European Politics and Institutions

Balkans Forum

Montenegro after the Commission's Opinion

7 December 2010

Gordana Đurović, Montenegro’s Minister for European Integration, described Montenegro’s successful delivery of the European Commission’s Questionnaire in 2009 as the “biggest administrative event in our history.”

Satisfied, the Commission had followed through with a recent positive opinion to start accession negotiations. The evidence of Montenegro’s commitment to EU integration is in its delivery and in its results says the Minister. For instance, in 2007 Montenegro processed only a handful of corruption cases. This increased to 500 by December 2009. .

However, Ms Đurović stressed that Montenegro still faces a number of key challenges involving public administration, the fight against organized crime and corruption, the respect for human rights, and improving the living conditions of vulnerable groups like the Roma.

Organising the administration to tackle these challenges while taking on even more responsibilities for EU integration is perhaps the greatest difficulty she explained. Every year, Montenegro receives the equivalent of about 1% of its GDP from the EU Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance. In addition, the country contributes around the same amount and uses the combined funds to address the most urgent reforms she said.

The Commission’s Enlargement Package and Progress Reports was released on 9 November 2010. The package included seven broad recommendations for Montenegro. Ms Đurović pointed out that the recommendation for enhanced media freedom and strengthened cooperation with civil society was also presented to all the Balkan countries. But she conceded that greater dialogue and participation of small and local NGOs is needed.

Despite the challenges, the Commission recommended that the European Council decide on Montenegro’s status as a candidate for EU membership. According to Ms Đurović, the decision is more about status than it is about process and confirms Montenegro’s drive and commitment towards EU integration. Between 70 and 75% of Montenegrins support EU integration she said.

All the political parties, including the opposition and coalition, have an EU integration programme as part of their agenda says Ms Đurović and all are pro-European oriented. The parties are now in the process of figuring out how to best tackle the most difficult chapters, in particular, Chapter 23 (Judiciary and fundamental rights) and Chapter 24 (Justice, freedom and security).

She hoped that the European Council decides on its status as early as possible, perhaps even this December.  In the meantime, Montenegro has prepared in advance an Action Plan on how to implement the Commission’s seven priority areas. Montenegro has also developed a National Programme for Integration (NPI) that will help the country harmonise 32 000 “legal pieces” with the European Union by 2015.

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