Openness to Foreign Investment
Recent political events
The referendum on Montenegrin independence was held on May 21, 2006, when 55.5% of Montenegro's voters chose independence from Serbia. Montenegrin independence has led to the further opening of the market and an increase in investor awareness and confidence.
Montenegro and the EU signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) on October 15, 2007, boosting Montenegrin hopes of becoming a full EU member. Montenegro and the EU also signed the so-called Interim Agreement (allowing for the early implementation of trade and trade-related provisions of the SAA) which took effect on January 1, 2008.
Montenegro's Application for EU Membership was submitted on December 15, 2008.
Montenegro's Constitution was ratified and adopted by the Parliament of Montenegro on October 19, 2007.
Montenegro recognized Kosovo's independence on October 9, 2008.
Montenegro is establishing a liberal investment regime. Although the continuing transition has not yet eliminated all structural barriers, the Government recognizes the need to remove impediments, reform the business environment, and open the economy to foreign participation. The attitude towards foreign investors is generally favorable.
Already, the country has attracted considerable interest. There was a 140% increase in foreign direct investments in Montenegro in 2007 as compared with 2006, and a 600% increase compared with 2004. According to preliminary data, the amount of foreign investments for the first nine months in 2008 has increased by 15.4% and totaled, according to the Montenegrin Central Bank, roughly $650 million. Overall, foreign investments in 2007-2008 were larger than the sum of the previous five years.
Per capita foreign investments in 2007 reached $2,223 (1,623). Preliminary data from the Montenegrin Investment Promotion Agency (MIPA) shows that Montenegro attracted 685 million ($992.75 million) in investment in 2008. For the last several years Montenegro has been the regional leader in terms of per capita investment, with Croatia and Serbia coming in second and third, according to a report on greenfield investments published by the Center for Liberal Democratic Studies (CLDS). The report states that Montenegro leads all transition countries in central, eastern, and south-eastern Europe in per capita investment.
Over 4,700 foreign-owned firms are registered and operating in Montenegro. The number of registered foreign companies has doubled in last two years. Foreign investors came from 107 countries, with no single country dominating investment. In 2007 and 2008, the most significant investments came from Russia, Hungary, Austria, Norway, and Slovenia. The highest amount of FDI is invested in the southern part of Montenegro (49.1%), while 43.7% is invested in the central part of the country (including the capital, Podgorica), and the remaining 7.2% in the north. Based on job-creating foreign investments (i.e. not including individual real estate transactions), the sector breakdown of FDI for 2008 is as follows: 28% of all investments were made in finance, 22% in tourism, 14% in construction, 11% in services, 10% in industry, 5% in transportation and logistics, 2% in agriculture, and the remaining 8% in other sectors.
Major Investment Opportunities
Montenegro offers a wide range of investment opportunities. Some of them are unique tourism sites (many of which are former military or other state-owned properties), some are challenging from a construction point of view (such as the proposed highways or improvements to the railroad system), and some are quite complex (such as the various investment opportunities within in the energy sector).
Velika Plaza - Located primarily on government-owned land between the city of Ulcinj and Ada Bojana Island, Velika Plaza (a 13 km long sand beach with an unobstructed view of the Adriatic Sea) is located at the southern tip of Montenegro. It is 87 km from Tivat International Airport and around 70 km from the capital Podgorica. Plans for the gradual development of the property include: (i) the development of high-end tourist accommodations; (ii) the construction of a small VIP airport; (iii) upgrading telecommunication, efficient energy and water supply; and (iv) coastal area protection (allowing up to 100 square meters of green surface per bed in order to provide luxury tourist accommodations). Letters of intent have been submitted by four companies: Proofrock Investments (a Greek/U.S. company), Hydra Properties and Bloom International Properties (both from the United Arab Emirates) and Trigranit (from Hungary).
Ada Bojana Island - Located at the southernmost tip of Montenegro. The nearest international airport is located in Podgorica (85km). Tivat International Airport is 108km away. The 494 hectare island is flanked on two sides by the Bojana River, connecting directly to Skadar Lake, and the Adriatic Sea on the other. Because of the site's unique natural environment and secluded private setting, the Government foresees the configuration and operation of an exclusive 4 to 5 star hotel/resort/village complex, reflecting contemporary Montenegrin architecture and including recreational facilities and services. The master plan for Ada Bojana envisions a capacity of up to 2,500 hotel beds within the current area designated for tourist development, and the Government anticipates that the hotel resort, once developed, will be listed in the international hospitality industry as a top nature resort. Nine companies, including two from the U.S., submitted letters of intent for the government tender for expression of interest in 2008.
Mamula Island - Mamula presents a popular one-day trip destination accessible by boat. The island has a circular shape (200m in diameter) and coastline which consists of a rocky surface with a small beach section. The fortress located on Mamula currently has no accommodation, food, beverage, or boutique services. The developmental concept includes a luxury hotel with exclusive leisure, food service and wellness facilities, and berths for small and medium size yachts. The Government of Montenegro prefers a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and announced a Call for Expression of Interest in late 2008. The deadline for submitting documentation is 10th February 2009.
Jaz Beach - Located in the central part of the Montenegrin coast between the cities of Budva and Tivat. Plans for the gradual development consist of an urban development concept, including a village complex offering accommodations, pensions, a water sport center, wellness facilities, food and beverage services, etc. The fields and hillside of Jaz must be surveyed in order to determine the exact available area. The Rolling Stones, Madonna, and Lenny Kravitz performed concerts on the beach of Jaz in 2007 and 2008.
