- Representatives of Save Sinjajevina campaign deliver a book of signatures to the EU Delegation for Montenegro and to the Prime Minister of Montenegro.
- The EU Parliament regrets that the Sinjajevina issue regarding the installation of a military training ground is “still not solved” and “urges the Montenegrin authorities to enforce effective, dissuasive and proportionate penalties for all environmental offences and to root out corruption in this sector”.
- 250 people among international campers, farmers and shepherds gathered in St. Peter’s day (Petrovdan) to claim that Sinjajevina must be protected and that they will do their utmost to achieve it.
After more than 2 years struggling to establish Sinjajevina as a truly protected area, co-managed and co-designed by its own inhabitants, the members of the international Sinjajevina campaign received a cold shower when noticing the new intentions of the present Minister of defense of Montenegro.
On Monday 4th July and just after the NATO summit in Madrid, Mr. Rasko Konjevic stated that, “it is not logical to cancel the decision on the military training ground in Sinjajevina” and that “we are going to prepare for new military practices in Sinjajevina” directly contradicting the Prime Minister, who assured that “Sinjajevina will definetly not be a military training ground”.
Beyond this clear political conflict within the government, and even believing that the prime minister’s words would carry more weight, the truth is that, since the last attempt of a military use of this UNESCO-protected grasslands in 2020 when it was repealed by local communities and rights activists, the national government never implemented any of its well-intentioned statements about protecting this territory.
As a logical consequence, its inhabitants, supported by an international campaign composed by dozens of European and American NGOs, restarted to collect signatures in order to make the EU aware that one of its potential future members is violating the EU Green commitments among other human and environmental rights agreements.
On June the 26th, the European Parliament published its official progress report for Montenegro, reiterating that its Government should take urgent measures to “effectively conserve protected areas, continue identifying the potential Natura 2000 sites” and expresses concern about “damage to bodies of water and rivers related to infrastructure projects, including Lake Skadar, Sinjajevina, Komarnica and others” and finally “regrets that despite initial progress the Sinjajevina issue is still not solved; underlines the need for assessment and compliance with the Habitats Directive and the Water Framework Directive; urges the Montenegrin authorities to enforce effective, dissuasive and proportionate penalties for all environmental offences and to root out corruption in this sector”.
After this important statement by the EU, the Save Sinjajevina Association organized an international solidarity camp next to the Sava lake in Sinjajevina, the most important body of water of all Sinjajevina, and just a few hundreds of meters from the heart of the military training ground which is at the same time one of the best conserved parts of this territory. Around 50 people from Montenegro, Italy, France and other European countries, camped for a few days and gathered with local community members, numbering in total more than 250 people, to celebrate the St. Peter’s day (Petrovdan), one of the most important community celebrations of the year for its inhabitants, vindicating the inviolability of Sinjajevina.
After it, the World BEYOND War celebrated a youth camp where young people from Montenegro and from Bosnia and Herzegovina shared different points of views to overcome the Sinjajevina conflict and create a strategy for a long-term peaceful relations both in Montenegro and the Balkans.
““Respecting local communities is a must. We are willing to organize meetings with the institutions of Montenegro if they don’t agree to meet with members of the Save Sinjajevina association”.”Laura Zampetti, Deputy Head of Political section in EU Delegation to Montenegro
Finally, after this successful events, the president of the Save Sinjajevina Association, Milan Sekulovic, handed over the international petition with the support of more than 20,000 signatures from worldwide citizens to both to the representatives of the Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro and the Montenegrin Prime Minister. More than 25 national and international media reported both the signatures’ delivery and a demonstration of Sinjajevina inhabitants in Podgorica, the Montenegrin capital.
“We are overwhelmed and proud of the enormous show of international support we have received from many countries. It seems that international citizens have realized that destroying Sinjajevina means destroying a green heart of Europe and, as a society, we cannot allow that in our home”, stated Sekulovic.
Ms Laura Zampetti, Deputy Head of Political section in EUD and Ana Stanišić Vrbica, Good Governance and European Integration Advisor received the Save Sinjajevina delegation, and insisted on “respecting the local community” and that were willing to “organize meetings with the institutions of Montenegro if they don’t agree to meet with members of the Save Sinjajevina association”. For the moment the cabinet of the Montenegrin Prime Minister received them but not the Prime Minister Dritan Abazović. Abazović’s cabinet assistant assured that “the majority of the members of the Government are against the military training ground on Sinjajevina and will do everything possible to put the decision out of force”.
““We are overwhelmed and proud of the enormous show of international support we have received from many countries. It seems that international citizens have realized that destroying Sinjajevina means destroying a green heart of Europe and, as a society, we cannot allow that in our home.”Milan Sekulovic, President of the Save Sinjajevina Association
A few days after the protest in Podgorica and the submission of the petition to the Prime Minister and the EU Delegation on the 18th of July, the Ministry of Ecology has announced that Sinjajevina should become a protected area, and that the Decision on the military training ground should be repealed.
As Sekulovic says, “the last Save Sinjajevina campaign was thoroughly planned and well executed, even with the scarce resources it has. And this is just one more proof of the team’s good coordination, because results continue coming in. Now there is a growing support to Save Sinjajevina among other different members of the Government (beyond the larger society), and even if the Ministry of the Defense, in hands of a minority political party of the Government, insists on the need to maintain its current official status and relaunch its use as military training ground”
Finally, at the best, “we only get good words from Montenegrin politicians: until we have a law to protect Sinjajevina, we will never stop protesting”, states Sekulovic.
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