Montenegro is preparing another millennial nationalization, as land grabbing becomes a country’s law, with 293 million square metres of seacoast territories to be seized. Private property is being treated as a money machine, leaving owners deprived.
Montenegro, a small state of the Western Balkans facing the Adriatic Sea, was once part of the Federation of Socialist Republics of Yugoslavia, which disintegrated after the last Balkan war of 1991-1999. Montenegro became independent in 2006 following a referendum vote; it is now parliamentary republic, and like other former republics of Yugoslavia, the international community expected it become a fully democratic system.
However, for the past twenty years, the economy and the process of political transition have been characterized by strong contradictions often annihilating the civil standards intended to be established. The deeply rooted communist imprinting interwoven with an organization based on family clans has concentrated unlimited powers in the hands of the ruling party, its president, its family and the dome organization around it managed like a state enterprise.
Economically, Montenegro has manifested a capital-communist attitude in the handling of its resources, far from a liberal open market system, attributing extraordinary financial benefits to top levels and pauperizing the majority of people, the environment and the common good. A fully centralized system has been shaped to control the legislative, the judicial and the executive activities, thus breaching a fundamental democratic principle and creating unique conditions for wide corruption. Around 90% of Montenegrin state-owned industries and companies, including banking, telecommunications, mining, aluminium and oil distribution, have been privatized. Once all the state companies and industries were sold, the privatization process turned towards selling private property. No official reporting is released on privatization, so there’s no data available on where and how this money is spent.
Properties subject to be returned under the Montenegrin restitution Act (2004, 2007) issued for restoring what was stolen by the former communist regime, in place of being returned to owners were widely privatized. All relevant profits were kept by the state and not shared. The process of restitution has been prevented by a spectacular conflict of interest. The reason for so many violations lies in the grey zone around the concept of private property, which still faces questions of legitimacy and protection.
Restitution is neglected, privatization is hectic, and additional attacks are on the horizonp. So far, infringements of private property were conducted more or less behind the scene. But since 2015, the Montenegrin government has taken the attacks to the next level by drafting the draft law of expropriation.
The battle for property appropriation is being conducted by the government in the legislative realm in order to finance the budget, as well a by high level officials and connected businesses, the construction industry in particular. The fact that property owners may suffer the deprivation of their property is not given any importance though property rights, which according to Chapter 23 of the EU membership agreement are fundamental rights. Revisionist policies have taken a U turn, turning back to communist rules and methods.
As protection of property rights is disappearing, it is important to notice that this deficiency may affect the business environment and may attract only a certain kind of investors capable of securing their rights by other means and standards.
In brief, the land and property grabbing legal system can be pictured in the following frame of Acts and numbers:
- The Law of Spatial Planning and Construction, passed in September 2017, which gives construction rights absolute priority and has crushed property rights.
- PPPNOP implementing rules for the coast, (Prostorni Plan Obalog Podrucje) released in May 2018, established that all lands located 1 km from the sea is reserved for tourism, and is thus subject to be seized. Since the Montenegrin coast is 293 km long, and it represents the most valuable part of the country, the area subject to be grabbed is 293 million square metres. In this way, the government will have the legal right to expropriate and to sell to third parties, including foreign governments. PPPNOP rules are on the Parliament’s agenda for urgent approval, representing an immense lucrative opportunity at the expense of property owners.
- The Draft Law of Expropriation, again on the Parliament’s agenda after 3 years, aims at getting hold of all the attractive lands (parks, mountains) not just the belt of territory stretching along the seacoast.
- The Draft Law of Reform of the Cadastre, on September’s agenda, aims at a new management and exploitation of the cadastre.
Montenegro’s Parliament totally controlled by the ruling coalition. Thus, any law, no matter how unpopular, can easily be passed using false propaganda calling for economic growth, the need of employment or the need of investors. Moreover, exploitation and plundering is disguised by rhetorical pretext such as the interest of the state.
By putting together all the pieces of the puzzle, the reality can easily be pictured: privatization is reaching the extreme peak, all the country is to become for sale to the highest bidders, and private property is becoming a money machine controlled by the government.
The new paradigm of power and economy is determined by law, mass expropriation, and change of property registration, controversial investors and tons of concrete.
The management of the territory plays a key role in this project, and is the reason why the central government is progressively dismantling the jurisdiction of the municipalities and has expelled them from the management of local territory. Several luxury tourism complexes have been built on the coast, and the construction of others is underway, while many more are being planned. Expropriation for luxury industry all around the country at the expense of private property must be stopped.
This process in Montenegro can only be described as communism- inspired cleptocracy, and this unscrupulous policy implies dangerous consequences that will lead to instability, if not a civil war.
Montenegro applied to join the European Union in 2008 and is currently dealing with its EU accession agreement. Furthermore, in 2017 Montenegro joined the NATO alliance and became its 29th member. So the hopes are turned to the EU and the NATO, the foreign players who are watching over the democratization process of Montenegro and are in a position to prevent the pillaging of resources of the people and the country before it’s too late.