Buljarica Beach - Located between the cities of Bar and Budva. The land is mostly private. The majority of owners are members of a local landowners association, which is interested in creating a joint venture with potential strategic partners participating as share holder partners. The developmental concept includes high-end residential accommodations, 4 -5 star hotels, and a tourist village (all totaling up to 6,500 beds). A marina is also planned, as is a business center and an 18-hole golf course.
Bigovo - The Bigovo cove is situated between the cities of Budva and Tivat and adjacent to an historic fishing village. There is easy air access to the property via Tivat's international airport (20 kilometers from the site). The international airports at Podgorica (90 minutes) and Dubrovnik (90 minutes) provide additional access. The site is located on a peninsula and extends from the seacoast inland, almost fully across the peninsula to the Kotor bay side. The site encompasses 38,940 square meters of land, with leisure facilities currently on 2,873 square meters. Planning is in a nascent stage, but ideas for the gradual development of Bigovo include a luxury leisure asset utilizing - and maintaining - the natural surroundings.
Kumbor - Kumbor, a tourist resort belonging to the Herceg Novi Riviera, is located at the shores of Boka Kotorska Bay, 6 km from Herceg Novi. There are a number of small beaches and restaurants on the waterfront. Early planning ideas for the gradual development include the construction of a world class, multifunctional upscale tourism resort, 4 -5 star nautical and commercial amenities with leisure facilities.
Valdanos - Valdanos is located close to Ulcinj, southeast of Bar. This former military vacation camp, surrounded by olive trees, offers an unobstructed ocean-front view with exclusive privacy, a Mediterranean climate and an average of over 240 sunny days. Airports are 68 km (Podgorica) and 86 km (Tivat) away. Valdanos Bay covers four square kilometers, and includes a pebble beach of approximately 100 meters in length and various low rise camp and general public service facilities, i.e. tennis courts and parking areas. The conceptual framework includes a five star resort, protection of the coastal area allowing up to 100 square meters of green surface per bed, luxury tourism accommodations of a maximum of four floors, and the protection of the ecological structure of the area. Montenegro is primarily interested in Public-Private Partnership projects. A tender has been opened, and will be open until March 3, 2009.
Mediteran - This tourism complex is located within the Durmitor national park in abljak, 1,456 meters above sea level. While it has direct access by paved road, the location evokes a feeling of isolation and connection with nature. It is adjacent to and walking distance from the famous Black Lake, and is completely surrounded by pine trees. Views from the site are of forest and mountains. The intention is to create a world-class resort that is intimate in feel, as well as conceptually, aesthetically, functionally, and ecologically in harmony with the natural physical location of the property.
Highways - The Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Telecommunications of Montenegro announced in 2008 a prequalification tender for prospective bidders for the execution and implementation of a Public-Private Partnership contract involving the design, financing, construction, operation, and maintenance of a new motorway running from Bar on the Montenegrin coast to Boljare on the northern border with Serbia. The six bidders who met the criteria set forth in the Prequalification Document have been invited to submit financial structure and technical documentation. The deadline for these companies to deliver their offers to the Government has been prolonged by 45 days, until March 2, 2009. In addition, the Government of Montenegro is planning to develop the necessary documentation for the Adriatic-Ionian highway (also called the east-west corridor) around 105 km long, that would connect the Croatian and Albanian portions of the same highway.
Railway - The Government of Montenegro adopted a restructuring plan according to which the company will be split into two separate companies: (i) one that will be in charge of developing and maintaining the railroad infrastructure and traffic regulation, and (ii) a second one in charge of operations (freight and passenger transport and maintenance of rolling stocks). Infrastructure management and traffic regulation will remain state owned, while a joint investment with a strategic partner will be sought for infrastructure maintenance on the basis of a long-term contract with the state. Privatization is planned for the operations side.
Transportation and logistics
Montenegro Airlines - Founded 14 years ago, Montenegro Airlines is registered for domestic and international passenger and charter traffic, as well as for the carriage of cargo and mail. Over the last 10 years, Montenegro Airlines has linked Montenegro with Frankfurt, Zurich, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Ljubljana, Moscow, London, Milan, and Belgrade. Three million passengers have been transported to date. A July 2008 shareholders meeting decided to move from a LLC to Joint Stock Company and to proceed with a new issuing of shares, representing 30% of the current company value. Of this 30%, five percent will be offered on the stock market, while the remaining 25 % will be offered to a strategic partner. The consulting firm SH&E was selected as the advisor for the privatization. Companies from Russia, Great Britain, and Israel have shown interest. The representatives of Montenegro Airlines have said that the European Bank for Restructuring and Development also is interested in privatization of this company. Montenegro Airlines is included in the privatization plan for 2009.
Luka Bar/Port of Bar - The Port of Bar spreads over 200 hectares. The total length of the operational coast is 3.5 kilometers, aquatorium maximum depth of 14 meters, and 120 thousand square meters are secure warehouses. In the port, there are five specialized terminals: for passenger traffic, general cargo, containers, solid and liquid bulk. Maximum capacity is about five million tons. The Government owns 54.05% of total shares, while the remaining proportion is divided between privatization funds (15.54%), workers (11.03%), citizens (18.33%) and other legal entities (1.05%). The port employs 1,371 workers. The average age of workers is 45. In accordance with the Government of Montenegro's privatization plan, the sale of the state package of shares in the port shall be done on the basis of restructuring, most likely in the first half of 2009.
Bijela Shipyard - The shipyard, established in 1927, is the largest ship-repairing and reconstruction yard in the southern Adriatic. A tender for Shipyard will be announced in first quarter of 2009.
