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Secret Agreement for Public Debt

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MONITOR Weekly, 5 November 2010
Secret Agreement for Public Debt

The Council for Hydropower Plant Development on the Moraca River has adopted the Draft Concession Act1 The Government will too.

However, even after the public hearing on the Draft Concession Act, citizen do not know more than before what will be the arrangement with the Concessionaire that will develop hydropower plants (HPP). KEY RESPONSES LACKING: “The public debate on the Draft Concession Act has not responded to two key questions – how much will the construction of hydroelectric dams cost Montenegrin citizen and to what extent will it solve the energy deficit problem,” said Dejan Jelovac, Director of MANS2

urban planning program. Milovac claims that government's announcement that it will adopt the Draft Concession Act for Moraca HPP Development only 20 days after the public hearing on the document, confirms that the executive branch is in a hurry to finalise legal preparations, and that the whole public debate was an exercise of feigned democracy intended to satisfy legal formalities. Although more than half a year has passed – reports of the Ministry of Spatial Planning and Environment on the Public Hearing on the Draft Detailed Spatial Plan and the Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment of the Moraca HPP project have not been published. ACCOMODATING THE CONCESSIONAIRE: Milovac believes that such sequence of events turns meaningless further discussion on spatial plans for the Moraca hydropower system and proves that these will merely reflect the wishes of the future Concessionaire embodied in the Concession Act and Concession Agreement. He argues that it is not acceptable to continue with the concession procedure until the public is presented the real reasons for engaging the country in this endeavor. The public still does not know how much the state will earn from the dams, which technical solution is being offered to the future Concessionaire and what will be implications for the area where the construction is planned. However, of least concern for the Moraca HPP advocates seems to be – whether the taxpayers know how much this project would cost them, i.e. what would be its costs and benefits.

ADMISSION: What the Government is no longer hiding and what comes accross clearly from the Draft Concession Act is that its authors admit that the development of hydroelectric plants on Moraca will not resolve the issue of domestic energy deficit, and that the power will belong to the operator who will sell it and export freely to whomever he wants, irrespective of the national interest. The Draft Concession Agreement with the future concessionaire explains the method and schedule of payments of concession fees. However, the key data on the concession contract length and the amount of concession fees (i.e. concession fee formula) are missing. These figures must be provided in the Draft Concession Agreement according to the Article 43 of the Law on Concessions. During the public debate, government officials confirmed that, without the help of the state, the project would not be financially profitable for the Concessionaire. The analysis of foreign experts shows that the project is not commercially attractive to the Concessionaire unless the Government supports it with at least 120 million euros, and that, immediately upon project inception. According to Forum 20103, this figure should be no less than 200 million euros. However, the Government is not bringing to light specific financial data. Neither the Draft Concession Act nor the Draft Concession Agreement contain the figure required by the Concessions Law on the budgetary support to the project – namely – the Concessionaire. If the information on how much Montenegrin citisen would have to subsidise the foreign investor were published, it would become cristally clear to everybody that the project is not viable, and that the citizen would have to indebt themselves by hundreds of millions of euros just to ensure that the Concessionare can achieve profits over the next thirty to fifty years.

ACE IN THE SLEEVE: Nonetheless, if the state cannot afford to cover the high cost of the project – Elektroprivreda Crne Gore (EPCG), the Montenegrin electricity utility still under majority state ownership and a tender participant, could do the job. Actually, the top people of EPCG are showing the greatest enthusiasm for the Moraca HPP. On the EPCG accounts already are the 96 million euros paid in for the capital increase of the company and those could be used for the purpose. It is true that the national energy strategy and EPCG have already determined that the highest investment priorities are rehabilitation and reconstruction of the existing network. However, this would not be our first time to forget our previous decision and then ‘switch to the right track ”. In this case – it is only necessary for the Government, as majority shareholder, to reach an agreement with A2A4.

