Montenegro, what a curious little country

In 1999, the not yet independent┬áMontenegro abandoned the Dinar and introduced German Marks. Three years later, without being a member of the EU, this country of 620.000 inhabitants introduced the euro (other small countries have done the same, among them Kosova). The registration plates look exactly like the ones in the union, only missing the yellow stars above the letters MNE in the blue field to the very left. Coming in from Croatia as an EU citizen, a text message from my phone company reminded me that I left the advantageous prices within the union’s walls – but other than that, I hardly experienced any differences.

Due to ignorance, I had no idea about all this, but the political leadership in Montenegro seems rather obsessed with entering the EU.. The whole money issue remains a mystery and the prime minister both talks about avoiding inflation and symbolizing willingness to enter the EU. Here is what Associated Press wrote after talking to the PM in 2010.

The Montenegrin government generally remains secretive about the specifics of its euro influx.

Iron boxes packed with new euro bank notes arrive monthly on special, secret flights from Germany. How much is brought in, how the currency is paid for, and whether it is in addition to money in circulation or a replacement for old bank notes is known only to government insiders.

The first flight in 2002 brought in new bills and coins worth 30 million euros to replace the German Marks being used.

Moreover, I was taken by surprise on the first night of my stay in Montenegro, when this 35-40 year old (seemingly liberal minded) hostel owner gave the cheerful, beer drinking crowd a classic, disguised homophobic speech. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a homophobe. I have many gay friends. But…” (his exact words).

According to a survey, 71 percent of the population view homosexuality as an illness. It burned inside me when the hostel owner said, the EU wants every town in Montenegro to throw a gay pride in return for a membership, but i stayed out of the discussion. And left the next morning.

In the end I only stayed in the country for two nights, and I don’t hope this sounds like Montenegrin bashing. I felt very welcome in Montenegro, and with my short stay I’m not entitled to give a general judgement of this young nation. I’d have to go back and talk to some more people. Who might be citizens of the promised union by then.