Greenfield in hydropower plants on the River Moraca - The Government of Montenegro intends to develop the country's untapped hydropower potential through Public-Private Partnerships. As a priority, the Government wants to develop the Moraca River potential through a series of four hydroelectric-power plants for a total of 238 megawatts (MW) and an annual production of 693 gigawatt hours (GWh). Extensive geotechnical and hydrological studies have already been performed in order to preparation the technical documentation. Legal Due Diligence, a Detailed Spatial Plan, and Strategic Environmental Assessments are expected to be completed by the end of February 2009. Interested parties may be requested to comment on the data from the existing technical documents and to produce improved design proposals for the development of the project. A prequalification tender is planned as the next stage of the bidding process. Expression of interest tenders were submitted on December 1, 2008, and 13 companies have indicated their intention to participate in the actual tender process which will be announced in 2009. Design/construction (DBOT) tenders for a number of small hydro plants will be issued in the near future as well.
Electrical Power Company - The Electrical Power Company is a state-owned company whose core activity is electricity generation, transmission, distribution, and supply. The Privatization Council has decided to start the procedure of recapitalization; it is estimated that around 22% of the company will be privatized. Given the amount of shares currently in private hands, this would put 45 % of the total capital in private hands, while the state would keep the remaining 55 %. The Privatization Council has formed a Tender Commission which will supervise the process. According to this Commission, the selection of a strategic partner will be completed by the end of 2009.
AD Plantaze - Plantaze is the biggest producer of wine and table grapes in Montenegro and in the surrounding countries, producing about 20 million kilos per year. It is the market leader in the Balkans. Production capacities include a vineyard area of 2,200 hectares, the largest in Europe, two wine cellars with the capacity of 250,000 hectoliters, peach orchards with the area of 97 hectares, a fish-pond with the annual production of 120 tons of California trout, cold storage with the capacity of 3,000 tons, retail facilities, and catering-hospitality business facilities. The privatization strategy and privatization process will be prepared and announced during 2009.
A number of U.S. companies already are operating in Montenegro and the government has put an emphasis on attracting more American investment.
In order to further develop commercial ties between the U.S. and Montenegro, the first American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham Montenegro) was launched on November 19, 2008. AmCham Montenegro will serve as a leading advocate for American as well as other foreign businesses in Montenegro.
Richard Danicic, Executive Director
American Chamber of Commerce in Montenegro
Kralja Nikole 27a/4
81000 Podgorica, Montenegro
Tel/Fax: +382 20 621 628
The U.S. Montenegro Business Council was formally opened in Podgorica on December 16, 2008. The Business Council's mission is to promote trade and investment between the U.S. and Montenegro. Additionally, through its sister office in the U.S., the Council will seek to encourage more American investors to learn about opportunities in Montenegro, as well as to help Montenegrin companies explore business opportunities in the U.S. Also, as a part of the strategic partnership between Montenegro and the State of Maryland, the Business Council's office in Podgorica also will serve as a Maryland State trade office.
Svetlana Vukcevic, Executive Director
US - Montenegro Business Council
Jovana Tomasevica 2
81000 Podgorica, Montenegro
Tel/fax: +382 20 245 564
In order to better promote investment and foster economic development, the Government of Montenegro established the Montenegrin Investment Promotion Agency (MIPA) in mid-2005. It seeks to advertise Montenegro as a competitive investment destination by actively facilitating investment projects in the country.
The Montenegrin Agency for Economic Restructuring was established in 1990. This agency's primary task has been privatization and restructuring state-owned companies.
Inquiries on investment opportunities in Montenegro can be directed to:
Petar Ivanovic, Director
Montenegrin Investment Promotion Agency (MIPA)
Jovana Tomasevica 2
81000 Podgorica, Montenegro
Tel/fax: (+382 20) 203 140, 203 141, 202 910
Branko Vujovic, Director
Montengrin Agency for Economic Restructuring
Jovana Tomasevica bb
81000 Podgorica Montenegro
Tel: (+ 382 20) 242 640; 246 411
Fax: (+ 382 20) 245 756
Montenegro has enacted specific legislation outlining guarantees and safeguards for foreign investors. Montenegro's Foreign Investment Law (ratified in November 2000) establishes the framework for investment in Montenegro. The law eliminates previous investment restrictions; extends national treatment to foreign investors; allows for the transfer/repatriation of profits and dividends; provides guarantees against expropriation; and allows for custom duty waivers for equipment imported as capital-in-kind.
Montenegro also has adopted more than 20 other business-related laws, all in accordance with EU standards. The main laws that regulate foreign investment in Montenegro are: the Foreign Investment Law (see above paragraph), the Enterprise Law, the Insolvency Law, the Law on Fiduciary Transfer of Property Rights, the Accounting Law, the Law on Capital and Current Transactions, the Foreign Trade Law, the Customs Law, the Law on Free Zones, the Labor Law, the Securities Law, the Concession Law, and the set of laws that regulate tax policy.
Montenegro has made significant steps in amending investment-related legislation in accordance with world standards and in creating the necessary institutions for attracting investments. However, as is the case with other transition countries, implementation and enforcement of existing legislation remains a problem.
Dispute resolution is under the authority of national courts, but it can be under the authority of international courts if the contract designates, meaning that Montenegro allows for the possibility of international arbitration. Various foreign companies have other bilateral and multilateral organizations -- such as MIGA (World Bank), OPIC (U.S.), ECGD (UK), SID (Slovenia), SACE (Italy), COFACE (France), and OEKB (Austria) -- providing risk insurance against war, expropriation, nationalization, confiscation, inconvertibility of profit and dividends, and inability to transfer currency.
Conversion and Transfer Policies
The Foreign Investment Law guarantees the right to transfer and repatriate profits in Montenegro.
