Opposition to a military campground in Sinjajevina, Montenegro
Sinjajevina, Montenegro2 June 2021
The Sinjajevina plateau, along the Durmitor National Park (Montenegro), are the largest mountain pastoral lands in the Balkans and the second largest in Europe. They attract many shepherds from all over the country, who divide the territory into eight tribes that have traditionally used it, following customary rules.
In 2018, a year after Montenegro joined NATO, plans began to develop to turn Sinjajevina into a military training camp. In 2019 Sinjajevina was declared a military training field, without any debate in Parliament. The first operations involved troops from the United States, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Northern Macedonia and Montenegro. The planned training camp was located within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, surrounded by national parks, two World Heritage sites, in a natural space proposed by the Natura 2000 network, i.e. the region with most valuable protected areas in the country. There was even a regional nature park about to declare 2020 in Sinjajevina, which was halted due to the military initiative.
To oppose the new military training camp, a coalition of local pastoralists, national and international NGOs was created: the Association Save Sinjajevina. In the summer of 2020, they joined Land Rights Now, which works with Oxfam, and the International Land Coalition. Protesters occupied the central area of the training field, forcing the military to go elsewhere. Every time the military moved, the shepherds in that area alerted the coalition and the activists also moved through the mountains, to occupy the hills around the new site that the military had taken. Spontaneous, improvised, heroic and intelligent resistance between pastoral communities and activists has been able to withstand more than two years the attempts of the military.
The next phase that drives the association is for the Montenegrin government to pass a law that repeals the use of Sinjajevina as a military training ground and another that protects the land and its traditional uses, which had protect local ecosystems for centuries, providing high quality sustainable and healthy production, as well as local livelihoods and the continuity of a centuries-old, perhaps millennial, pastoral community culture.
The website of the campaign: https://sinjajevina.org/ (includes a blog with updated news).
To get involved and provide support: https://www.landrightsnow.org/get-involved/save-sinjajevina-now/