Montenegro: Not Lovin' It

By Making the Decision to Ban McDonald’s, Montenegro has Said ‘No’ to Globalisation With an Act of Solidarity for Local Restaurants

Dragana Dautovic
May 01, 2007

Montenegro has said no to McDonalds.

It’s not that the public was totally against it. Three years ago, McDonalds brought a mobile restaurant into Montenegro’s capital city of Podgorica in 2003, and parked it at a very popular location in the centre of town for the whole summer to see how people reacted to it.

As might be expected, they were curious and the McDonalds Mobile did a brisk business. So it wasn’t the public; it was the government that said no.

By making this decision to ban McDonald’s, Montenegro has, in a way said no to globalisation. It was also an expression of concern for the health of its inhabitants, an act of solidarity with local restaurants, and maybe even a gesture of support for the trade balance. The decision also made a political statement regarding the involvement of the United States. And in the process, Montenegro may have made itself a test case of how to deal with similar problems of globalisation that may, in long term, harm the populations, trade, or health of other Eastern European countries.

Word of the McDonalds ban spread quickly. The only official response the citizens received was that Montenegro was not prepared, but also not willing to introduce this kind of food to its population. This decision was explained as derived from the problems other nations had to deal with.

There had been many rumors as to whether the food of this leading fast food company was in fact healthy. It was typically young people who were likely to be influenced by it, and also who had the greatest likelihood of suffering long term problems. Many had seen the film "The Super Size Me" and wanted to guard against obesity, heart disease, and many other long term illnesses.

Other rumours had it that one of the main local fast food restaurants had paid the government to keep McDonalds out, to avoid the competition. From the first day the McDonald’s Mobile was set up in Podgorica, this restaurant had complained. Why had the government allowed McDonald’s to come to Montenegro during summer months when there is the largest number of customers?

They complained of losing clientele and revenue, and were said to have decided to pay the government on the day the decision was to be made public.

It was a gutsy decision, showing that the government of Montenegro was willing to stick its neck out to defend public health and the prosperity of the country. At the same time, the government proclaimed its right to control anyone or any company wishing to invest in the country, to direct the development and success for the entire population.

The decision was similarly influenced by the anticipated effect on the trade balance if McDonald’s were to be open. One out of many rules that McDonald’s imposes on the countries where it is situated is that these nations must import all the goods necessary for the production from one company.

What this means is that, McDonald’s imports all the required ingredients, as well as plastic, paper, bottles, and etc. from someplace else. Therefore, the host country’s only role is to offer its people as customers and advance the interest of McDonald’s. This leaves the host country with lower exports and certainly lower income; McDonald’s turnover is disappearing outside the country leaving it with minimal revenue from taxes and a few salaries.

Montenegro, a country dealing with many difficulties, has set successful development as its main goal; McDonald’s, unfortunately, did not represent an adequate component of it.

Another factor acting against the opening of McDonald’s was the shared history of the host country, Montenegro, and that of a parent country, the United States.

In 1999, when NATO bombarded Serbia and Montenegro, a lot of distress and suspicion was targeted toward the United States. Many people suffered from the loss of loved ones, houses, and jobs. The bombing lasted for over three months and resulted in complete hatred and bitterness towards America and everything that came from America.

To launch McDonald’s in Montenegro after the NATO bombing would have required the country to absolve all the harm done during those three months. As this was not the case, McDonald’s, a purely American product, was not allowed to enter the country.

In addition, just the thought of McDonald’s globalisation is not an appealing one in Montenegro. With the introduction of McDonald’s would come other companies such as Starbucks or Burger King, damaging not only the population and trade, but also the local culture, making it just one more in series of typical coastal countries with a McDonald’s, Burger King, or a Starbucks on every corner.

Depending on how strong this will is to resist, Montenegro should be able to refrain from the globalisation of fast food. However, for how long it can not be predicted. As of summer 2006, McDonald’s again had its mobile restaurant in Montenegro, but this time for two months on the coast in Budva, on the beach boulevard near the old town.