European Commission: Montenegro has made marked progress – corruption the largest issue

By Adnan Prekic – Podgorica

The new EU report on Montenegro will likely be more citical than previous ones, stressing the need for judicial reforms and guarantees of media freedom. The European Commission concluded that the country continues to sufficiently meet the political criteria, made further progress in establishing a functioning market economy and has improved its ability to take on the obligations of EU membership. EU will note modest progress in Montenegro’s membership negotiations – but not in some key areas, such as the judiciary and the fight against organized crime and corruption.

The Progress Report on Montenegro is part of the 2014 Enlargement Package adopted today by the European Commission. This is the third Progress Report on Montenegro since the country opened accession negotiations with the EU in June 2012. The European Commission concluded that the country continues to sufficiently meet the political criteria, made further progress in establishing a functioning market economy and has improved its ability to take on the obligations of EU membership. The screening process has been concluded.

During the reporting period, ten negotiating chapters were opened, including the rule of law chapters, 23 – Judiciary and fundamental rights and 24 – Justice, freedom and security. These chapters were opened on the basis of Action Plans submitted by Montenegro. Implementation of the action plans has started. Two negotiating chapters were already provisionally closed. Delays have been, however, noted on a number of measures, especially on legislative reforms. In other areas, legislative measures adopted have not yielded results in practice.

Montenegro has a leading position in the process of accession to the EU in the Western Balkans, said the outgoing European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule.

“Montenegro has began to apply our new approach to negotiations on the rule of law, which are now starting early in the accession process. Negotiations with Montenegro in this key area began in December 2013, on the basis of an ambitious and comprehensive action plan adopted by the Government. Adoption of action plans is a turning point, but what is most important now is to implement these measures. Already, after one year, there are positive results that you can be proud of. Judicial reform is progressing at a steady pace and has already led to improved efficiency”, Fule said.

Montenegro’s Stabilization and Association Agreement was signed on October 2007 and a year later Montenegro filed a formal application for EU membership. The completed questionnaire to the European Commission was sent on Brussels in early 2010. The official candidate status for membership in the EU Montenegro was received on December 17, 2010. In late 2011 the European Commission proposed the beginning of the negotiations in June of the following year, and on June 29, 2012 the European Council announced the official beginning of the negotiations with Montenegro. Negotiations have been opened on the most demanding issues highlighted in chapters 23 and 24, which refer to the rule of law and fundamental human rights. In two years Montenegro has opened 12 negotiating chapters, of which chapter 25-Science and Research and 26 Culture and Education have been temporarily closed.

Source: Independent Balkan News Agency (Montenegro)