Mandić did not vote for sending soldiers to the NATO operation: Because of the chairmanship, he "forgot" to press the button

"I have no problem with sending our soldiers, officers and non-commissioned officers on any mission, to make the army better and to help establish peace. I always vote for such decisions at the Council", said Mandić to "Vijesta". "Maybe he 'forgot' to vote or he really forgot, that remains for his voters and coalition partners to judge," says Vesko Garčević.

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He claims that he forgot to vote because of the chairmanship: Mandić, Photo: Boris Pejović
He claims that he forgot to vote because of the chairmanship: Mandić, Photo: Boris Pejović
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

Head of the Assembly Andrija Mandic (New Serbian Democracy) claims that the day before yesterday at the parliamentary session, because of the chairmanship, he forgot to vote for sending members of the Army of Montenegro (VCG) to the NATO naval operation "Sea Guardian".

Yesterday, he told "Vijesta" that at the sessions of the Defense and Security Council, of which he is a member ex officio, he always supports such proposals. According to the Constitution, the Council proposes to the Assembly the use of the army in international forces.

The Council adopted the proposal for sending the army to the NATO operation in July of last year, when Mandić was not a member of it, that is, when he was not at the head of the highest legislative chamber.

"While I was presiding over the session, I forgot to vote. I have no problem with sending our soldiers, officers and non-commissioned officers on any mission, to make the army better and to help establish and maintain peace. I always vote for such decisions at the Council", Mandic said.

With the votes of 43 deputies, two more than necessary, the Assembly supported the deployment of members of the Croatian Armed Forces in the operation, which was launched eight years ago with the aim of strengthening NATO's role in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the fight against terrorism and human trafficking.

In addition to Mandić, two other MPs of the New Serbian Democracy (NSD) did not vote for sending soldiers - Dejan Djurovic i Marko Kovacevic, five were abstained - Jelena Božović, Jovan Vučurović, Simonida Kordić, Slaven Radunović i Vaso Obradović, while for was Bojana Pican.

When it comes to the Democratic People's Party (DNP), with which the NSD was until recently in the "For the Future of Montenegro" coalition, the head of the party did not vote for sending members of the VCG to the operation. Milan Knezevic and two more MPs - Milun Zogović i Vladislav Bojović, while she supported it Maja Vukićević.

The night before last, a vote was also taken to send soldiers to the United Nations (UN) mission in Cyprus, which was supported by 55 parliamentarians. All MPs of the NSD, except Kovačević, who did not vote, supported the proposal, while Vukićević and Bojović of the DNP were in favor, and Knežević and Zogović did not vote.

Diplomat and professor of international relations Vesko Garcevic, told "Vijesti" that Mandić's non-voting can be viewed from several angles, but that it is primarily a message to his potential voters that the politics of the former Democratic Front (DF) party has not changed.

"Maybe he 'forgot' to vote or he really forgot, that remains for his voters and coalition partners to judge. If I were to judge based on his earlier positions on the matter, for example when he supported the Acting President of the Assembly in 2022 Strahinja Bulajić in his blockade of the Defense Council, then I would have reason to suspect that he 'forgot' to vote", he states.

'Unclear when Mandić is honest': Garčević
"Unclear when Mandic is honest": Garčevićphoto: Boris Pejović

At the beginning of March 2022, Bulajić blocked the work of the Council, leaving the session on the agenda of which was the proposal of the Ministry of Defense to send members of the Croatian Armed Forces to NATO forces to implement crisis response activities.

Garčević says that it is unclear when Mandić is sincere - when he does not vote for sending members of the VCG to an operation aimed, among other things, at fighting terrorism and people smuggling, or when he supports a coalition agreement in order to have access to power.

"Or he is not honest in either case," adds the interlocutor.

In the agreement on government, of which the NSD is a part, it is written that decisions affecting the national interests of Montenegro will be made without influence, "respecting foreign policy priorities, assumed international obligations and the principle of sovereignty".

Garčević considers that Mandić's move is very problematic, but not surprising. According to him, this was pointed out by political analysts and allies of Montenegro in the EU and NATO.

