weakens trust in governments, and enables organised crime, Orav pointed out.
“If we wish to promote democratic and open societies, boost business confidence, improve the investment climate, and spend public money more efficiently, we must jointly step up efforts to fight corruption. Transparent, accountable institutions, and strong criminal justice systems that hold corrupt officials accountable, are crucial in preventing corruption,” stated Orav.
The Ambassador stressed that Montenegro had achieved a level of preparation in this area since the beginning of the EU negotiation process. However, corruption remains an issue of concern, and is still prevalent in many areas.
“Sustained efforts are needed both in the prevention and repression of corruption, including increased transparency in all areas prone to this phenomenon. More needs to be done to consolidate the initial track record of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions – particularly in cases of high-level corruption. Furthermore, financial investigations, seizures, and confiscation of assets, need to be improved,” added Orav.
The director of anti-corruption NGO MANS, Vanja Calovic-Markovic, stated that the state must criminalise both the illegal enrichment of public officials, and the illegal financing of political parties, and that there should be no untouchables in the fight against this phenomenon.
“Those who come to power through criminal funds make decisions in the interest of those who funded them, not the state and citizens. The government is implementing reforms that incorporate private interests and methods that allow them to remain in power, because that is the only way they can continue getting rich while avoiding justice," said Markovic Calovic, adding that this is the reason why there is no progress with regards to Montenegro’s European integration. “The European standards and the rule of law mean that there are no untouchables, and those who steal must go to prison,” said Calovic- Markovic.
Montenegro's chief negotiator, Aleksandar Drljevic, stated that the fight against corruption is one of the primary prerequisites for the society to achieve full democratic capacity.
“I think that this is a good opportunity to understand how results are achieved in a responsible manner; not only to be aware of the importance of this topic, but also to look at current challenges that need to be overcome, primarily in protecting the interests of our citizens, but also towards fulfilling our obligations under the European agenda," said Drljevic.
Interior Minister Mevludin Nuhodzic stated that facts regarding the Government's anti-corruption measures are indisputable, and that the government stands for a responsible attitude across all institutions – without a protected, or selective, approach. Therefore, the Government sees the non-paper of the European Commission as a well-intentioned analysis, and one that provides a useful cross-section and roadmap.
The conference was organised by NGO MANS to mark the International Anti-Corruption Day.