Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Balkan trip day 9: Citizenship and Podgorica

This morning we had a meeting with our contact person Sinisa who discussed with us about the current situation in Montenegro. The situation is not that positive. Although the country is focusing to integrate in the European Union and is an official candidate for membership in the EU, there is a lot of corruption and individual interests that determine the Montenegrin political scene. Besides, the obtaining a legal status (citizenship) for people who are living for decades as refugees from other countries of former Yugoslavia is (still) problematic. The strange and unrealistic criteria and the bureaucracy are working against them. This has as consequence that thousands of people from different areas from different countries of former Yugoslavia are living in Montenegro for 12-15 years, but do not have a legal status as well as many people from the Roma background that did not receive any identity card. This is a significant number, because the official number of inhabitants of Montenegro is only about 620,000 people. Also politically the opposition is very divided. The Serbian opposition tried to form a joined coalition but did not succeed and the opposition became fragmented. It is interesting if and how the EU could deal with these challenges.
In the afternoon Sinisa showed us some interesting parts of Podgorica like an old bridge with parts of the old city wall and a very old church that was very important but unfortunately lies on ruins now. After this we met Emil, representative of the Montenegrin member party of the ECPM. He gave us an honest and balanced view about the situation of the party and the activities that the ECPM could develop Montenegro. This meeting was in a small restaurant where the food was excellent but where the smoke of the smoking people made from my lumps a paved highway (unfortunately smoking in general, but especially in restaurants is a big problem in (South) East European countries).
After this meeting, Auke and Annechien had some free time in the city when in a personal discussion with Sinisa we were developing new ideas for regional collaboration in the Balkans.
In the evening we visited him at home with his lovely wife and children. The time in Montenegro was a blessed time before we are heading to ... Albania, the next stop in our Balkan trip.

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