"I don't know who could have expected that Mandic would represent interests that are in line with the obligations from the coalition agreement when it comes to NATO or regional politics. On the contrary, it was to be expected that he would use every opportunity to undermine Montenegro's credibility in NATO, but also in other international organizations that have a critical attitude in relation to Russian aggression against Ukraine or Serbia's regional policy. This is just one logical step in that direction," he says.

Member of the opposition Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) Nikola Rakočević, assessed yesterday that Mandić and Knežević "sabotage Montenegro's membership in NATO".

He announced that once again the obligation from the coalition agreement of the ruling majority regarding the respect of the international obligations assumed by Montenegro from the partnership with NATO was violated.

"So that document can be considered a dead letter," Rakočević said.

Rakočević
Rakočevićphoto: Boris Pejović

Rakočević stated that the opposition, with part of the parliamentary majority, voted for sending soldiers to the naval operation, so, he adds, the decision, which is an obligation from the NATO partnership, received the necessary majority.

"We draw the attention of the domestic public and international partners to the fact that the anti-European and anti-NATO position is at the center of the parliamentary majority, whose pillars are supported by the pro-Russian Democratic Front," he said.

The MP of DPS says that Mandic confirmed his "anti-NATO position" recently when he "spontaneously admitted that he advocates for the separation" of Montenegro from the Alliance.

"The accession of Montenegro to NATO was one of the major strategic priorities of the DPS policy. We went through various stages of destabilization of the state by the same people who now make up the parliamentary majority, in order to become part of the most powerful military alliance," said Rakočević, adding that this is precisely why they are drawing attention "to the attempt of pro-Russian elements in power to sabotage Montenegro's membership in NATO ".

In the explanation of the proposed decision on sending the army to the NATO operation, it is written that up to four members of the Croatian Armed Forces will be sent, with the possibility of rotation. The Ministry of Defense will determine the members of the VCG to be sent, determine the duration of rotation, shifts, prepare, train and equip, monitor and coordinate engagement as part of the operation.

Garčević: Not voting is like washing your hands because of the resolution on Srebrenica

Vesko Garčević states that Mandić's move should be placed in the context of the upcoming statement on the proposal for a UN resolution on the genocide in Srebrenica, which, he says, has caught the Government, and especially the former DF, "in a political gap".

"Since he probably won't be able to prevent the vote for the resolution, and he won't even leave the government, not voting for Montenegro's participation in the operation 'You are the guardian' is a symbolic washing of hands," he adds.

He assesses that the ongoing debates on the proposal of the resolution and "stunts in the positions of the coalition partners who would vote for it, but in such a way that the vote is either not counted or not seen", have laid bare the political hypocrisy of the coalition agreement.

"Let's keep in mind that two resolutions of the Parliament of Montenegro oblige us to take a clear position in relation to the genocide in Srebrnica. In addition to strengthening institutions, the rule of law, etc., one of the important criteria for EU membership is the promotion of regional cooperation and the policy of reconciliation and transitional justice. Membership in the EU, as the most important priority of the Government, was confirmed by the coalition agreement, so this attitude... collapses the principles on which the agreement rests", states the interlocutor.

Since, according to Garčević, in this case power is preferable to principles, it is likely, he says, that the existing coalition will survive for some time. However, he adds that its Euro-Atlantic orientation is "rather unconvincing".

"Maybe it doesn't look like that in Podgorica, but it can be seen more clearly in Washington or Brussels," he says.

Contribution to safety and availability of timely information

In the proposal for the decision on sending soldiers to the mission, it is written that the "Si Guardian" operation was initiated at the NATO summit in Warsaw in July 2016.

"The authority to conduct the operation has been delegated to the Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM), which is headquartered in Northwood, United Kingdom. The operation was launched with the aim of expanding the role of NATO in the Mediterranean Sea... The operation is carried out and supported by active, standby or attached naval forces, air forces, staff personnel in operational centers, from several member states of the Alliance participating in various activities".

The proposal states that, bearing in mind that security challenges in the Mediterranean may have implications for the national security of Montenegro, the presence of members of the Croatian Navy on allied ships participating in the operation "would contribute to security, but also to the availability of timely information for national needs".

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