PODGORICA—The Parliamentary Committee on Security and Defense in Montenegro inactively and insufficiently performed its control role over the police in 2018, concluded Institute Alternative at the press conference on December 24.
Public policy researcher in the Institute Alternative Dina Bajramspahić at the beginning of conference reminded that Montenegro is the only country in the Western Balkans that regulated parliamentary oversight of security and defense sector by the law in 2010.
“The legislator’s intention was to straighten the control role of the Parliament and more effective oversight of the security and defense sector”, Bajramspahić added.
Despite solid legal framework, parliamentary oversight of the police in Montenegro stagnated. The reasons are the facts that the opposition in 2018 completely or partly boycotted the work of the Parliament and the Government completely determined agenda of the Committee’s work.
“The Committee this year held 19 sessions and one joint with the Gender Equality Committee. Sixteen sessions were open to the public, which is very positive. Three were closed. The Committee held only one control hearing and one consultative hearing. Furthermore, five hearings regarding appointing of military-diplomatic representatives and the police director”, said Bajramspahić.
Members of this Parliamentary body initiated only three sessions. Committee organized the remaining ten sessions after the Government submitted relevant acts to the Parliament.
“Two out of the three sessions that Committee initiated itself were technical. The first one concerned the 2017 Report on the work of the Committee of Security and Defense Sector and second was on the adoption of the Parliamentary Oversight Plan for the next year. The crucial activity when it comes to the Committee’s control role was hearing on Vijesti journalist Olivera Lakić. She was shot in the leg in May 2018”, explained Bajramspahić.
It is clear that in 2018 the Government is the one who has the initiative, sending materials for consideration, while the Committee passively accepts all of these.
“Committee rarely uses in its oversight practice special authorizations, control mechanisms, hearings, and visits which is possible by the law”, added Bajramspahić.
Most of the Committee’s work is routine consideration of documents coming from the Government.
The Committee in 2018 reviewed nine reports of different institutions.
“Eight reports are reviewed each year. Institutions submit them by their legal obligation. The Committee considered only two reports based on the State Audit and Gender Equality Committee initiative. Bad practice continues with discussing several reports at one meeting of the Committee. For example, all first eight reports the Committee considered in June”, clarified Bajramspahić.
Thematic discussions on specific issues have not been introduced. That leads to the generalization of the debate, which is not good for the oversight practice.
Special investigative techniques, police torture, and procurements were not on the Committee’s agenda this year.
“Since 2012, the Committee has not dealt with the application of secret surveillance methods applied by Police Administration. They did not request special reports about it although the legislation specifically mentions that jurisdiction”, highlighted Bajramspahić.
However, the list of topics that the Committee did not react is quite bigger.
“In 2018, the Committee did not react on any non-paper of the European Commission or reports on Chapters 23 and 24. Silence on anti-corruption policy and performance of anti-corruption bodies. No words on public or secret procurement in the security sector. It no longer deals with foreign trade in controlled goods. Without discussion on the situation in the air traffic safety and the establishment of an integrated maritime control and surveillance system. The Committee never considered the Police Development Strategy and other policing strategic documents”, listed Bajramspahić.
These are potential topics and the Committee must regularly discuss it in its sessions and meetings, added Bajramspahić.
This year characterized inactiveness in the legislative function of the Committee.
“The Committee considered only three laws this year, two of which are regular – the final account and budget proposal for the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense and the National Security Agency. The only law that the Committee considered that was not regular the Government’s Proposal of Law on Protection of Persons and Property. Member of the Committee had any intervention”, Bajramspahić underlined.
According to Bajramspahić, it is understandable that the ruling majority will not confront the Government in the absence of the opposition. However, it is unclear, why the Committee is passive in legislative function. They do not address security and defense sector issues by creating good legal solutions and policies for this sector.
“The Committee must find a way to perform its role. Otherwise, they will only seize government decisions, lose all the authority that he had and derived from the law”, concluded Bajramspahić.
This is the main reason why Institute Alternative prepared 13 recommendations for the Committee.