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Montenegrin Parliament continues to avoid Conflict of Interest Law

On Monday, 31 July 2006, the Parliament of Montenegro voted against a new draft law governing Conflict of Interest. The law currently in place has first been adopted in 2004 and holds a number of serious flaws.

Current law fails to provide an adequate definition of a conflict of interest, or to offer clear criteria for its recognition. Public officials are allowed to serve on multiple boards of directors of major companies and receive payment for it. The law had been re-adopted unreformed in April 2004 with the provision that amendments to ensure compliance with international standards would soon be developed. Two years went by before a new draft was proposed, and Parliament managed to keep it off the agenda for discussion for a further eight months. Only one case of conflict of interest has been pursued since.

“Strict regulation of conflict of interest is an absolute necessity for any country wishing to accede to the European Union,” says Miklos Marschall, Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia at Transparency International. “If Montenegro wants to be taken seriously by the EU, its parliament must stop avoiding judicial reform for personal gain.”

The draft law rejected on Monday had only been discussed after two open letters to the President of the Parliament by Montenegro-based NGO MANS, a partner of Transparency International. The dismissal now, ahead of parliamentary elections in September, circumvents any further discussion on a conflict of interest provision before November 2006.

MANS has long been advocating for a clear regulation on conflict of interest. In 2004 research conducted by the group on government officials had revealed that all four deputy prime ministers as well as six ministers held posts in the board of directors of more than 20 different companies. They since had to resign from these positions.

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