Newly Formed Government Led by PM Spajic Sets Ambitious Agenda Amidst Uncertainty
In the wake of Montenegro’s parliamentary election in June this year, which left the country in a prolonged state of political uncertainty, the “Europe Now Movement” emerged victorious against the alliance led by the “Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro.” The victory, marked by the lowest voter turnout recorded at 56%, signified a pivotal moment in the country’s political landscape, overshadowed by three years of turmoil. This triumph saw the Europe Now Movement secure its second win, having previously ousted long-serving President Milo Dukanović through the presidential candidacy of Jakov Milatović.
Subsequently, on August 10, the President appointed Milojko Spajic to form a new government, granting him a 90-day window for this task. The culmination of weeks of negotiations finally materialised on October 31, as Spajic secured support for his coalition, making him the newly appointed prime minister of a diverse governing body. The coalition comprises of pro-Serbian parties – moderate the “Europe Now Movement“ and „Democratic Montenegro“ (Demokratska Crna Gora/Demokrate), Socialist People’s Party – Democratic Alliance (SNP-DEMOS), and two small Albanian minority coalitions.
Notably, the inclusion of the strongly pro-Serbian nationalist coalition “For the Future of Montenegro” (Za Budućnost Crne Gore) sparked controversy. Led by the pro-Serbian/Russian Democratic People’s Party, despite warnings from the European Commission, Spajic chose to form the Government with their support. In return, the coalition secured the post of the parliament speaker and four ministerial positions.
Spajic said his Government remains committed to fulfilling pre-election promises, encompassing economic and judicial reforms, as well as advancing Montenegro’s EU accession process. However, uncertainties loom over the stability of the newly formed Government and the feasibility of the ambitious reform agenda.
Shortly after assuming office, Prime Minister Spajic received a visit from Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. During this meeting, von der Leyen underscored the imperative for Montenegro to redirect its focus entirely toward the EU accession process, emphasising the country’s historical leadership role among the Western Balkan six.
Following these developments, Montenegro’s parliament appointed a new government on October 31, consisting of a coalition of pro-European and pro-Serb parties, reflecting the aspirations of the small Balkan country to join the European Union. Led by economist Milojko Spajic of the Europe Now Movement, the Government is set to comprise 19 ministries and five deputy prime ministers.
Prime Minister Spajic outlined the Government’s four main foreign policy priorities before lawmakers, emphasising full EU membership, active and credible NATO membership, improved relations with neighbours, and strengthening the country’s role in multilateral organisations. Economic policies will aim to enhance the living standards of Montenegro’s population, encompassing reforms for increased fiscal revenue, investment, a better business climate, and judiciary. The Government secured the support of the pro-Serb and pro-Russia coalition For A Better Montenegro, led by Andrija Mandic, in exchange for the position of the parliament speaker and four ministerial posts after a government reshuffle tentatively scheduled for the next year. This move raises lots of concerns among the partners from the EU and the West.
In its initial session, the new Government postponed a scheduled population and household census due to technical problems and a planned boycott by opposition parties. Prime Minister Spajic assured citizens of transparent census proceedings, with software allowing individuals to verify their data and opposition members included in census commissions. Despite economic challenges, as outlined by the World Bank, predicting a 4.8% growth in 2023, Montenegro remains committed to its Euro-adopted economy and has played a distinct role on the international stage, joining NATO in 2017 and actively participating in EU sanctions against Moscow after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin’s response has placed Montenegro on its list of unfriendly states despite mounting questions of how strictly the sanctions are in praxis observed.