Newsletter 22/2012 - Our South East Europe

INTERVIEW with Dusko Markovic, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Montenegro

RCC, meeting point of ideas, cooperation platform, and mechanism of coordination and exchange of information

Minister Marković, what do you currently see as main challenges in the field of justice and home affairs for South East Europe?

The largest challenge we currently face in South East Europe is the rule of law, i.e. the enforcement of laws, as well as the threats of organised crime and corruption.

The Balkans specificity can be seen from two perspectives: as aggravating circumstances and as an additional strength. What does this mean? The history of SEE countries, their language and cultural characteristics and similarities, family contacts and the overall complex ties make it more difficult to fight organised crime which I see as one of the biggest global challenges, and thus the main challenge in the region. However, it is this common cultural and historical heritage and lack of language barriers that can also serve as additional impetus to building strong institutional links among the countries, i.e. impetus to developing regional and international cooperation as a mechanism that has no alternative when it comes to fighting organised crime, corruption and present-day security risks.

As a democratic country, Montenegro aims to not only maintain but also improve the area of justice, freedom and security. Thus, the fight against organised crime is not only our European agenda but also our national priority.

The Regional Strategic Document on Justice and Home Affairs has strategically targeted main regional threats such as fighting organised crime and corruption, combating irregular migration, refugees return, bringing sustained improvements to the rule of law, etc. After the first year of its implementation how would you assess the level of cooperation of the participating countries?

Regional cooperation in the mentioned area is assessed as successful and intensive. Though general, this assessment is based on concrete success indicators represented as results achieved in fighting crime and corruption and in the area of strengthening the rule of law and legal security of citizens.

However, I believe we have to further invest into the vision of regional collectiveness in the area of justice, freedom and security which is embodied in the Regional Strategic Document.

The main prerequisite of successful fight against organised crime, in addition to the in-country measures, is accession and active participation in the relevant regional and international associations and networks as well as cooperation in providing mutual legal assistance based on multilateral conventions and bilateral agreements, along with continuous training and education.

As the most efficient mechanism in terms of its results, I would single out bilateral extradition agreements (which provide for extradition of own citizens for criminal offences of organised crime, corruption and money laundering). Montenegro has signed such agreements with Serbia, Croatia and [The Former Yugoslav Republic of] Macedonia; the agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina is prepared and we have also started the negotiations for signing such an agreement with Kosovo[*]. The agreements proved to be good instruments in fighting crime as they limit the area of operations and escape of perpetrators of serious criminal offences since their citizenship no longer represents the obstacle for their extradition to another country. In the absence of bilateral agreements, there is the instrument of transferring criminal prosecution while in case of legally valid sentence against the citizen of another country we can strengthen the application of admission and enforcement of court decisions in the countries whose citizen is in question. In other words, in case of a lack of bilateral or multilateral agreements, these instruments, though perhaps anachronistic, are efficient where there is trust, political will and firm commitment to enforce the law. 

Montenegro has signed the agreement on the provision of mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, which is the basis for provision of mutual legal assistance, with Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the agreement on mutual enforcement of court decisions in criminal matters with Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia which enables the sentence rendered in one signatory state to be executed in another.

I would stress the direct cooperation among the competent state authorities in the region as an inexhaustible potential of successful fight against this challenge and the main prerequisite of efficient practice. There are good signals from all sides but no coherent systematic approach to this type of communication whose main prerequisite is trust into the other country’s system and good will.

What is your assessment of the importance of the recently adopted monitoring and evaluation mechanism for the implementation of the regional strategy?

The monitoring and evaluation mechanism for the implementation of the Strategy is as important as the Strategy itself and its Action Plan. Intensive cooperation among the SEECP and RCC participating states over the past period created institutional and operational mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation of implementation of these documents.  

Let me remind you, with no wish to be immodest, that the Strategy and Action Plan were endorsed in Budva and that the Steering Group on Regional Strategy (SGRS) on justice and home affairs was established in line with the Budva Declaration. Members of the Steering Group are representatives of the relevant Montenegrin institutions, namely Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, Ministry of Interior, Supreme Court and Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office. Representative of Montenegro in the SGRS regularly attends the meetings in order to analyse the Strategy and the Action Plan and define priorities and further activities. 

In the institutional sense, it is important to mention the Regional Expert Groups in the area of judicial cooperation in criminal and civil matters – representatives of relevant Montenegrin institutions participate in their work too.

These mechanisms, along with the monitoring and evaluation mechanisms (M&EM) as regional monitoring instruments to evaluate the level of regional cooperation in the area of justice and home affairs, represent efficient response to the challenges the countries face in their joint efforts to strengthen justice, freedom and security in the region and beyond.

How would you assess the role of the Regional Cooperation Council in initiating the Regional Strategic Document and following through its implementation?

Montenegro is committed to regional and international cooperation as, among other things, a tool that leads to a successful European and Euro-Atlantic integration of the country as well as a goal per se.

The Regional Cooperation Council has an important role as a hub of individual efforts focused on achieving the goals set by the Strategy, as a meeting point of ideas, as a platform to facilitate cooperation and as a mechanism of coordination and exchange of information. Furthermore, the RCC has an important role in promoting European integration process through analysis of the best EU practices in the area of justice and home affairs and defining measures that will contribute to applying the EU standards, mechanisms and best practice. 

One of the distinctive values of RCC’s operations is its role to support and monitor the activities of the existing regional initiatives and organisations, promoting their importance and preventing overlapping of activities. This role is of special importance having in mind numerous activities of the countries aimed at accelerated approximation to the Copenhagen criteria and standards that guarantee full EU membership.

Dusko Markovic has been Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice in the Government of Montenegro since 2010. Prior to that, Markovic performed many senior duties, such as: Minister without portfolio, Director of the National Security Agency, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and Head of the State Security Service, Member of the Parliament of Montenegro, Secretary General of the Montenegrin Government and President of the Municipal Assembly of Mojkovac. He graduated at the Faculty of Law in Kragujevac, Serbia.

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.



Dusko Markovic, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Montenegro. (Photo: courtesy of Mr. Markovic)

Dusko Markovic, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Montenegro. (Photo: courtesy of Mr. Markovic)