Environment, Europe

The Sinjajevina highlands, Credit: Petar Glomazic

For years now, the people of Montenegro have sought to protect the Sinjajevina mountain plateau from the destruction to be brought by creating a military training ground vastly larger than the entire military of Montenegro could ever use. The NATO nations for whom the project actually exists have sought to keep their roles quiet. But after people put their bodies in the way in October 2020 and prevented the use of their mountains for war training, a popular movement rapidly grew. In recent months it has threatened to make permanent the protection of their environment and way of life. The European Union and the Prime Minister of Montenegro promised them success in July. The Ministry of Ecology added its support a week later.

Quick, something must be done!

Presumably without asking the opinion of the people of the United Kingdom, British Ambassador to Montenegro Karen Maddocks has now stepped in to fend off the continuation of many centuries of peaceful and sustainable pastoral living on Sinjajevina. She has informed the poor ignorant Montenegrins that the Salisbury Plain and Stonehenge are more, not less, natural because of the occupation of that area by a military training ground — a peaceful and integral part of the ecosystem for over a century. In other words, the residents of Sinjajevina could protect it even more than they are now if only they would agree to exploding lots of weaponry on it — sheep-friendly weaponry no doubt. UK military experts have jetted into Montenegro to authoritatively make the case.

The people of Sinjajevina are having none of it. The Civil Initiative Save Sinjajevina responds that while the Montenegrin Ministry of so-called Defense “says that the goal of the visit was to exchange experiences, get useful advice and suggestions, with a special emphasis on civil-military cooperation,” they see a “persistent bypassing of domestic scientific institutions and independent international scientific researchers, and ignoring pastoral communities that have been living and using Sinjajevina for centuries.” They accuse the Ministry of  trying “to seize the land from its real owners – livestock farmers, and turn it into a training ground, which contradicts the numerous promises of Prime Minister Dritan Abazović that Sinjajevina will not be a military training ground, as well as the efforts of Ministry of Ecology and the Agency for Nature and Environmental Protection to protect this area.”

They also accuse Ambassador Karen Maddocks of essentially (my words) not knowing her ass from her elbow: “The statement that the key factor in the preservation of Salisbury Plain was the fact that this area has been used for military exercises for a long time cannot be applied to Sinjajevina in any case, and it misleads the public. In Great Britain, the country where industrialization and urbanization have almost completely destroyed the wildlife, it is understandable that the prohibition of access to people in the area of ​​Salisbury Plain, where military exercises have been carried out for a long time, has led to a certain renewal of the wild life. In contrast, the Montenegrin mountains, especially Sinjajevina, have remained almost untouched by the processes of urbanization and hypercapitalist expansion, and the biodiversity and richness of this ecosystem are a direct result of the sustainable presence of people, i.e. livestock communities, which are the best and only guarantor of its protection and preservation. . . . Montenegro is territorially 17.6 times smaller than Great Britain and does not have the luxury of 120 square kilometers of unique mountain pasture in Europe to turn it into a training and shooting range, and to neglect its citizens and deprive them of their age-old hearths.”

I don’t think the people of the UK are too arrogant or ignorant to grasp what’s happening here. In fact, I suspect that Karen Maddocks and the UK’s “experts” know exactly what they are doing. But it isn’t bringing environmentalism to the heathen. It’s serving the weapons profiteers at all costs, and pushing quack “science” to do it.

Save Sinjajevina continues: “These experts are sent by the Ministry of Defense of one of the leading members of the NATO alliance, and they cannot in any way be considered an independent and impartial voice of science. Doesn’t Montenegro have its own intellectual strength and dignity to manage its own resources? Why are the domestic and independent international scientific communities being bypassed? Examples such as  Larzac in France and the Dolomiti d’Ampezzo Nature Park in Italy, where scientific research and democratic processes have protected precious nature and people and prevented the devastation of those areas by turning them into military training grounds, are more adequate examples to be compared to Sinjajevina. In the light of this latest attempt by the Ministry of Defense, in cooperation with British experts, to implement the decision on the military training ground on Sinjajevina we cannot [fail] to recall the statements and convictions of the former Minister of Defense Predrag Bošković and other military officials that the training ground in question is only for the Montenegrin army.”

Ha! The Montenegrin army as an excuse is little better than the need to save the mountain by destroying it. The Montenegrin army could rehearse against its nonexistent enemies in a small park. This is 2022, people! Are we not going to expect at least plausible BS from our living imperialists?

Save Sinjajevina points out that the Montenegrin Ministry of Ecology and the Agency for the Protection of Nature and Environment proposed Sinjajevina as a protected area, that the European Parliament decisively expressed its disappointment that despite the initial progress, the issue of Sinjajevina has not yet been resolved, but that Montenegrin Minister of “Defense” Raško Konjević upon his return from the summit of the NATO alliance in Madrid, stated that the Ministry and the Army of Montenegro are preparing military exercises for Sinjajevina.

“How is it possible that the voice of Great Britain, which has left the European Union, is heard, while the recommendations and laws of the European Union, with which we are in accession negotiations, are ignored? Why are the Constitution of Montenegro, the Aarhus Convention, the Berne Convention, the Emerald Network and Natura 2000 being forgotten? Where are the democratic principles and the participation of citizens in deciding on vital life issues?”

Perhaps they’ve left to buy more weapons for spreading democracy? A democracy that would deem it absurd to even consider asking the people of the UK whether they want their government pushing militarism and “green” mountain destruction on Montenegro.

Save Sinjajevina points out that it “recently submitted to the Government and the European Union a petition with more than 22,000 signatures demanding the immediate cancellation of the decision on the military training ground and the declaration of Sinjajevina as a protected area.”

“Citizens of Montenegro gathered around the idea of ​​preserving Sinjajevina and its herders are not a political organization. This civic initiative brings together people of the most diverse political beliefs, but they all share the same understanding of public interest and common good, they all equally understand the need to protect the nature and resources of Montenegro. Our demands are based in the Constitution of Montenegro as an ecological state, in EU laws and international conventions, in the principles of true democracy. Supported by numerous citizens of the world and international organizations including World BEYOND War, International Land Coalition, and ICCA Consortium, as well as independent scientific workers and institutions, we will not give up on our legitimate demands, democratic rights and fight for the abolition of the harmful decision on the military training ground and the final protection of Sinjajevina and its people.”

Damn right!

UPDATE: The Montenegrin Ministry of “Defense” has contacted Save Sinjajevina to offer visits to England in cooperation with the UK government to help set them straight. Save Sinjajevina has agreed to meet with the Ministry of “Defense” but will decline any weapons-are-good-for-the-environment trips to the UK.