Montenegro uses the Euro as its domestic currency. There are no difficulties in the free transfer of funds exercised on the basis of profit, repayment of resources, or residual assets.
Expropriation and Compensation
Montenegro provides legal safeguards against expropriation. Protections are codified in laws adopted by the government. There have been no cases of expropriation of foreign investments in Montenegro.
However, Montenegro has outstanding claims related to property nationalized under the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
On March 23, 2004, Montenegro passed a new Restitution Law. The necessary sub-acts entered into effect on January 1, 2005, and the Restitution Fund (which will provide cash compensation when necessary) came into existence on March 1, 2005. The basic restitution policy in Montenegro is restitution in kind when possible, and cash compensation or substitution of other state land when physical return is not possible.
The new law establishes a set claims period, after which no further claims will be considered. Claims were submitted to the municipal Restitution Commission in the municipality where the property was located; these claims were required to be submitted within 18 months of the relevant Commission's establishment. Claims are no longer being considered.
At the end of August 2007, Parliament passed a new Law on Restitution, which supersedes the 2004 law. According to the new law, there will be only three Commissions: one in Bar (covering the coastal area), one in Podgorica (for the central part of Montenegro), and one in Bijelo Polje (for northern part of Montenegro). It is expected that the three Commissions started work in 2008.
Montenegro provides safeguards from expropriation actions through its Foreign Investment Law. Article 29 states that the government cannot expropriate property of a foreign investor unless there is a "compelling public purpose" established by law or on the basis of the law. If an expropriation is executed, compensation must be provided at fair market value plus one basis point above the LIBOR rate for the period between the expropriation and the date of payment of compensation.
Montenegro's Law on Courts defines a judicial system consisting of three levels of courts: Basic, Superior, and the Supreme Court. It also establishes two courts -- the Appellate and Administrative Courts (established in 2005) -- with special jurisdiction for commercial matters.
The Basic Courts exercise original jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases. There are 15 courts for Montenegro's 21 municipalities. Two Superior Courts in Podgorica and Bijelo Polje have appellate review of municipal court decisions. The Superior Courts also decide on jurisdictional conflicts between the municipal courts.
The two commercial courts (which also handle economic crimes) were established in Podgorica and Bijelo Polje. They have jurisdiction in the following matters: shipping, navigation, aircraft (except passenger transport), intellectual property rights, bankruptcy, and unfair trade practices. The Superior Courts hear appeals of Basic Court decisions, and Superior Court decisions may be appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the court of final judgment for all civil, criminal and administrative cases.
The commercial court system faces challenges, such as the introduction of new legislation and changes to existing laws; developing a new system of operations, including electronic communication with clients; and a lack of capacity and expertise among the judges. Some reform proposals have included creating a High Commercial Court or dedicating a chamber of the Supreme Court to commercial cases. Some judges also have suggested designating a particular court with assigned competency for specific areas in order to streamline caseloads and develop specialized expertise for complicated economic crimes/matters.
The legislative environment has been significantly changed as more than 20 business laws have been adopted. The goal was to remove barriers for doing business in Montenegro and to attract foreign investors.
The new Labor Law was adopted in July 2008. It defines a single collective agreement for both public and private sectors, keeps the existing level of severance payments of six average monthly salaries and retains the current 365 days maternity leave. Besides the Labor Law, the question of labor-based relations is also defined in the General Collective Agreement, Branch-level Collective Agreements, and with individual labor agreements between employer and employee. A new Concession Law is in draft and is waiting to be approved by the government and then adopted in the Parliament. The new (currently draft) Law on Concession will create favorable conditions for obtaining and utilizing concession licenses. It also will regulate the conditions and procedures for obtaining a concession to exploit natural resources, use property in the public domain, and/or conduct activities of general interest. The Concession Law is fundamental to support the Public-Private Partnership process through which a number of future projects will be realized in Montenegro.
Also adopted in the last five years were: the Law on the Central Bank, the Law on Pledges (which provides for a bailment of personal property as security for some debt or engagement), the Law on Strikes, the Electronic Signature Law, and the Law on Free Zones.
Performance Requirements and Incentives
The government does not impose any performance requirements as a condition for establishing, maintaining, or expanding an investment.
Limited incentives are offered to foreign investors; for example, the government offers duty exemptions for imported equipment.
Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
In Montenegro, a foreign investor, foreign company, or foreign individual may acquire property. Article 12 of the Montenegrin Foreign Investment Law specifically permits foreign investors to purchase real estate through a contract. This right is explicitly reinforced by the Law on Property and Law Relations. The Act states that foreign persons and companies can, based on reciprocity, acquire rights to real estate, such as company facilities, places of business, apartments, living spaces, and land for construction. Additionally, foreign persons can claim property rights to real estate by inheritance in the same manner as a domestic citizen.
Protection of Property Rights
In July 2002, Montenegro enacted its Law on Secured Transactions and established a collateral registry at the Commercial Court in May 2003. The registry's operational guidelines have been drafted and approved by the Commercial Court. The main goal of the Law on Secured Transactions is to establish a clear and transparent framework.
In August 2004, Montenegro adopted a new Law on Mortgages by which immovable property may be encumbered by a security interest (mortgage) to secure a claim for the benefit of a creditor who is authorized, in the manner prescribed by the law, to demand satisfaction of his claim by foreclosing the mortgaged property with priority over creditors who do not have a mortgage created on that particular property, as well as over any subsequently registered mortgage, regardless of a change in the owner of the encumbered immovable property.