Monitor's sources explain that since the project is not commercially and financially viable, A2A could request that they be allowed to privatise the rest of EPCG ahead of schedule, or that their other investment obligations under the privatization contract be eliminated or softened. And then – if the junior coalition partner – SDP5 – boldly dares to prevent the first scenario, the public will never know whether the investment commitments have been relaxed, because the government does not give access to basic, let alone to such important information from privatization contracts. EXCESS WATER, LACK OF INFORMATION: EPCG has announced that the viability of the project could subsequently be repaired by developing new hydropower plants upstream the Moraca River, ones that will also be able to use ”surplus” water from the Tara River6 NGO Green Home is now requesting from the Montenegrin Parliament to review the proposed Moraca HPP. “Eventual use of Moraca hydropower potential and of new energy sources should be in the interest of Montenegrin citizen. Therefore, the whole decision-making process should be transparent and the information available in a timely manner, which is not happening in this case” says Darko Pajovic, Green Home Director. This NGO believes that the Parliament hearings could contribute to the transparency of the process, help obtain many crucial explanations that have not been provided even after two public debates, and, finally, improve prospects for reaching a decision that would be in the best interest of Montenegrin citizen.

Behind the scenes, final preparations are underway for conclusion of the HPP Moraca deal. The more the process is progressing – all the more mysteries about the whole project. And a wider field for all kinds of “agreements”.

Marijana Bojanic

1 Document containing detailed project information that government adopts before launching a concession tender
2 Well known Montenegrin NGO
3 Forum 2010 – Think tank established in February 2010 by well known independent individuals
4 A2A – Italian energy company acquired 43% of EPCG in 2009 through a combined capital increase and share purchase method, a 5 year management contract and an option to privatise the remaining state shares in 2014
5 Social Democratic Party, the junior coalition partner, does not favour full privatisation of EPCG
6 Diversion of water from the UN protected Tara River into Moraca was included in the original project design, since the analyses indicated that it was the only financially viable project development option. After strong public resistance to the Buk Bijela HPP prompted the Parliament to adopt a Declaration on Protection of the Tara River, the diversion of water from Tara into Moraca is not encouraged under the proposed concession tender, although a number of top country officials have recently made and keep making public statements in support of this approach

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IN ENGLISH

SILENT KILLER: DRUG ADDICTION AMONG YOUNG PEOPLE IN MONTENEGRO: Growing Hopelessness

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Young people in Montenegro can reach dugs within half an hour. They often consume it in school backyards, most commonly marijuana, and the use of heavy psychoactive substances is increasing. Many of them suffer from psychological disorders. Monitor's interviewees agree that we don’t talk about this enough, and that we lack support of the society as a whole.

 

“They use drugs wherever they can, mostly in the schoolyard. They choose places where cameras can't capture them, and those who want to get “stuff” turn to them. In most cases, it is marijuana”, said student A.S. from Electro-Technical High School Vaso Aligrudic in Podgorica.

Last year's research of the Ombudsman Children and Addiction Diseases in Montenegro showed as well that drug addiction is one of the burning problems of young people in Montenegro. According to the research, which included 37 elementary and 25 high schools, marijuana was used by more than 11 percent of students, while on average, more than eight students consumed heavy drugs. “Half of drug addicts use one substance and the other half use two or more substances. Students in Montenegro use significantly more illegal (heavy) drugs than the EU average”, the study said. As many as 16 percent of students said that illicit substances were often consumed at school, and besides, there was an increase in the use of synthetic drugs, which are cheap and easily available.

“Those for whom I know that use marijuana do it behind the school. They did it before on the fire stairs. The most problematic is easy availability of drugs”, said student Z.K. from Economics High School Mirko Vesovic in Podgorica. More than 25 percent of the students that participated in the Ombudsman's research reported a similar view. If one wants drugs, it will take him half to several hours to get it, which is disturbing.

