By Milena Milosevic/BIRN
May 8, 2013
Work on constitutional changes intended to increase judicial independence and bring EU accession closer is being hampered by post-election disputes, a top lawmaker said.
The president of the Montenegrin parliament’s constitutional committee, Ranko Krivokapic, said it had discussed new models for appointing the country’s supreme state prosecutor at a closed-door session on Tuesday but that progress was being impeded by political rows since the April 7 presidential election.
Krivokapic told journalists after the session that MPs had discussed ways of increasing the autonomy and legitimacy of the supreme state prosecutor.
The opposition staged a protest on April 20 against what it described as the rigged election which gave a third presidential term to governing-party candidate Filip Vujanovic of the Democratic Party of Socialists. It claims that Miodrag Lekic, leader of the largest opposition group, the Democratic Front, was the real winner.
Opposition leaders called for the results to be annulled but also demanded an end to the current practice under which the supreme state prosecutor is appointed by a simple majority vote in parliament.
“I respect the opposition’s attitude at the protest for asking for a two-thirds [parliamentary majority] for the prosecutor, and we won’t ignore that fact until we resolve other models for building trust,” Krivokapic said.
He pointed out that the political climate in which the parliamentary committee is working has deteriorated since the elections.
Constitutional changes to increase the independence of the judiciary are among the key conditions for Montenegro to open the most demanding chapters in its accession negotiations with the EU.
European Commission progress reports on Montenegro have frequently highlighted the politicisation of the judiciary as one of the country’s weakest spots.
Judicial independence is seen as key to the fight against organised crime and corruption – two issues seen as major obstacles to the country’s further advance towards the EU.
However differences remain between governing coalition MPs and the opposition about the details of the planned judicial reforms.