Intellectual Property Rights
The acquisition and disposition of intellectual property rights are protected by the Law on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights, which entered into force on January 1, 2006. The law provides for fines for legal entities of up to 30,000 for selling pirated and/or counterfeited goods. It also provides ex officio authority for market inspectors in the areas mentioned above. In April 2005, the Montenegrin Parliament adopted the Regulation on (TRIPs) Border Measures that provides powers to the custom authorities to suspend the customs procedure and seize pirated and counterfeit goods.
Montenegro's Penal Code acknowledges infringement of all intellectual property rights, ex officio prosecution, and stricter criminal penalties. The Law on Optical Disks was adopted in December 2006; it requires the registration of business activity when reproducing optical disks for commercial purposes and provides for surveillance of optical disk imports and exports, and imports and exports of polycarbonates (the material used in production of optical disks) and equipment for the production of optical disks.
Since independence, the relevant authorities (the Ministry of Culture and Media, the Deputy Prime Minister's Office for European Integration, as well as various NGOs) have begun to work on establishing an institutional and regulatory framework for intellectual property protection. The Montenegrin Intellectual Property Office (IPO) was officially opened on May 28, 2008. It currently employs 10 out of the 22 planned staff and already has laid the groundwork for formalizing cooperation with other IPOs in the region. A regulation on recognition of intellectual property rights was adopted in September 2007. Under this regulation, any rights registered with the Union Intellectual Property Office or with the Serbian Intellectual Property Office and any pending applications filed with these Offices before May 28, 2008 are enforceable in Montenegro. Any IPR application submitted after that date in Serbia will have to be re-submitted in Montenegro within six months, in order to retain its acquired priority.
IPR market inspectors, police officers, customs officers, and employees of the Ministry for Economic Development attended a number of training seminars on intellectual property protection and counterfeiting. At the end of 2007, the Customs Administration signed a Letter of Intent for Acceptance of SECURE Standards (standards to be employed by customs for uniform rights enforcement), adopted by the World Customs Organization (WCO) with a view to more efficient protection of intellectual property rights by customs authorities.
Since 2002, judges from the Commercial Court in Podgorica have been participating in relevant seminars organized both in Montenegro and abroad (USA, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, and Serbia).
The number of IPR cases filed at the Montenegrin courts has increased, from only a handful in 2007 to 44 in 2008. The average time per case is about six months.
The Anti-Pirating Association of Montenegro was established in November 2006.
Montenegro is not on the Special 301 Watch List.
In practice, IPR enforcement is weak and insufficient. The sale of pirated optical media (DVDs, CDs, software) as well as counterfeit trademarked goods, particularly sneakers and clothing, is widespread. Enforcement is slowly improving as customs, police, and judicial authorities obtain the necessary tools, but institutional capacity is still limited. Since 2006, the government, in partnership with the IPR Committee has funded a number of training programs to help regulatory authorities address the problem.
Overall, further progress still needs to be made on protection of intellectual property rights, especially with regard to the still limited institutional and enforcement capacity and the low level of public awareness.
The former State Union of Serbia and Montenegro ratified many conventions and agreements. It should be noted that in its Declaration of Independence Montenegro stated:
"The Republic of Montenegro will apply and assume international agreements and treaties which were concluded by the State Union and which are in accordance with the Montenegrin judicial system."
The following conventions and agreements in the field of intellectual property have been signed and continued with implementation after independence:
Montenegro's accession to the WTO has entered the final stage. Progress was made at both multilateral and bilateral levels, including the completion of bilateral negotiations reached on April 15, 2008 with the European Commission and on January 13, 2009 with the United States. Accession is expected to take place in 2009. Montenegro applied for membership in WTO in December 2004. In February 2005 the WTO General Council accepted its application and a working group was established to start the negotiation process. Accession to the WTO is expected to make a positive and lasting contribution to the process of economic reform and sustainable development in Montenegro. A large part of Montenegro's trade is already with the EU. The further mutual opening of markets and abolishment of restrictions to market access for goods and services will benefit entrepreneurs on both sides stimulating investment.
Bilateral trade commitments between the EU and Montenegro are already embodied in the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) which was signed between the European Community and its Member States and Montenegro on October 15, 2007. Pending the completion of the ratification process in Member States, an Interim Agreement has been applicable since January 1, 2008 allowing for the early implementation of trade and trade-related provisions of the SAA.
The U.S. Government, through USAID, has been providing technical assistance to Montenegro on the WTO accession process; the project was completed in December 2008.
Transparency of Regulatory System
On January 22, 2004, the Parliament of Montenegro established an Energy Regulatory Agency, which has authority over the electricity, gas, oil, and heating energy sectors. Its main tasks are approval of pricing, development of a model for determining allowable business costs for energy sector entities, issuance of operating licenses for energy companies and for construction in the energy sector, and monitoring of public tenders. The energy law prescribes that those energy sectors where prices are affected by the monopoly positions of some participants, business costs will be set at levels approved by the Agency. In those areas deemed to function competitively, the market will determine prices.
The Agency for Telecommunications was founded by the Montenegrin government in 2001. It is an independent regulatory body whose primary purpose is to design and implement a regulatory framework and encourage private investment in the sector.
According to the World Bank/International Finance Corporation publication "Doing Business," Montenegro is among the 31 countries in the world with the highest tax reduction in the world, having lowered its tax rate by a significant amount over a one-year period.
Montenegro launched reforms of the tax system and overall financial system in 2001 in order to: encourage domestic production and investments; make Montenegro more attractive to foreign investors; make locally produced goods more competitive in foreign markets; harmonize the tax system with EU Directives and international standards; make the tax system simpler, more efficient, and easier to implement; and generate income for the state budget.