Dijana Milosevic, from Public Institution Kakaricka Gora, an institution for accommodation, rehabilitation and re-socialization of users of psychoactive substances in Podgorica said for Monitor that it generally began with marijuana “The adolescence itself, is the greatest crisis period of each individual, when identity problems naturally appear, difficulties in accepting authority, as well as a tendency to experiment with “forbidden things.” All these are favorable conditions for an adolescent to come into contact with psychoactive substances. There is a persistent misconception among young people that marijuana is not a drug or that it is an “easy drug” which facilitates entering into problem. Most often marijuana is the first substance that addicts consume. Besides consequences which it leaves on the psyche of the consumer, this is a misconception that can cost them their lives”.

According to her, the reasons why young people use drugs are mainly dissatisfaction, concern or rebellion against authority, boredom, family problems, peer violence as well as opinion that cigarettes, alcohol or drugs are some kind of “gateway” to a certain group of peers.

“Behind our school sports hall, you can often see older guys who give marijuana to children. It happens almost every day and its favorite gathering place”, told us  another student of Electro-Technical High School Vaso Aligrudic.

Monitor addressed this issue to most of the high schools in Podgorica. The question what they did to restrain this problem, even after weeks of waiting, has not been answered.

“We do not work enough in schools with adolescents, when it comes to drug addiction. However, the reason for that is not in schools, but rather in insufficient involvement of institutions, which should tackle more with this problem. We cannot expect from schools to deal with the education of children and to be a police officer and someone who, among other responsibilities, will work with children on restraining this phenomenon. That is why they need help from both the institutions and the civil sector. Everybody has to deal with this phenomenon. Every year its presence in educational institutions is increasing”, said to Monitor NGO Euromost, whose main goal is to support fight against drugs abuse and all forms of addiction.

Drug abuse increased everywhere in the world, and the same happened in our country, regardless of the actions taken through health, educational, legal system, noted psychologist Natasa Vukovic, who works with peer educators as a part of NGO Euromost actions. “The number of drug users is becoming more noticeable among young people, among high school students and even elderly elementary school students. There are no harmless drugs. The continuous, systemic and systematic action of the whole society is necessary. The aim above all must be that children and young people never turn to drugs”.

According to her, inadequate assistance and lack of support from the family, primarily parents, who have failed to maintain a relationship of trust with their children, and who have failed to “impose” desirable role models, make young people an “easy target”.

“Eighteenth birthday celebrations are particularly problematic. Sometimes flats, where they mix two or three types of drugs and large amounts of alcohol, are being rented. Mostly, this refers to grammar school graduates. My daughter went to one such birthday celebration and she called me to pick her up, shocked and dreadful. She didn't know what was going on there. And parents have no idea”, said for Monitor Patricija Pobric, Director of NGO Our Action.

She claims that a deeper involvement in drug addiction is often preceded by some criminal acts: “Usually, as of the third grade of high school, young people are recruited to buy ID cards by older students. These kids turn to drugs afterwards. They are “carriers” and it’s easy to involve them in petty crimes. They later buy motorcycles and cars from that money “.

Many start using drugs because they expect that it will help them deal with problems on a daily basis. Many start out of curiosity, with the well-known – ‘I will just try it’. Asked why someone became an addict and someone did not, especially if persons grew up in similar circumstances or even in the same family, Natasa Vukovic said that there was no clear and definite answer: “The only certain conclusion is that you should clearly advise everyone not to try psychoactive substance because one does not know in advance whether he/she is sensitive to it, which would mean that even a single intake already creates a psychic need for re-taking it. Such patients exist in practice, and they have a common characteristic that they “immediately liked the drug”.

Euromost noted that in addition to combating drug trafficking, we should work also on improving prevention of drug addiction among youth: “Upon completing the training of the first peer educators, Euromost, besides Bijelo Polje, has expanded its workshops to other northern municipalities, such as Plav, Gusinje and Rozaje. The number of participants is the best indicator of youth interest. However, in order for this to be successful, it is necessary to constantly communicate with young people and listen to what they have to say. It is not really useful just to find an expert who will explain them what the drug is and how it looks like”.

