Experts recently questioned the EC's annual progress report, which was released earlier this month.
By Marina Roganovic for Southeast European Times in Podgorica -- 27/10/09
Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic. [Getty Images]
Montenegro's efforts to meet EU membership criteria continue to impress officials who are overseeing the process on behalf of the bloc.
The European Commission's (EC) Head of Delegation in Montenegro, Leopold Maurer, told local media, "The complete picture of Montenegro, when it comes to EU relations, is positive," following the October 15th release of the Commission's annual progress report.
Maurer said Montenegro has made headway in its efforts to meet political prerequisites for EU membership. The report noted "The parliamentary elections in March met almost all international criteria."
However, Filip Kovacevic, professor of political psychology at the University of Montenegro, begged to differ with the report's conclusions on achieving EU standards, particularly regarding democratic principles. "Montenegro is an unreformed one-party state, where the interests of a small group of people, all with close links to Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, rule with impunity at the expense of the interests of the vast majority of Montenegrin citizens," Kovacevic told SETimes.
Kovacevic urged the EU to give more support to "civil democratic forces and independent intellectuals", and warned "if the EU does otherwise, it risks having yet another Balkan political quagmire on its hands in the near future."
Montenegrin media reported that Socialist People's Party (SNP) leader Srdjan Milic was "deeply disappointed" that the EU extended the deadline for harmonising election legislation with the constitution until April 2010 and alleged that it did so to avoid embarrassing the government.
According to local media, Milic echoed Professor Kovacevic's sentiments regarding the health of Montenegrin democracy, saying the extension "only gives credence to the opposition thesis that a simulation of democracy is taking place in Montenegro".
Koca Pavlovic, spokesperson for Movement for Change, Montenegro's other large opposition party, told SETimes "Lately we have pointed out that the fundamental problem in achieving progress in the fight against organised crime is the lingering suspicion about connections of the Montenegrin prime minister with criminal structures."
Djukanovic has had allegations of corruption leveled at him for years.
The report emphasised that "Montenegro needs to intensify its efforts so as to consolidate the rule of law area and in particular, in the fight against corruption and organised crime, which remains a serious problem." Pavlovic says suspicions about the prime minister's past and present "are not allowing the government to execute its constitutional jurisdictions regarding this acute problem".
The head of the Montenegrin Supreme Court, Vesna Medenica, told media that the country's problem with corruption and organised crime "is not as bad as critics claim".
After receiving the EC report, Djukanovic issued a press release which read, in part, "This document will be carefully considered and the state authorities are willing to adopt the recommendations."
Minister for European Integrations Gordana Djurovic admitted to Podgorica media that it was "impossible in our system" for the government to immediately meet all recommendations coming from Brussels, given the country's administrative and institutional shortcomings.