Key segments of the tax reform package include a value added tax (applied since April 1, 2003), which replaced the previous retail tax and use of a self-assessment principle (according to which tax liability was calculated by the taxpayer, while the related procedure was controlled by a tax authority). In addition, the tax administration also has been transformed, and some competencies related to the collection of local revenues have been delegated to the local government.
|Personal Income Tax Rate:||Flat rate: 12%|
|Corporate Tax Rate:||Flat rate: 9%|
|Value Added Tax:||Standard rate: 17%|
|Lower rate: 7%|
|Zero rate: 0%|
Real Estate Tax:
- The real estate tax rate is proportional.
- The real estate tax rate can range from 0.08% to 0.80% of the real estate market value.
- Local governments determine the real estate tax rates according to type of real estate.
- A local government unit can increase the tax rate for agricultural land which is not cultivated to 50% in relation to the tax rate for agricultural land which is cultivated.
Real Estate Transfer Tax:
2% of the market value of a real estate property (on a newly constructed real estate transfer, the VAT is paid at the rate of 17%).
The tax system in Montenegro is comprised of the following tax laws:
- Corporate Profit Tax (effective from January 1, 2002)
- Personal Income Tax (effective from January 1, 2007)
- Property Tax (effective from January 1, 2003)
- Excise Tax (effective from April 1, 2002)
- Value Added Tax (VAT) (effective from April 1, 2003)
The Corporate Tax Law proscribed a proportional tax rate of 9%. The corporate income taxpayer is defined as a resident or non-resident legal person performing an activity for profit. A limited partnership is also subject to corporate income tax.
The new Law of Personal Income Tax entered into force on January 1, 2007. This law proscribes a flat tax rate of 15% on personal income; on January 1, 2009 this rate his was reduced to 12%, and will be reduced in 2010 to 9%. A personal income taxpayer is defined as a resident or non-resident natural person who earned income from sources determined under the law. When two or more natural persons jointly earn income, a taxpayer is any of these persons in proportion with the sharing of such income.
The Value Added Tax rate is 17%. Amendments to the law have reduced the tax rate from 17% to 7% on accommodation services in tourism, on medicines which are not on a list designated by the Health Fund, and on communal services, transport services, and authorial services (such as copyrights and services in the area of education, literature, and art). The reduction of the VAT for tourist services has fostered the growth of that sector. A zero VAT rate is applied on export transactions and on delivery of medicines and medical devices which are funded by the Health Insurance Fund.
The law also provides for several types of exemptions: for services of public interest (public postal services, health services, social security services, pre-school education services, sport, religious and other public services); import of goods (products brought into Montenegro with transit customs procedure, services relating to import of goods etc.); temporary import of goods (products imported on a temporary basis provided that they are exempt from customs duty according to customs regulations), and special exemptions (import of goods to be inspected by the customs authority; products that enter free customs zone or free customs warehouse; and products under customs storage procedure or under import procedure for export on the basis of delay).
The tax period for the VAT is defined as a calendar month, and taxpayers are obliged to file monthly VAT returns. These returns are filed by the 15th of each month following the month for which a tax liability is paid. The VAT on imports is paid concurrently with the customs duty payment. (VAT is a part of the customs liability).
The taxpayer shall be refunded VAT for: local transactions within 60 days from the day of filing VAT to be calculated (until January 1, 2008, the deadline was 90 days); major importers and taxpayers who disclose more than three times in a row a surplus of input VAT, shall be refunded that VAT within 30 days from the day of filing (previously, 60 days).
All proposed laws and regulations are published in draft form and open for public comments, generally for a 30 day period.
Efficient Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The capital market comprises two stock markets. In early 2008 one of the stock exchanges launched a takeover bid, but failed to take control of its rival. Eight investment funds and some 32 brokerage companies participate in the market. A number of banks also participate in the capital market by founding pension funds, forming broker associations, or performing custody operations. Overall, the non-bank financial sector grew rapidly, especially driven by leasing, while the stock markets remained volatile.
The volume of trade on both Montenegrin stock exchanges, during the first eleven months of 2008, amounted to 154.6 million Euros. This was 4.5 times lower than the volume of trade seen during the same period in 2007 (710.9 million Euros).
Nex Stock Exchange: The total volume of trade during the first eleven months of 2008 was 79.5 million Euros, whilst the number of transactions reached 35,353. Compared to the total volume during the same period in 2007 (440.9 million Euros), trade volume decreased by 82%. (www.nex.cg.yu).
The Montenegro Stock Exchange: The total volume of trade during the first eleven months of 2008 amounted to 75 million Euros. A total of 35,774 transactions were recorded. During the same period in 2007, trade volume totaled 269.9 million Euros and numbered 71,856 transactions. (www.montenegroberza.com).
Three types of security were traded: company shares, privatization-investment fund shares and bonds, which included: Old Currency Savings Bonds, Restitution Fund Bonds, Local Self-Government Bonds, and Retirement Bonds. Transactions totaled 71,227 --three times lower than during the same period in 2007 (219,030).
Montenegro has been led by democratically-elected governments. The current government supports Montenegro's integration with the European Union and the reforms necessary to achieve this goal.
There is no sustained anti-American sentiment in the general public despite U.S. involvement in regional NATO actions. Montenegro and the United States share many policy goals and cooperate productively in many areas. There is broad support for a strengthening of ties with the United States, especially in the economic/commercial sphere.
As is the case with many countries in transition and in the region, corruption is a significant issue in Montenegro. Corruption routinely places high on the list of citizens' concerns in opinion polls. According to the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index for 2008, Montenegro ranked 85 (out of the total 180 countries included in the study, with higher numbers meaning a higher perceived level of corruption).
