Sunday, March 04, 2007

Hills strikes sister-city partnership MONTENEGRO AT A GLANCE

Observer & Eccentric Newspaper

The city of Rochester Hills will welcome a delegation of dignitaries from a small town in Montenegro next month.

The mayor and other leaders from Tuz, a town of 6,000 near the Albanian border, will be in town March 5-9 as part of Rochester Hills' first international sister-city exchange. They hope to learn a lot during their stay about how a city government works in a democracy.

Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said he was approached by members of the city's Albanian community after the president of Albania visited St. Paul's Albanian Catholic Church last year. Though Tuz is in southeastern Montenegro, its population is 90 percent Albanian.

Tuz is also the home town of some Rochester Hills residents. One of them, Frank Ivezaj, a teacher and consultant with Farmington Schools, prepared the proposal for a sister-city relationship with Tuz.

"Montenegro and all eastern European countries basically were dominated by communism," Barnett said. "The government was all centralized. They don't have any kind of experience so they need a lot of help."

In 2005, the government of Montenegro granted Tuz new autonomy as a municipality to run its own affairs.

Under a four-year pilot program, the city elected its first mayor, Smail- Maliq Cunmulaj, and a city council.

The sister-city partnership "will serve as a great opportunity for these two communities to institute a meaningful, prosperous and a lasting friendship," Cunmulaj wrote in a letter to Barnett.

"It will also open numerous doors for me, as a new mayor, to learn more about your city's administrative structure."

Barnett has already sent Cunmulaj a copy of the city budget and other documents. A new mayor himself, Barnett views the exchange as a humanitarian opportunity.

"Just collecting taxes, they don't have experience in that," he said. "This is huge for the residents of Tuz. This is an opportunity for self-governance. ...

"I'm really excited about the chance to offer a tremendous helping hand, and we'll learn from them as well."

Southeast Michigan is home to an estimated 16,000 ethnic Albanians. Barnett called the visit by Albanian President Albert Moisiu "probably one of the highlights of my time being mayor."

"I didn't realize there were such strong ties between our area and Albania," he said. "This is a really unique opportunity."

Article published Feb 22, 2007

NO EU for Montenegro!

Montenegro looking to apply for EU candidate status next year

February 26, 2007

BUDVA, Montenegro -- Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Gordana Djurovic said on February 23rd that Montenegro could submit an official application for a EU candidate status next year, if it implements the necessary requirements.

Her comment came during a conference on human rights, organised by the Montenegrin Helsinki Committee in Budva. Committee chief Slobodan Franovic stressed that one such priority related to EU integration progress is the adoption of a new constitution that would provide a democratic system of human rights and freedoms (Source: SE Times).

Given Montenegro’s poor track record on human and minority rights the Helsinki Committee will have to seriously weigh its readiness and preparedness to join at a time when Montenegro’s state institutions are coming under attack by European policy-makers and human rights activists as being corrupt, dysfunctional and abusive, especially towards its national minorities. In addition, Montenegro’s strained economy and social/ethnic cleavages create a real concern for EU observers as this tiny state tries to mock itself as ready and qualified to join.