15 Apr 15
EU Demands Faster Reform in Montenegro
Senior officials in Brussels said that Montenegro still needs to implement major reforms which are necessary for EU accession, and particularly to improve the rule of law.
The head of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said on Tuesday after meeting Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic in Brussels, that strengthening the rule of law and fighting against organised crime and corruption were the key issues that Montenegro has to tackle on its path towards the EU.
Tusk praised Montenegro’s progress in the accession negotiations with the EU so far but urged the country to intensify legislative reform, saying that Brussels would be closely monitoring the country’s progress in this area.
“The EU remains fully committed to Montenegro’s future in the European Union. With the strong political determination of the governments [of EU member states] and the Montenegrin side, the country can succeed,” he said.
Tusk also said that the fact that Montenegro had harmonised its foreign policy with the EU’s deserved special recognition.
Although it has close historical ties to Russia, Montenegro backed EU sanctions against Moscow last March, imposed for the Kremlin’s role in the Ukraine crisis.
Djukanovic said it was important to have realistic policies and to be aware that membership of the EU “can be accomplished only by pursuing overall social reform”.
“We are fully aware that we are at the beginning of our journey,” he added.
Earlier on Tuesday, Djukanovic met EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who said that the Commission was “impressed” by Montenegro’s track record on its European path, particularly referring to the country’s economic progress and the stability of public finances.
Juncker praised Montenegro’s stated commitment to promote the rule of law and freedom of the media, calling it “encouraging.”
Montenegro obtained EU candidate status in December 2010. In June 2012, accession negotiations formally opened at the first Intergovernmental Conference and a year later the screening process was completed.
Of a total of 35 negotiation chapters, 18 chapters have been opened for negotiations, of which two chapters have been provisionally closed.
In December 2013, Montenegro started negotiation talks with the EU on Chapters 23 and 24, which represent the most challenging phase of the accession talks as they deal with organized crime and corruption.
The EU’s new approach to membership negotiations, which is being implemented for the first time with Montenegro, means that Chapters 23 and 24 are to be kept open until the negotiations end.
The EU’s 2014 Progress Report on Montenegro, released in October, criticised Podgorica’s performance in the fight against organised crime and corruption.
Source: Balkan Insight (Montenegro)