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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Montenegro

Article 23 of Montenegro’s constitution states: Everyone shall have the right to a sound environment. Everyone shall have the right to receive timely and full information about the status of the environment, to influence the decision-making regarding the issues of importance for the environment, and to legal protection of these rights. Main emphasis is given to:

  • Integration of environmental concerns into development policies
  • Internalization of environmental costs through the implementation of the polluter- and user-pays principles
  • Participation of all stakeholders in decision- making, consultations, dialogue and partnership
  • Respecting the precautionary principle, and the principle of subsidiarity and interdependency between local and global levels
  • Access to the services and financial resources necessary to meet basic needs.
  • Featured Legislation

    1996: The Law on Environment was passed, laying down the main principles for environmental protection, such as polluter- and user-pays principles, environmental impact assessment and data transparency. The legislation also requires an EIA for any project that may have adverse effects on the environment.

    1997: The Regulations on Environmental Impact Assessment (OG RM No. 14/1997) were drafted. The legislation prescribes activities subject to EIA, preliminary assessment procedures, public participation in decision-making, the procedure for the evaluation and verification of EIA and the criteria for assessment reports.

    2002:The Law on Environment (OG RM No. 12/1996) was amended with the latest amendments creating a legal basis for environmental monitoring activities. The Law describes the content of the monitoring programmes, which include the degree of pollution of air, water and soil, flora and fauna, climatic changes, ionizing and non-ionizing radiations, noise and vibrations, as well as the observance of the obligations as stipulated by international treaties and conventions.

    2003:The Law on Inspection Control (OG RM No. 39) was ratified, establishing the principles of inspection control (i.e. prevention, proportionality, publicity, independence, protection of the public interest, truth, and subsidiarity) and the obligations and authorities of inspectors.

    2003: The Criminal Code added a provision that failure to inform the people of Montenegro on the state of the environment is subject to criminal liability. Article 317 declares: “Anyone who contrary to regulations does not provide data or provides untrue data on the state of the environment and the phenomena which are necessary for the assessment of danger for the environment and for taking measures for the protection of life and health of people, shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment for a maximum term not exceeding one year”.

    2005: The Law on Environmental Impact Assessment was enacted, defining the complete EIA procedure, from screening to approval, including public participation and transboundary effects.

    2005: The Law on Strategic Environmental Assessment was approved, defining the complete SEA procedure, from screening to approval, including public participation and transboundary effects. Plans and programmes are subject to a mandatory SEA if they are prepared for sectors specified in the Law and/or if they set the framework for future development projects that are subject to the EIA and could affect protected areas, natural habitats and preservation of wildlife plant and animal species.

    2005:The Law on Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC) was signed. The legislation regulates environmental pollution prevention and control by issuing integrated permits for installations and activities that may have a negative impact on human health, the environment or material resources.

    2005: The Law on Waste Management was established. The law sets out the basic legal framework and conditions created for the implementation of the National Strategic Master Plan for Waste Management.

    2008: The National Forest Policy was unveiled. It is a national sectoral policy whose main objectives are: a) to ensure and improve long-term resistance and productivity of forests and other ecosystems; b) to ensure the maintenance of plant and animal species; c) to ensure sustainable forest administration and sustainable implementation of social, economic and environmental forest functions; d) to ensure the contribution of forests to social and economic development of rural areas; e) to ensure long-term development and competitiveness of wood industry. The document is based upon the following principles: ecological and socio-economic sustainability; ecosystem approach to forest management; synergy among forest functions; precautionary principle; participation and cooperation of all stakeholders; monitoring and evaluation of work.

    2015: The Fisheries Strategy was adopted. It is a nationwide sectoral document aiming to provide the overall guidelines for the development of Montenegrin fisheries within the context of the general orientation of Montenegro to implement the foreign policy with the view of EU accession during the 2015-2020 period. It can be seen as the continuation of the 2006 Strategy, with a more pronounced focus on the elements necessary for harmonization with the EU acquis in the area of fisheries policy:

    • Prescribes the requirements for the elaboration of waste management plans
    • Defines competences, responsibilities and obligations related to waste management
    • Sets out principles for a) managing special types of waste, b) incineration, disposal and storage of waste, c) monitoring, and d) penalization

    Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

    • Local residents near Ćehotina River were alarmed to discover that their entire fish stock died in 2019, an incident reminiscent of what happened in the territory of Pljevlja municipality. Over the past decade, chemicals and wastewater have spilled into the Vezišnica and Ćehotina rivers, causing irreparable harm to wildlife. Water samples from the Center for Ecotoxicological Research in Podgorica suggest that toxic materials have been discharged into the rivers from pipes owned by the Pljevlja Thermoelectric Power Plant, an organization operating under the tutelage of one of the main Electric Power companies in Montenegro. Montenegrin police filed criminal charges against the thermal power plant and four responsible persons, including the executive director of the power plant. Pljevlja has been dubbed the most polluted city in Montenegro for years now; in fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that Pljevlja is among the ten most polluted cities in Europe. The government has dragged its feet when it comes to enforcing environmental legislation – since 2010, no measures have been taken to provide cleaner air in the Western Balkans, including Montenegro. The latest report by the Montenegrin Environmental Protection Agency on air quality revealed that high pollution and poor water quality in this municipality has resulted in a high number of people suffering from malignant diseases. Specifically, during 2018, over 200 people from Pljevlja became ill with a malignant tumor, which makes up almost 1% of the population of this municipality. 22% of deaths in this municipality are caused by air pollution and The Institute of Public Health of Montenegro observed an uptick in premature mortalities associated with exposure to air pollution in Montenegro –  a rate 50 times higher than the mortality rate due to fatal road accidents.

    References and Further Reading


    Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism of Montenegro: H.E. Ms. Dragana ČENIĆ ,