NewsResolving the long-standing dispute: Montenegro's pursuit of compensation from lake Bileća

Resolving the long-standing dispute: Montenegro’s pursuit of compensation from lake Bileća

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No Montenegrin government has fully tackled the issue of compensation from Lake Bileća. For those familiar with the situation, an international lawsuit appears to be the only viable solution because our right to utilize the waters of Lake Bileća has been challenged by neighbors from Republika Srpska for three decades. Elektroprivreda Crne Gore has confirmed to the Public Service that they are contemplating the formation of a joint venture with Elektroprivreda Republike Srpske, which could potentially resolve this matter after more than 30 years.

The issue of compensation for Lake Bileća, which Montenegro has yet to collect, has once again emerged on the agenda of the Montenegrin government. Clear messages were conveyed from a recent meeting of three ministers in Belgrade.

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“We must not abandon something that numerous declarations, rules, and international conventions allow, and I anticipate an offer from colleagues from Republika Srpska,” stated Minister of Energy and Mining, Saša Mujović.

Once again, a hand has been extended to neighbors to reach an agreement and put an end to this decades-old issue. Recently, discussions on this matter took place with the President of the Assembly, Andrija Mandić, and Milorad Dodik, President of Republika Srpska, as well as the leaders of the two power companies at the beginning of the year. Are we truly on the brink of an agreement after all?

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“There is a willingness on the part of representatives of Elektroprivreda Republike Srpske, which is not in dispute. These are revenue sources, both for the state budget, and to a large extent, according to our law, 70% of that part belongs to the local self-government whose land is submerged,” explained Miro Vračar, Assistant Financial Director of EPCG, to TVCG.

Until 1992, Montenegro regularly received compensation for submerged land, but since then, not a cent. So for more than 30 years, we have been losing out on profits from the water, of which our neighbors have benefited, as it is estimated that about 40% of the water in the lake comes from Montenegro. During this time, our authorities have attempted futile threats of international lawsuits to secure their share of the compensation, but without any concrete initiative.

For economic analyst Dejan Mijović, an international lawsuit is the only logical step, as waiting for our neighbors to address the issue will yield no results, especially since the Lake Bileća issue further complicates relations between Republika Srpska and the Federation of BiH.

“For 30 years, they have been profiting from our water, while we are losing millions of euros. It is time to say enough is enough. Creating arbitration commissions would be futile because they do not want any agreement where Bosnia and Herzegovina would be the negotiator,” emphasized Mijović.

However, Elektroprivreda is considering another approach. The idea is for the two power companies to establish a joint venture that would address this issue, among others.

“This demonstrates goodwill in an effort to overcome the problem concerning Lake Bileća and potentially the realization of the HPP Boka project,” Vračar emphasized.

“Lake Bileća is a multipurpose reservoir, utilized not only for energy but also for industry, supplying the population, and agriculture. If the aim of this agreement is to collaborate on joint projects, then why not? However, this alone cannot resolve our significant problem of future water usage in this multipurpose system,” concluded Mijović.

Mijović further concludes that European directives compel the Ministry of Agriculture, which manages waters in Montenegro’s territory, to engage in the matter, as approximately 18% of the lake falls within the municipality of Nikšić.

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