Natasa Vukovic, pointed out for Monitor, that addiction can be closely related to young people’s mental problems. Mind and mental healthcare is still a taboo topic in Montenegro. “It is true that in recent years more and more young people have sought help and advice of psychologists, but still shyly, almost always asking for visits not to be evidenced, and that parents do not find out about it, because it is often very difficult for them to accept the fact that their child goes to a psychologist or psychiatrist”, she said.

The state has similar approach. “There is no institution in our country where young people with a mental illness can be treated”, warned Vukovic.

In Montenegro, National Register on Drug Addiction has been maintained since 2013 by the Institute for Public Health, but it functions only on the basis of data collected from health institutions. There is no information about those who are not reported. According to recent estimates, there are more than 15,000 drug addicts in Montenegro.

How many of them are young people and children is not precisely known. The results of the research are discouraging. Monitor's interviewees agree – there is a lack of communication and cooperation between institutions, schools, parents and young people. And the problem of addiction is not the problem of the individual, but of the whole society.

Milo Popovic and Andrea Jelic

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IN ENGLISH

HOW HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ACCEPTED STAY-AT-HOME AND SOCIAL DISTANCING ORDERS: Time of Worrying and Learning

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It has been shown that keeping prescribed distance without physical contact, shaking hands, hugging … is one of the least respected measures among surveyed high school students. According to received answers, the only recommendation that was less respected was the one concerning wearing of protective equipment

 

Do high school students in Podgorica and to what extent respect the measures taken to prevent coronavirus spread? Through social networks, we surveyed about 200 students, from all high schools in Podgorica, to find out first-hand, how they cope with recommendations and measures that, among other things, limit movement and outdoor activities.

“Ever since the coronavirus appeared in Montenegro and since the Government announced the protective measures, I fully comply with them,” Elena Dabetic told us. “I haven't been out of the house since March, even when I have to go to the store, I go with full equipment: masks, gloves, and I keep distance from other people. Quarantine was not difficult for me since I’ve focused on some other activities, for which I did not have time, such as drawing. I kill boredom by playing online video games with my friends, watching movies, reading books, etc. I believe that people just need to think positively and use this time to work on themselves; well, we have a lot of time and we will learn more to appreciate going out after all this.”

Others, again, relativized the danger and explained why they did not exactly adhere to the imposed measures of social distancing. In fact, it was shown that keeping a prescribed distance of 1-2 meters without physical contact, shaking hands, hugging…was one of the least respected measures among surveyed high school students. Only every tenth respondent respected this experts’ recommendation. Even less number of respondents, according to received answers, respected recommendation concerning wearing of protective equipment. It was respected by every fifth research participant.

“When it comes to quarantine, I was relaxed at first, but when the situation intensified, I took it more seriously,” said Isidora Milatovic. “It is difficult for me to get used to it. This is the first time I am faced with situation like this. I spend my time learning, so I don't really do any other activities. I sincerely hope that the situation will stabilize and that we will soon return to a normal life. ”

Her peer Danilo Kujacic explained: “I accept quarantine well, since my usual lifestyle is not much different. I spend most of my day at the computer. I go out with friends in the evening or occasionally, go out for training. I think the current situation is exaggerated and not half as significant as the media present it.”

A significant number of young people, according to their own testimonies, comply with the recommendations and stay at home. Survey has found that watching series and movies, playing games on a phone/computer and using social networks are three of the most common activities young people currently do. According to collected data, every tenth respondent takes an online course, learns a foreign language and (or) reads extracurricular literature.

Milica Radulovic stated that the current situation disturbed everyone's usual activities, but, as she said, we must accept this way of life. “We all eagerly wait for measures to ease, but until that happens, we must use this time as good as possible. I suggest that we all devote this time to ourselves: by doing home-based training, reading a book, studying, but also communicating with friends through social networks. If after doing all of these you still have spare time, you can always watch a series or a movie…”, said our interviewee. And she concluded: “I really miss gatherings in the neighbourhood, but these measures must be respected if we want to get back to our old habits as soon as possible.”

