On 28 April 2010, Montenegro ratified the Council of Europe’s Convention on the avoidance of statelessness in relation to State succession, signed on 11 May 2007. The ratification comes into effect on 1 August 2010.
On 5 May 2010, Montenegro signed the European Convention on Nationality. The Convention provides for non-discrimination in regulating questions of citizenship, attempts to prevent statelessness, and regulates multiple nationality. Prior to the signature of this convention, on 2 March 2010, Montenegro adopted a Law on Confirming the European Convention on Nationality. This Law outlines Montenegro’s reservation to the European Convention on Nationality, in that ‘Montenegro does not accept the implementation of provisions stipulated in article 16 of the Convention’. This reservation, which means that Montenegro does not accept dual citizenship, is in line with the current Citizenship Act. Montenegrin citizenship legislation is restrictive in terms of dual citizenship, which is a direct consequence of the political and social context in which the current Citizenship Act has been adopted (for more details see CITSEE Working Paper: Transformations of Citizenship in Montenegro: a context-generated evolution of citizenship policies).
In tandem with these events, the Government of Montenegro proposed amendments and addenda to the 2008 Citizenship Act of the Parliament of Montenegro. The proposed amendments are mainly in the following areas: laying out the conditions for the prevention of statelessness; stipulating clear conditions for naturalisation; increasing the number of years required for expatriates to obtain Montenegrin citizenship; and granting competence to the Ministry of Interior to naturalise individuals ‘in the interest of the state’, following a proposal from the President of Montenegro, the Prime Minister, or the Speaker of Parliament.
While streamlining the normative aspects of citizenship is an ostensibly positive development, the last of the proposed changes outlined above may have a wide range of implications. On the one hand, the discretion of the state authorities in granting citizenship is not an uncommon practice in many states around the world. This exceptional naturalisation is also enshrined in the current citizenship legislation of Montenegro (Article 12), while the novelty in the draft amendments is that the power to propose candidates is vested in the President of Montenegro, the Prime Minister, or the Speaker of Parliament. On the other hand, the margin of discretion granted to the very top of the political pyramid in relation to the naturalising of citizens ‘in the interest of the state’ may induce a wave of politically or economically motivated acquisitions of citizenship. One notable example, which has been cited in the international media, is the case of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Prime Minister of Thailand accused of corruption and of causing civil unrest in his country of origin. Shinawatra, who is now also a Montenegrin citizen, has been naturalised on grounds of his planned multimillion euro investments in Montenegrin tourism.
In view of this, determining ‘the interest of the state’ remains a highly contentious issue in Montenegro. It is yet to be seen whether the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act will mirror a rigid normativisation of rights of the contentious categories of people (for more details see CITSEE Working Paper: Transformations of Citizenship in Montenegro: a context-generated evolution of citizenship policies), while at the same time opening up a leeway for naturalisation of the persons deemed ‘worthy’ in the eyes of the state.