Montenegro: Place of Natural Splendor
Located on the Adriatic Sea, Montenegro is one of the smallest countries in Europe. With an area of just 13,812 km2, it could be easy to overlook this Mediterranean gem and take for granted its beauty, history, and potential. But in recent years, Montenegro has done an impressive job of improving its appeal on the world stage, increasingly gaining popularity with travelers — who are charmed by the country’s natural wonders, including a coastline of 293 km, with 72 km of beaches — and investors alike.
Montenegro, which has a stunning nature profile, offers a diverse range of interesting locations for visitors to the country, be they on short- or long-term stays. Almost the entire country is covered by hills and mountains, hence the name Montenegro, which means ‘black mountain’ in Venetian.
Among the better-known sites is the Bay of Kotor, or Boka, which is surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery that never fails to awe spectators. The Bay of Kotor is currently the most prosperous region in terms of tourism: many large and strategic tourist projects are developing there, and its historic old town of Kotor, which is a UNESCO-protected heritage site, adds to its appeal.
On the opposite side of the coast, in the town of Ulcinj, the southernmost point of the country, is the longest beach in the country, extending for around 12 km. Ulcinj is home to the ancient Ulcinj Fortress, believed to be more than 20 centuries old.
Another remarkable site to visit in Montenegro is Lake Skadar, the largest lake on the Balkan Peninsula. Situated within a national park, the lake is shared by two countries, Montenegro and Albania, since it lies on their common border. Home to hundreds of bird species, including the rare European pelican, Lake Skadar offers a delightful escape for bird-lovers. The area is known too for its historic churches, fortresses, monasteries, and monuments.
One of the great advantages of living in Montenegro is the option to visit beaches and ski resorts a mere couple of hours’ drive away. For ski enthusiasts, the Bjelasica mountain range is the most favored ski destination and is well on its way to becoming a regional favorite for fans of the winter sport.
Montenegro has a great history to tell, which can be witnessed, in part, through the many old towns scattered along its coast. As a country, Montenegro’s history dates back over a thousand years. At the end of the 10th century, the rule of the first Montenegrin dynasty, Vojislavljević, began. (The country was then called Doclea or Duklja; the name Montenegro was first used in the 13th century.) However, the period that left a more significant trace on the country’s history began in 1496 when the Ottoman Empire attacked Montenegro, sparking a struggle for freedom that was to last four centuries.
As the town of Cetinje (today’s Old Royal Capital and a popular tourist destination) was never conquered, it served as a base for the rebellion. It was also home to the fourth and the most significant Montenegrin dynasty, Petrović-Njegoš. Until 1852 Montenegro was a theocracy, and the Petrović rulers were bishops. The most important of them was Petar II Petrović-Njegoš, who was also a world-famous poet. The last member of the dynasty was King Nikola, who was banished in 1918 and died in exile. After the Second World War, Montenegro became a republic within socialist Yugoslavia. The transition to a democratic parliamentary republic with a multi-party system began in 1989 and remains in place today.
The most important event in the recent history of the country is the referendum of 2006, by which the country regained its independence from Serbia. Since then, Montenegro has made significant progress both economically and politically. For example, the country became a member of the NATO alliance in 2017, thus positioning itself as a leading location for investment. Currently the leader of the Balkan Peninsula in terms of European integration, the country is expected to become a member of the EU in the next few years. Montenegro is a member of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization.
The pillars of Montenegro’s economy are trade, tourism, agriculture, and the energy sector. While the latter is utilized only to a small degree of its true potential — only about 20% of the country’s hydropower capacity is harnessed, for instance — impressive plans are underway. An underwater electricity transport cable connecting Italy and Montenegro is being developed and is expected to have an immensely positive impact on the electricity trade. This is a key aspect of the government’s future plan to commence exporting the commodity.
Another important driver of the economy is foreign direct investment (FDI), recorded at around EUR 650 million in 2017. The Government of Montenegro is business friendly and open to interested investors. A significant portion of FDI goes to the tourism and real estate sectors. After the vote for independence in 2006, real estate prices and demand flourished, especially on the coast. This was in large part because of a strong Russian interest, which diminished after the 2008 financial crisis. The market stabilized at that time but prices kept growing at an average of around 5% per year, which has been the rate of growth maintained until today. This growth is bolstered by interest from a diverse range of buyers from around the globe. Substantial positive drives in the tourism and real estate sectors have led to, and continue to lead to, large investments in tourist complexes and resorts on the coast.
Montenegro Citizenship-by-Investment Program
In its robust effort to attract new foreign investors, the Government of Montenegro is actively developing a citizenship-by-investment program (CIP), which is considered an obvious next step given the weighty impact such programs have had on the economies of various small countries such as Malta, and the Caribbean’s Antigua and Barbuda. Once launched, the CIP will require applicants to make a defined economic contribution to the country. In exchange, and subject to a stringent vetting and due diligence process (which includes the verification of sources of funds), applicants and their families will qualify to be granted Montenegrin citizenship.
To qualify for Montenegrin citizenship, the main applicant must be over 18 years of age, must meet the application requirements, and must make the qualifying contribution to the Competent Authority of the Government of Montenegro (Secretariat for Development Projects), namely:
1. Contribute EUR 100,000 into an escrow account for the advancement of underdeveloped, local self-government units
2. Contribute EUR 450,000 into an escrow account for the purpose of investing into one of the approved real estate development projects in the capital, Podgorica, or in the coastal region of Montenegro; or EUR 250,000 for the purpose of investing into one of the approved real estate development projects in the northern or central regions of Montenegro, excluding Podgorica.
Future holders of Montenegrin passports will enjoy a number of benefits. Montenegro is part of Europe’s Schengen Area and its citizens have visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 122 countries and territories. When Montenegro becomes a member of the EU this will further improve the freedom of movement available to passport holders, offering even greater value to early-bird investors.