The government's goal of integrating with European and Euro-Atlantic institutions has spurred efforts to counter corruption. In 2001, the government established an Anti-Corruption Agency responsible for preparing anti-corruption legislation, improving the transparency of financial and business operations, coordinating activities with NGOs, and promoting awareness in combating corruption.
In 2005, the government adopted an official Program for the Fight Against Corruption and Organized Crime, and adopted an Action Plan to implement the Program the following year. In 2007, the government established a National Commission to monitor the implementation of the Action Plan. Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Gordana Djurovic currently heads the Commission.
A legal framework against corruption and organized crime has been in force since August 2006 (Law on Witness Protection/Action Plan to Fight against Corruption and Organized Crime). Montenegro is also preparing a criminal intelligence system, and has been a full member of the International Criminal Police Organization-Interpol since September 2006.
In the past two year period, Montenegro has implemented 16 of 24 compulsory recommendations adopted by Council of Europe Group of States against corruption (GRECO).
In the past two years, progress on combating corruption has been achieved through the passage of important legislation on public procurement, the treasury and budget system, and the courts. Implementation of these laws is now a priority for the government.
Bilateral Investment Agreements
Montenegro signed the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) -- which is intended to eliminate all custom restrictions for industrial and agricultural products in member states by 2010 -- in December 2006. The Parliament ratified CEFTA on March 21, 2007, and it took effect in Montenegro (and simultaneously in Albania, Macedonia, Moldova, and Kosovo) on July 26, 2007. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia were already parties to the Agreement.
The United States does not have a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with Montenegro. It is possible that, given the presence of U.S. investors, Montenegro could be a BIT candidate in the future.
Other free trade agreements
* Free Trade Agreement with Russia. A free trade agreement with Russia, concluded in August 2000, provided for the gradual elimination of barriers to Montenegrin exports to Russia by 2005. The agreement stipulates that the importing country regulate the rules of origin, in accordance with WTO principles. The list of products not covered by the duty free agreement is updated annually, and it currently includes poultry, sugar, chocolate, alcoholic beverages, soap, cotton, carpets, wooden furniture, household appliances, and motor vehicles.
* Preferential Trade Agreement with the European Union. The EU has taken steps to stimulate the export of goods among countries in the region through the establishment of autonomous trade preferences (ATP), which provide duty-free entry for over 95%of goods. Exemptions include wine, meat, and steel. Products originating from Montenegro are generally admitted into the European Union without quantitative restrictions and are exempted from custom duties and charges. The products exempted from the free import regime are agricultural products, "baby beef" products, and textile products.
* EFTA countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein). A preliminary declaration of cooperation was signed with EFTA in December 2000, pledging asymmetric treatment of Montenegro products in the markets of the four member countries. This declaration has paved the way for a future free trade agreement between EFTA and Montenegro.
The United States restored Normal Trade Relations (Most-Favored Nation status) to Montenegro in December 2003. This provides improved access to the U.S. market for goods exported from Montenegro. The U.S. Government is reviewing Montenegro's request to be designated a beneficiary developing country under the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, which would provide duty-free access to the U.S. market in various eligible categories.
OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs
OPIC is a self-sustaining U.S. Government agency, which promotes growth in developing countries by encouraging U.S. private investment. OPIC's key programs are its loan guarantees, direct loans and political risk insurance. Montenegro, through the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, became eligible for OPIC programs in July 2001. OPIC's activities include: (1) insurance for investors against political risk, expropriation of assets, damages due to political violence and currency convertibility; and (2) insurance coverage for certain contracting, exporting, licensing and leasing transactions. OPIC also established the Southeast Europe Equity Investment Fund that is managed by Soros Management. This fund is capitalized at $150 million. For more information see: http://www.opic.gov.
Montenegro's unemployment rate has dropped in recent years and wages have increased steadily. Montenegro's total labor force is comprised of approximately 257,000 people; the unemployment rate in December 2008 was 10.68%. The Employment Agency states that there are currently 28,190 unemployed people. Average wages in 2008 increased 23% compared to 2007, despite the constant minimum wage level. The average monthly wage in 2008 was $658 (629), while the average monthly wage without taxes and contributions was $465 (428).
Over the past few years, employment in private companies has increased, and total employment in the social sector (including state-owned companies) has decreased. Major sectors generating employment in Montenegro are tourism, port/shipping, and manufacturing (i.e. aluminum).
Bringing Montenegro's labor market legislative framework into accordance with EU standards is one of the primary tasks of the Montenegrin Government. The new Labor Law was adopted in July 2008. It defines a single collective agreement for both public and private sectors, keeps the existing level of severance payments of six average monthly salaries and retains the current 365 days maternity leave. A Law on Peaceful Resolution of Labor Disputes was adopted in December 2007. It introduces out-of-court settlement of labor disputes for the first time in Montenegro. The agency required for implementation of the Law now needs to be established.
During the first nine months of the year, there were 34,000 nonresident workers according to official statistics. In March 2008, the Government adopted the Law on the Employment of Nonresidents, to take effect on January 1, 2009. According to the law, the government must set a quota for nonresident workers. The nonresident quota for the upcoming tourist season is expected to be approximately 40,000.
Substantial amendments to existing legislation and timely adoption of the necessary by-laws are needed to align the legislation on health and safety at work more closely with the EU acquis. The administrative capacity of the Ministry of Labor and its inspection department are not yet strong enough and establishment of the safety at work agency needs to be sped up. Another significant piece of legislation is the newly adopted Law on Pension Insurance, which has helped to reform the pension system.
Foreign-Trade Zones/Free Ports
In June 2004, Montenegro passed a Free Trade Zone Law, which offers businesses benefits and exemptions from custom duties, taxes, and other duties. The Port of Bar is currently the only free trade zone.
