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ELECTION OBSERVATION CRUCIAL FOR MONTENEGRO

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In the difficult environment of managing a public health pandemic because of the coronavirus, Montenegro would be well advised to invite international support organisations to monitor the upcoming parliamentary elections later this year, to ensure that there are no politically motivated restrictive measures. The Coronavirus pandemic should not be used as a pretext for limiting the transparent election process. such a move risks the government  to negative criticism of their commitment to democracy and deal a serious blow that would impact on the reputation for any future Government for many years - writes Vladimir Krulj,

The Author, Vladimir Krulj, is an Economic Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), London

The Author, Vladimir Krulj, is an Economic Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), London

To the contrary, the presence of international observers to monitor the process during such difficult times would be crucial for protecting these fundamentals for Montenegro in the context of their ongoing EU accession process. Election observation today is the norm with 85% of all elections in new democracies organising the involvement of international agencies to monitor their operation. In todays world, failure to inviteelection observers could be misinterpreted as meaning that the country is not guided by basic democratic principles, and give rise to accusations that the society tolerates electoral malpractice.

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International observers representing diverse political interests, academic and professional expertise give credibility to the full international legitimacy of the election process and can lend important support to the country during its transition to the democratic set of norms established by EU.

Safe, peaceful, free and fair elections will foster democratic development in Montenegro, reinforce its sovereignty and independence, and pave the way for greater cooperation with the EU and economic prosperity for the Montenegran people.

Montenegro is at a crucial point in its accession process to become a  member of the EU, and whilst the current negotiations with Western Balkan states are not a beauty contest, it is nevertheless important for Montenegro to demonstrate the countrys commitment to the same democratic values and principles of good governance expected of EU Member States.

In recent elections for neighbouring countries in the Region, both North Macedonia and Croatia arranged for observer teams, but there were no observation missions for Serbia; indeed there was no political campaigning, no opposition, with the result of a landslide74% victory for the ruling coalition. Although Serbia is another candidate country to join the EU, it seems to follow a different road in terms of freedom of media, rule of law and electoral fairness.This presents Montenegro with the opportunity to aim for higher standards, and follow the examples of North Macedonia and Croatia to go for best governance practice.

The attention of the EU on standards of governance for elections has recently been drawn into sharp relief by the failure of Belarus to respect any standards in the conduct of their elections due on 9 August. Montenegro needs to distance the country totally from such behaviour, and show efforts to implement procedural and legal safeguards to enhance inclusiveness, integrity and transparency during all stages of the electoral process.

Accusations have already started to be levelled in the media to cast doubt on voter registration, and there is a need to counter black propaganda with hard facts and attention to demonstrate that Montenegro is determined to protect democracy and the rule of law and to ensure a meaningful and competitive political contest.

It is time to act quickly to stop such negative propaganda, by putting in place positive structures to support and defend political rights and freedoms. Inviting international observers to monitor the election process is one such measure that needs to be implemented as soon as possible.

The Author, Vladimir Krulj, is an Economic Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), London

Economy

Issuance of green bonds will strengthen the international role of the euro

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Eurogroup ministers discussed the international role of the euro (15 February), following the publication of the European Commission's communication of (19 January), ‘The European economic and financial system: fostering strength and resilience’.

President of the Eurogroup, Paschal Donohoe said: “The aim is to reduce our dependence on other currencies, and to strengthen our autonomy in various situations. At the same time, increased international use of our currency also implies potential trade-offs, which we will continue to monitor. During the discussion, ministers emphasized the potential of green bond issuance to enhance the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate transition objective.”

The Eurogroup has discussed the issue several times in recent years since the December 2018 Euro Summit. Klaus Regling, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism said that overreliance on the dollar contained risks, giving Latin America and the Asian crisis of the 90s as examples. He also referred obliquely to “more recent episodes” where the dollar’s dominance meant that EU companies could not continue to work with Iran in the face of US sanctions. Regling believes that the international monetary system is slowly moving towards a multi-polar system where three or four currencies will be important, including the dollar, euro and renminbi. 

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European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, agreed that the euro’s role could be strengthened through the issuance of green bonds enhancing the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate objectives of the Next Generation EU funds.

Ministers agreed that broad action to support the international role of the euro, encompassing progress on amongst other things, Economic and Monetary Union, Banking Union and Capital Markets Union were needed to secure the euros international role.

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EU

European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case

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An investigation by Germany into a deadly 2009 airstrike near the Afghan city of Kunduz that was ordered by a German commander complied with its right-to-life obligations, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday (16 February), writes .

The ruling by the Strasbourg-based court rejects a complaint by Afghan citizen Abdul Hanan, who lost two sons in the attack, that Germany did not fulfil its obligation to effectively investigate the incident.

In September 2009, the German commander of NATO troops in Kunduz called in a U.S. fighter jet to strike two fuel trucks near the city which NATO believed had been hijacked by Taliban insurgents.

The Afghan government said at the time 99 people, including 30 civilians, were killed. Independent rights groups estimated between 60 and 70 civilians were killed.

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The death toll shocked Germans and ultimately forced its defence minister to resign over accusations of covering up the number of civilian casualties in the run-up to Germany’s 2009 election.

Germany’s federal prosecutor general had found that the commander did not incur criminal liability, mainly because he was convinced when he ordered the airstrike that no civilians were present.

For him to be liable under international law, he would have had to be found to have acted with intent to cause excessive civilian casualties.

The European Court of Human Rights considered the effectiveness of Germany’s investigation, including whether it established a justification for lethal use of force. It did not consider the legality of the airstrike.

Of 9,600 NATO troops in Afghanistan, Germany has the second-largest contingent behind the United States.

A 2020 peace agreement between the Taliban and Washington calls for foreign troops to withdraw by May 1, but U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing the deal after a deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan.

Germany is preparing to extend the mandate for its military mission in Afghanistan from March 31 until the end of this year, with troop levels remaining at up to 1,300, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

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EU

Digitalization of EU justice systems: Commission launches public consultation on cross-border judicial co-operation

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On 16 February, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the modernization of EU justice systems. The EU aims to support member states in their efforts to adapt their justice systems to the digital age and improve EU cross-border judicial co-operation. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders (pictured) said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of digitalization, including in the field of justice. Judges and lawyers need digital tools to be able to work together faster and more efficiently.

At the same time, citizens and businesses need online tools for an easier and more transparent access to justice at a lower cost. The Commission strives to push this process forward and support member states in their efforts, including as regards facilitating their cooperation in cross-border judicial procedures by using digital channels.” In December 2020, the Commission adopted a communication outlining the actions and initiatives intended to advance the digitalization of justice systems across the EU.

The public consultation will gather views on the digitalization of EU cross-border civil, commercial and criminal procedures. The results of the public consultation, in which a broad range of groups and individuals can participate and which is available here until 8 May 2021, will feed into an initiative on digitalisation of cross-border judicial cooperation expected at the end of this year as announced in the 2021 Commission's Work Programme.

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