The Center for Democracy and Human Rights held a press conference today, December 15 at 12 noon, where the results of the “Ethnic Distance” research, which was supported by the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights and the Hanns Seidel Foundation, were presented.
The research was carried out in 2023 with the aim of identifying key aspects of ethnic issues, as well as identifying the degree of ethnic distance.
The press conference was opened by Fikret Lulanaj, an independent adviser in the Directorate for Minorities within the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights. The results of the research were presented by professor Miloš Bešić, the chief research methodologist, and Andrea Mićanović, program manager at the Center for Democracy and Human Rights.
The level of ethnic distance in Montenegro has decreased in the last five years from 35.3 to 22.9 percent, according to research by the Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM).
“Ethnic Distance” research has the aim to identify key aspects of ethnic issues, as well as the degree of ethnic distance.
The chief methodologist of CEDEM, Miloš Bešić, said that the change in the degree of ethnic distance was influenced by the change of government in 2020, adding that, despite the reduction, every fifth member of any community still expresses ethnic distance.
“At this moment, almost 23 percent of citizens still express distance, which is still one quarter and a high degree,” said Bešić.
He stated that this is the lowest level since the referendum, but that “the work is not finished yet”. “There are still problems, but the trends are encouraging,” said Bešić.
According to him, participation in government is the most important factor for all ethnic communities when it comes to the perception of discrimination and disrespect for minority rights.
As Bešić said, the research showed that ethnic distance has decreased among Serbs, while it has increased among Bosniaks.
“The key reason for the decrease is that the number of Serbs who express ethnic distance, which was previously high, significantly decreased due to the fact that there was a change of government and significant participation of members of that nation in the government,” explained Bešić, adding that the same the reason that led Bosniaks to distance themselves more.
He explained that the Serbs had previously shown considerable resilience because they had been excluded from all government structures for a long time, adding that no national community should be excluded.
“Montenegro is not an ethnic state, national unity cannot be built on the exclusion of any ethnic group,” said Bešić, adding that members of minorities must be part of every government.
As he said, Montenegro, as a multi-ethnic country, must be inclusive.
“I am concerned about the fact that the distance between Bosniaks has increased because they are no longer in power,” said Bešić.
As he said, the condition of society’s well-being is that members of minorities be in every government.
Bešić explained that the research compared this year’s results with 2019, and for some parameters with previous research.
“Investigation of ethnic distance is very necessary, in order to see how people relate to each other, especially in the light of current political changes,” said Bešić.
As he said, the Serbs were previously largely in a socio-economic deficit, which significantly influenced the high degree of distance.
Bešić said that the research showed that Serbs hardly show any ethnic distance towards Montenegrins, and vice versa.
As he said, it is important to emphasize that Bosniaks and Muslims have reduced their distance towards the Serbs by almost ten percent, and the reduction of distance towards the Serbs is also reported by the Albanians.
And when it comes to Croats, according to the results of the CEDEM research, there is a positive trend.
Such a trend is also present among the Roma, which, as Bešić said, is the result of many activities and changes in the narrative in recent years.
He said that young people show a lower level of ethnic distance compared to the elderly.
As he said, the research was also concerned with measuring the degree of nationalism.
He said that in the last ten years, nationalism has been growing stronger throughout Europe, and research has shown that, as he stated, it is a stable orientation in Montenegro.
According to each parameter, as he said, there is about 50 percent agreement with nationalist narratives.
“Almost every fifth citizen of Montenegro is highly nationalist,” said Bešić, adding that there are obviously factors that generate a high degree of nationalism.
The research showed that the lowest level exists among Albanians, then Montenegrins, and the highest among Serbs, although Bosniaks-Muslims are also close.
Bešić also pointed to the fact that discrimination mostly refers to work and employment, education, as well as public services.
As he said, these are the key areas identified by the research and should be dealt with in the coming period.
Independent adviser in the Directorate for Minorities within the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, Fikret Lulanaj, recalled the multi-ethnic character of Montenegro and the coexistence that exists in the country.
“Coexistence of all citizens, regardless of ethnic, national or religious affiliation, adorns Montenegro,” said Lulanaj, saying that Montenegro is determined to promote and protect the rights of all citizens.
He said that the Ministry has excellent cooperation with the non-governmental sector, adding that EUR 150,000 of support for the projects of 16 NGOs was distributed this year in the field of minority rights.
Presentation of the research on Montenegrin language can be found via this link here,