AD Luka Bar (Port of Bar Holding Co.)
Obala 13.jula bb
85000 Bar, Montenegro
Tel/fax: (+ 382 85) 312 666
Web site: http://www.lukabar.cg.yu
Foreign Direct Investment Statistics
Investing Company: Interbrew
Investment: Acquisition of Niksic Brewery for USD 25.2 million
Investing Company: Societe Generale
Investment: Acquisition of 64.45 percent of Podgoricka Bank for USD 16.8 million
Investing Company: Hellenic Petroleum
Investment: Acquisition of the 54.4 percent of Jugopetrol Kotor petroleum refinery for USD 120 million
Investing Company: Telenor
Investment: Acquisition of Promonte mobile operator for USD 145 million
Investing Company: Matav (with Deutche Telecom)
Investment: Acquisition of 51 per cent of Telecom Montenegro for USD 142 million
Investing Company: Rusal
Investment: Acquisition of "KAP" aluminum plant for USD 58.2 million
Investing Company: Daido
Investment: Acquisition of Factory of Ball Bearings for USD 11.2 million
Investing Company: HIT Nova Gorica
Investment: Acquisition of the Hotel Maestral for USD 48 million
Investing Company: Beppler & Jacobson
Investment: Acquisition of Hotel Bianca for USD 10.8 million
Investing Company: Njega Tours
Investment: Acquisition of Hotel AS for USD 18 million
Investing Company: Salomon Ent
Investment: Acquisition of Bauxite Mine (Rudnici boksita AD Podgorica) for USD 12.5 million
Investing Company: Beppler & Jacobson
Investment: Acquisition of Hotel Avala for USD 15.2 million
Investing Company: Gradex HPB
Investment: Acquisition of Rudnik mrkog uglja (dark coal mine) for USD 12.7 million
Investing Company: Springer & Sons
Investment: Acquisition of Hotel Panorama for USD 9.3 million
Investing Company: LB leasing Ljubljana
Investment: Greenfield investment in LB Leasing Podgorica of USD 10.1 million
Investing Company: Hypo Group
Investment: Greenfield investment in Hypo Alpe Adria Montenegro of USD 15 million
Investing Company: OTP Bank
Investment: Acquisition of CKB bank for USD 134 million
Investing Company: PM Securities
Investment: Acquisition of Arsenal for USD 4 million
Investing Company: Strabag AG
Investment: Acquisition of Public Enterprise Crnagora for USD 10.5 million
Investing Company: MN Speciality
Investment: Acquisition of Steel factory Niksic for USD 6.5 million
Investing Company: Aman Resorts
Investment: Lease of HTP Budvanska Rivijera ("Sveti Stefan", "Milocer", "Kraljicina plaza") for 1.95 million per year; first year 2.1 million (for 30 years)
Investing Company: Telecom Serbia and Ogalar B.V.
Country: Serbia and Holland
Investment: Greenfield of 16 million
Investing Company: Balkan Energy
Investment: Portfolio investment in dark coal mine Berane of 1.5 million
Investing Company: Petrol Bonus
Investment: Acquisition of Montenegrobonus for USD 154.5 million (for six years)
Investing Company: BT International
Investment: Acquisition of "4. Novembar" Mojkovac for USD 6.3 million
Investing Company: Intereuropa
Investment: Portfolio investment in Zetatrans for USD 12.3 million
Investing Company: Morgan Invest
Investment: Portfolio Investment of Titex for USD 2.45 million
Investing Company: Platzer Leasing & Monte Mlin Sajo
Country: Austria & Montenegro
Investment: Acquisition of Hotel "Vila Oliva" for USD 3.5 million
Investing Company: Barkli SK
Investment: Acquisition of Hotel "Otrant" for USD 2.5 million
Investing Company: Becovic Management Group
Investment: Acquisition of Hotel "Mediteran" for USD 1 million
Investing Company: Capital Estate
Investment: Acquisition of Hotel "Grand Lido" for USD 10.8 million
Investing Company: HLT fund & Primorje Tivat
Country: Slovenia & Montenegro
Investment: Acquisition of Hotel "Centar Igalo" for USD 3.1 million
Investing Company: Hungest Hotels
Investment: Acquisition of Hotel "Topla" for USD 0.8 million
Investing Company: Hungest Hotels
Investment: Acquisition of Hotel "Centar" for USD 1 million
Investing Company: Beppler & Jacobson
Investment: Acquisition of Ski center Bjelasica for USD 0.5 million
Investing Company: UNIQA International Beteiligungs
Investment: Greenfield investment in UNIQA Montenegro of USD 3.2 million
Investing Company: Bolici Invest
Investment: Greenfield investment in Hotel Bolici of USD 58.8 million
Investing Company: Royal
Investment: Greenfield investment in Royal Montenegro of USD 147 million
Investing Company: Egyptian investment fund
Investment: Greenfield investment of USD 73.5 million
Investing Company: MNSS B.V.
Investment: Acquisition of Steel Mill of USD 58.8million
Investing Company: Gintas Group
Investment: Greenfield investment in Mall of Montenegro of USD 58.8 million
Investing Company: Mercator Group
Investment: Portfolio investment in Mercator Mex of USD 8.8 million
Investing Company: Lukoil
Investment: Portfolio investment in Roksped of USD 39 million
Investing Company: Agrokor
Investment: Portfolio investment in Stampa of USD 2.2 million
Investing Company: Alstom
Investment: Expansion of Niksicka Tehno Baza of USD 7.35 million
Investing Company: Delta
Investment: Greenfield investment in Delta City mall of USD 86.9 million