In our survey, high school students cited several common reasons why they went out: a third of surveyed participants went out to shop at stores and pharmacies; a quarter for a walk or training in nature; every fifth for meeting and hanging out with friends… Boris Janjusevic said: “It was strange at first, but over time I got used to it. I spend my time doing homework, but of course I play games more than usual. As usual I spare an hour, an hour and a half of time for training.”

Given the new circumstances, interaction between students and professors in the school classroom has been replaced by online teaching, a platform and a website. Survey showed that most students did assignments, presentations, essays which professors gave, as well as that they studied provided resources. However, based on the results, two-thirds of high school students were not satisfied with online teaching, since, as they said, new way of work, to which they were not used to, required more work, effort and time than “traditional” class attendance.

Almost everyone missed social life, going out and socializing (without set limits). “I am very bored in quarantine and it has been difficult for me to find anything interesting to do”, notes S.P. who wanted to remain anonymous. “I usually play games, write songs, listen to music or do my homework. The current situation has great impact on us and our psyche. When all this is over, the consequences will be visible in our country, as well as in the whole world”, he said.

On the other hand, a smaller number of respondents said that they did not have any difficulties during quarantine. They believe that there has not been any other situation in which they would have so much time to devote to themselves and to improve their skills and potentials. Thus, M.P. explained: “I learn languages ​​during quarantine. I try to organize myself well, especially because of my school obligations. Of course, this is not always possible, but I manage. I also watch movies, communicate with friends, and read books. This is a chance to correct most of the mistakes, because time, despite the space barrier, works in our favour. ”

We spoke with Patricia Pobric, a civic activist and Executive Director of the NGO Our Action, about the behaviour of young people in this new situation caused by coronavirus pandemic and in what way they can make useful contribution.

“One who understands young people understands that current situation is most difficult to them. It's still easy for kids to have fun at home with toys and other activities, but young people are, by their nature, very social beings. They like to move, to socialize, go out…Although we consider that they are too much attached to their phones, physical socializing means a lot to them. In general, I think most young people understood the significance of the situation, and that it was accepted with understanding but not with fear. Only young people to whom parents, relatives, and media transferred fear, showed it.”

Pobric however, pointed out that there were also undesirable examples. “It happens that a small number of young men drives their vehicles after curfew, or organize trips and barbecues and do not respect social distancing. My advice to young members of NGO Our Action, from the beginning of quarantine, was to spend time after online school activities not only on games and internet, but also on planting, working on farms, gardens, learning new skills at home and in nature.” Photos prove that some have accepted the advice.

Zana KNEZEVIC

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IN ENGLISH

PUBLIC CALL CIN-CG: EMPOWERING RE POPULATION TO ACESS THE LABOR MARKET

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Centre for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro (CIN-CG), in the framework of the project:

“Empowering RE population to access the labor market”

(project provided with the financial support of the European Union and the Government of Montenegro)

is publishing:

A PUBLIC CALL

For training in the media industry – 25 interns from RE population

(Training for journalists, cameramen, graphic designers, workers in printing plant and other jobs in electronic, print and online media)

The training will consist of two stages. The first stage includes two-month training for 25 participants, for which fee will be provided. Following the first stage training, the Commission will select five trainees who show the best tendencies for work in the media. A five-month employment contract will be signed with them. The participants will be trained in media work and they will be involved in media production, for which they will receive regular monthly salary.

The Call is open for unemployed members of RE population residing in the territory of Montenegro who completed at least a primary school and are registered with the Employment Agency of Montenegro. Priority will be given to candidates with high school and college degrees.

Interested candidates should send their applications with a CV, confirmation from the records of the Employment Agency of Montenegro and motivational letter by 15/02/2020 at the latest, by e-mail to: konkurscincg@gmail.com, or to the address: CIN-CG, Trg nezavisnosti bb, 81000 Podgorica.

 

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