The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 18 May 2023.
Ambassador Neil Holland thanks the OSCE Mission to Montenegro for work supporting Montenegro’s elections, parliament and combatting serious and organised crime.
Firstly, I would like to welcome Ambassador Dominique Waag back to the Permanent Council. Thank you, Ambassador, for the work of your team over the last year, and for this comprehensive report on the Mission’s activities and achievements. I know our Ambassador in Podgorica highly values the close relationship with the Mission in country.
The United Kingdom recognises the challenging political context in Montenegro over 2022 and 2023, including two governments losing the confidence of parliament, and institutional stasis caused by lengthy delays in appointments to the Constitutional Court. Recent Presidential elections – and upcoming parliamentary elections on 11 June – provide an opportunity for political stability, and for Montenegro to maintain the necessary focus on reforms and democratic processes.
We positively note the Mission’s continued engagement and support to Montenegro throughout this period, building capacity and sharing expertise across a wide range of areas in support of the government’s national strategic objectives – in line with the Mission’s mandate and OSCE commitments and principles and with many areas of complementarity with the UK’s own work and priorities.
In particular, we welcome your ongoing support to the State Election Commission in administration of elections in line with OSCE principles and international standards – including in improving women’s representation and accessibility for persons with disabilities. We welcome the recent assessment of the ODIHR and European Parliament Joint Observation Mission that the second round of presidential elections on 2 April was competitive, and with fundamental freedoms respected. We encourage the Government of Montenegro to reinvigorate the electoral reform process and address ODIHR recommendations towards greater electoral integrity.
The UK also commends the OSCE Mission to Montenegro’s continued close cooperation with Montenegro’s parliament, in particular through provision of training on democratic legislation and parliamentary oversight, transparency, digitalisation, environmental protection and sustainable development. We similarly welcome your ongoing engagement with Montenegro in combatting serious and organised crime and countering trafficking in human beings, including through the provision of geospatial software, and delivering training courses on supply chains and interview guidance to strengthen law enforcement capabilities. We encourage the Government of Montenegro to support the important independent work of rule of law institutions, including the office of the Chief Special Prosecutor, particularly in investigations suggesting state-crime links.
Ambassador Waag, we particularly welcome the Mission’s continued focus on gender, and commend your progress in mainstreaming a gender perspective into programmatic work. Your report highlights some important initiatives, including your engagement with the Government of Montenegro to ensure all strategic and policy documents address the needs of women and men equally, your support to the second ‘Action Plan for a more Gender Sensitive Parliament’, and your collaboration on introducing a gender-responsive approach to budgeting in six ministries. We would support a sustained focus on gender in the Mission’s activities over the coming year.
Mr Chair, the OSCE’s field operations undertake excellent work to support the implementation of our collective OSCE principles and commitments. They need to be adequately financed in order to fulfil this role. The continued non-agreement of the 2023 Unified Budget is an enormous hindrance to the effective running of the OSCE, its institutions and field missions. We urge again those participating States who continue to obstruct agreement to look beyond a narrow national focus, and ensure all OSCE institutions have the funding they need to be able to effectively fulfil their mandate.
In conclusion, I would like to thank you, Ambassador Waag, for your leadership of the OSCE Mission to Montenegro during this reporting period, and wish you and your team success in your work over the coming year.
Thank you, Ambassador Waag. Thank you, Mr Chair.