I am a journalist at DAN newspaper, the most read printed newspaper in Montenegro, at the same time as the Secretary General of the Save Sinjajevina NGO, and son of farmers of Sinjajevina, as well as co-founder of KOR (coalition of Montenegrin NGOs in defense of the environment).
Montenegro joined NATO in 2017, in 2018 rumors started to appear that the grasslands of Sinjajevina mountain, the biggest mountain pasture in the Balkans and the second largest in Europe, a unique landscape of immense natural and cultural value, part of the Tara River Canyon Biosphere Reserve was going to be converted into a military training ground for Montenegro and NATO allies unconcerned about the immeasurable damage that this would bring upon its local communities and ecosystems. About 250 pastoralis families pass their summers rearing their animals in these highlands, including my family still today, to which I help every year and where I was raised as a kid every summer. More than 1.000 people have their livelihoods depend on it, while over 22,000 people live all year around it. In september 2019 the military ground was officially inaugurated while pastoralists were still in the area and in late 2020, a coalition of national environmental and rights’ activists and pastoralists led by Save Sinjajevina in relation with international NGOs (ICCA consortium, International Land Coalition, Common Lands Network, Land Rights Now, etc.), organized a global and local resistance to a new military training exercise planned for October 2020. The movement that led its defence camped in the heart of the grasslands and the military training ground at almost 2,000masl just before the military entered. We worked as human shields preventing new bombings and shootings in our ancestral lands. To the point that we achieved to resist during more than 50 days in freezing conditions and have the new minister of the Defence that the new training would be canceled in the area for the time being in await of finding an alternative solution. Currently I am working with my organization Save Sinjajevina, other NGO's in Montenegro, Sinjajevinan inhabitants and international allies to:
1 - That a decree law is issued, cancelling the previous one in 2019, which officially inaugurated the military training ground in Sinjajevina. We accept that the words of the Defense Minister alone, is excellent news and a valid declaration of intentions, but all of this will remain as wet paper if it does not become legally binding.
2.- That a decree law is issued for the creation of a protected area designed and governed with the full participation of the local communities, as they with their traditional pastoral activity, are the main guarantors of these ecosystems and landscapes.