Last week, we were reminded along the way, or learned, that September 15 marks the International Day of Democracy, one of those dates on which the United Nations reminds humanity of the important foundations on which the modern world rests. Many of these foundations, however, are largely relativized, no longer as unquestionable as they once were, when the UN was far more influential than it is today. If today human rights, equality, and even peace are the subject of different interpretations, then especially democracy cannot expect to be generally accepted as a universal category.
The developed, democratic world likes to measure democracy in the Balkans with different rulers, and that is quite understandable, no matter how unfair that relationship between teachers and students sometimes seemed to us. Among all these criteria, without comparison, the most difficult to understand is the one that has been applied to Montenegro for years, as the main detector of whether there is democracy in a small Balkan country or not. It concerns the length of Milo Đukanović and his DPS being in power, so once 15 years meant that there was no democracy in Brda and Primorje, then 20 years, and today 30. There is no respectable European newspaper, analyst, politician, commissioner, who in case Montenegro did not extract this “crown” proof of a country’s democracy.
However, we never found out where, in years or months, that border where democracy ends and dictatorship begins is. Is that four years, as the length of the term of one government in modern democracies? Or is it, perhaps, 15 years as Prime Minister Angela Merkel, or maybe 17 years, as long as the German government was led by her political father Helmut Kohl? For how many years democracy allows you to lead the party that is in power, and do Merkel and the late Kohl at the age of 18 and 25, respectively, at the head of the CDU, fit into those criteria? Maybe the number of mandates as the head of the government is crucial to assess whether someone is a democrat or not? According to that criterion, is there really any difference between Đukanović’s seven and Angela’s four terms as the head of the government?
The fact is that Đukanović and his party have been in power in Montenegro for three decades, but also democracy, and especially Montenegro, deserve not to be talked about in this meaningless form, a shell without any content. It is absurd to say about Montenegro that there is no democratic development in it because it has had the same government for three decades. It is completely the opposite – there were fundamental, essential changes in Montenegro and they went the furthest, when it comes to the Balkans.
This country has come a long way from the isolated and avoided (together with Serbia) European periphery, to a member of the club of the most democratic countries in the world (NATO) and on the very threshold of the same European society (EU). It is a country that the same Euro-officials, media and analysts, who talk about Đukanović’s 30 years, have long called “a good example from the Balkans”.
Because, it joined NATO by fulfilling the rigorous criteria of security and democracy, opened all chapters in the negotiations with the EU (Serbia opened only half, this year none), fully harmonized its foreign policy with the EU (Serbia is at about 53%)…
In the days when the “end of thirty years of rule” is being talked about with a lot of passion in Montenegro, in Serbia, but also in Europe, as a real proof of the arrival of democracy, one loses the sight of the fact that in those three decades Montenegro was a refuge for those whose life in Serbia was endangered, only to bring democracy to that same Serbia. Independent newspapers from Serbia were printed in its printing houses, because that was forbidden in Serbia. Montenegro separated itself from Milošević’s destruction because it threatened to destroy Montenegro along with Serbia. It opened up to the West in every way, even though lives were risked. In that 30-year-old Montenegro, political secret police forces from Serbia were demolished, armed commandos from autocratic states, who came to start a coup, were deported and arrested. After all, the new alliance, which is preparing to form a government these days, promises to continue to lead Montenegro from the very point reached by the previous, 30-year government. They will not demolish that political legacy, although they have been announcing that demolition since the beginning of the year. They will not leave NATO, nor will they slow down the accession to the EU, nor will they withdraw the recognition of Kosovo… Everything contrary to what they were telling to their supporters from the streets for months and in which they had strong, unreserved support from Belgrade… Contrary to everything that we have been reading for months in the Belgrade media, their loyal allies, and especially during their brutal cheering in the past election campaign. This strong and daily support for the Montenegrin opposition, almost equal to the support expressed by parts of the government in Serbia, deserved that most of the Belgrade media receive at least a symbolic gratitude from the new majority in Podgorica for the “fight for democracy”. And not just the media. It would fit into the standards for measuring democracy, which are applied exclusively to Montenegro throughout Europe and the region, and are limited to counting years. Not on their content.