Montenegro moves ahead on EU integration path


Montenegro has opened five chapters in its EU negotiations, a few of which will be challenging, analysts say.

By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Podgorica -- 03/01/14


EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said opening the first five chapters is a ''milestone'' in Montenegro's path towards EU membership. [AFP]

With the opening of chapters 23 and 24 of its EU accession negotiations, Montenegro needs to prove it has a credible track record in the fields of rule of law, anti-corruption and organised crime efforts, border security, justice and internal affairs.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said that the Union has set interim benchmarks for these chapters, which cover judiciary and fundamental rights, and added that the country's progress towards meeting them will be closely monitored.

Opening chapters 23 and 24 at the beginning of the negotiation process is part of a new approach by the EU. The chapters are opened early so the candidate country is fully prepared for membership at the end of the process.

"We are already working intensively and fulfiling the obligations that were tasked with in the action plan for joining the EU," Montenegro Justice Minister Dusko Markovic told SETimes after the European Commission approved opening the chapters.

The country also opened the chapters on public procurement, company law, and enterprise and industrial policy.

"Establishing an efficient system of public procurement, a greater degree of transparency in business operations, creating a favorable business environment, increasing investment and employment rates, stimulating technological development and innovation, strengthening support for small and medium enterprises; these are all things we have a plan for and which will be addressed during the negotiations," Aleksandar Andrija Pejovic, Montenegro's chief EU negotiator, told SETimes.

Experts said that although there is broad citizen support for the country's EU accession, there is also a general feeling that the country's institutions are still weak and insufficient.

"The process of EU negotiations with Montenegro will be significantly more transparent than other processes of negotiations before. We can say that we are obliged to monitor the process as much as possible, to give suggestions and, of course, to criticise by putting pressure on the government to obtain the required process with quality," Daliborka Uljarevic, executive director of the Centre for Civic Education in Podgorica, told SETimes.

Miloje Dorovoc, a teacher from Kotor, agreed.

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''Institutions are supposed to function better even before we enter the EU. It doesn't matter what the political situation in the country is, who is in power. Institutions need to be independent. Currently, that's not the case,'' he told SETimes.

Officials stressed that their work has just begun.

"Opening these chapters is proof that this government has done a good job. Today, Montenegro is a leader in European reforms in the region. Of course, the real work is still ahead. That's why we need to continue with this tempo in order to successfully bring this story to an end," Miodrag Vukovic, vice president of the parliamentary legislative committee, told SETimes.

What steps can Montenegro take to increase citizen trust in institutions? Tell us your thoughts below.

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