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To: - Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the Venice Commission,
- Venice Commission Members
The Alliance of European Montenegrin Associations (SCAE) wishes to inform the Venice Commission that it sincerely welcomes the readiness of the Commission to provide expert guidance to the Republic of Montenegro regarding Montenegro’s Referendum Law from 2001.
Our Alliance – the sole organization which encompasses associations of ethnic Montenegrins in France, Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Cyprus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Poland, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Sweden, Austria, United Kingdom, Croatia and Serbia - wishes to stress the importance of ensuring that the Venice Commission provides balanced, unbiased and non-partial recommendations that are based on the existing legal practice and experiences that exist in other countries of the Council of Europe.
Hundreds of thousands of Montenegrin nationals live around the world - from Serbia to New Zealand - and none of them are currently eligible to vote locally in the upcoming independence referendum in Montenegro - in their adoptive countries. This is for us a completely acceptable solution. Hence, the Alliance of European Montenegrin Associations is strongly against any possible recommendation of the Venice Commission that would discriminate among Montenegrin nationals living outside of Montenegro, by favouring, for example, any special rights for Montenegrin nationals living in Serbia alone.
The principle of equality before the constitution and law for all nationals living outside of Montenegro must be the paramount concern, especially as the law in Montenegro clearly does not allow – and never allowed – citizens of Serbia and other states to vote in Montenegrin referenda.
Hereby we also voice our most serious concern over the fact that Montenegrin nationals of different ethnic backgrounds – Montenegrins, Serbs, Albanians, Muslims, Bosniaks and Croats – are represented unequally in different émigré communities outside of Montenegro. A selective recommendation by the Venice Commission to recommend that the right to vote in a referendum be granted to only one émigré environment outside of Montenegro (for example, Serbia), would mean that a special primacy is given to Montenegrin nationals in Serbia who consist of a disproportionately higher number of members of one ethnic group. This ethnic engineering of the voting system would represent an act of destabilization of the multi-ethnic character of Montenegro by trampling on the rights of other Montenegrin nationals belonging to different – often minority - ethnic backgrounds and who live in other countries.
Finally, we would like to point out to the Venice Commission that the political parties, the Government, the state-run public broadcaster, and other official elements of the Serbian state are explicitly against the referendum in Montenegro and eventual Montenegrin independence. Daily Serbian government propaganda against Montenegrin independence over the past 15 years – now formally part of the political agenda of the government of Serbian Prime Minister Mr. Vojislav Kostunica – has created an environment of misinformation of Montenegrin nationals, who are citizens of Serbia. This is not an impartial and free environment for decision-making by any Montenegrin national.
Due to our deep concern for the equal treatment of Montenegrin nationals, and the smallest of the former Yugoslav republics - Montenegro, we wish to inform the Venice Commission that the Alliance of European Montenegrin Associations will closely monitor the recommendations of the Venice Commission as we are steadfastly against any possible recommendation of “special standards” and “discrimination” among Montenegrin nationals living outside of Montenegro.
Should, by some chance, the Venice Commission or any other body recommend a special set of referendum standards for Montenegro, which are not valid in the majority of European democracies, our Alliance and its members will be forced to immediately engage the political administrations in their respective European capitals, the NGO sector and the independent media in all Western capitals to draw attention to any such partial and biased recommendations.
We remain confident that the best European practices will be the basis of the Venice Commission’s recommendations and that the Commission will fully respect the principle of complete and total equality among all Montenegrin nationals living outside of Montenegro.
SCAE President SCAE General Secretary
Jovan Radonjić, B.Sc. Zaim Čelebić