“The current political situation in Montenegro could be described as turbulent,” begins Jelena Bogetic, Associate at BDK Advokati, as “the recent amendments to the country's Freedom of Religion act have spurred a lot of controversy and backlash from the public."
According to Bogetic, "the Act prescribes that all religious objects which belonged to the Montenegrin state before 1918, and the ownership of which was inscribed to the religious community without a proper legal basis, will be treated as state property.” According to her, “this issue, probably, affects the Serbian Orthodox Church the most.”
The government of Montenegro reacted fast and hard to the new coronavirus, locking the country down and at one point even publishing lists with the names and addresses of people who were infected and had to remain in isolation. “This initial move, while motivated by a desire to put pressure on people to stay safe and keep each other in check, sounded like it crossed data protection legislature lines,” Bogetic says. She mentions that “there are NGOs that have initiated a constitutional review procedure to see if this decision was, in fact, legal – this procedure is due to end soon, and we’re all waiting for the results of it.”
Still, Montenegro showed some impressive results, Bogetic says, at least for a while. “We actually had a few weeks without any newly infected people and without any active cases,” she says, but she admits that the country’s good fortune eventually changed. “The government made a hard turn after its health protection measures proved effective, and it opened up the borders to EU member states and some other states in the region.” As a result, the COVID-19 infection numbers went back up, but Bogetic still thinks that the “government reacted timely and properly.” At the time of writing, Montenegro has 933 active cases, with 330 recovered persons and 24 deaths.
The subject moves away from the pandemic. “An interesting legislative change is the new Corporations Act,” Bogetic reports. The new Act, she says, contains “a lot of improvements compared to the old law – it introduces a two-tier corporate structure, the concept of independent members of the board of directors, and regulates white-collar crime in a much more detailed fashion,” which she believes adds more legal safety. “The Act allows for a much clearer path to suing a company, imposes a duty of care on management, and regulates situations which may present a conflict of interest … a lot was done with this Act!”
Montenegro, like its Balkan neighbors North Macedonia, Serbia, and Croatia, is in an election year. “The upcoming August elections only add to the fire,” Bogetic continues. The COVID-19 crisis still ongoing, and she worries that a change in government might have adverse effects on the country’s fight against the pandemic. “If the government were to change,” she says, "I think that the transition process might slow the battle against the crisis down, but if the current structure remains in place, existing measures aiming to protect the public health and the economy would continue to be applied seamlessly.”