European Western Balkans continues with series of interviews with key people from Western Balkans countries which are involved in European integration process of their countries. Mr. Slaven Radunović (@SlavenRadunovic) is a member of the Parliament of Montenegro and member of New Serbian Democracy (NOVA) which is member of Democratic Front coalition. Radunović is a current Chairman of European Integration Committee of the Parliament of Montenegro and also member of Committee of political system, judiciary and administration. Also Mr. Radunović is deputy chairman of the parliamentary Committee for Stabilisation and Association – a joint body of the European Parliament and the Parliament of Montenegro. In his political career, Radunović was one of the founders of Serbian People’s Party. Now Radunović is the Vice President of New Serbian Democracy. Mr. Radunović graduated economics, and he is fluent in English and Italian.
European Western Balkans: Thank you Mr. Radunović to find time for us. Can you tell us at the beginning what is your personal opinion about the European Union and the importance of integration of Montenegro into the EU?
Slaven Radunović: Despite all the flaws that the supranational community has, today the European Union in the geo-strategic, economic and political terms is a significant player, and therefore belonging to this club is important for each country, especially for small European countries. Taking into account the geographical position of Montenegro, the level of its social maturity and economic development, fulfillment of all standards required for membership in the European family of nations is of great importance. So, our goal is not membership by itself, but the creation of a legal and social environment in which Montenegrin citizens can exercise their rights and enjoy all the benefits that are offered today to the citizens of the European Union.
EWB: The role of the Committee for European Integration in the coordination of harmonization of Montenegrin legislation with the EU legislation has a role. Can you explain in what ways the Committee contributes to the integration?
SR: In May 2012 we changed our Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Montenegro in a way that, instead of the former Committee for International Relations and European Integration, we established two new committees – the Committee for International Relations and Emigrants and the Committee for European Integration.
Until then agreeing was dealt by Committee for International Relations and European Integration, and the new solution is such that the jurisdiction of a number of committees are expanded, so that the seven main parliamentary committees began to monitor and evaluate whether the laws of Montenegro with the EU acquis are aligned and on the basis of reports Governments, monitor and evaluate the implementation of the law, especially the law from which the commitments are deriving that are agreed with the European Union. Secretaries of the Main Committees, respectively their services, prepare an informative review (briefing paper), for every draft legislation which is being considered at the meeting of the Committee, which includes assessing of the compliance of draft legislation with EU law.
In that way Committee for European integration obtain a completely new role, in accordance with the requirements that are imposed to the Parliament of Montenegro, taking into account the status of the new state, when it comes to European integration. From the beginning, the need was to clearly define the role of the Committee regarding the adoption of negotiating positions, as well as the relationship of the Parliament and the Government in the negotiation process. After revision and adoption of appropriate documents, the Committee has positioned in that way that there is not only protocol role, but it contributes substantially to the dynamics and quality of the reforms, taking into account the common interests of all Montenegrin citizens. So far, all the decisions are brought by consensus of the members, which represents a special devotion of the representatives of parliamentary parties to the common goal – membership in the European Union.
EWB: How the adoption of European standards, regardless of the integration of Montenegro into the EU, is important for the citizens of your state?
SR: From the first session of the Committee for European Integration, a proactive approach is evident in the work of its members and services through a variety of activities in the framework of European integration. A special approach to work is not reflected only in the fullfilment of the obligations which are arising out of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Montenegro, but also in the perception of the members that this parliamentary body of the total state structure is the most responsible for the fact that the European integration process is brought closer to the citizens of Montenegro. So, recognizing the importance of increasing the level of public awareness of the integration process, and improving the transparency and quality of the negotiations, the Committee has began whith activities which aim ist to bring closer this process to all citizens of Montenegro. In that context, so far, the Committee has organized six public meetings on the topic of negotiation chapters, as follows: “Montenegro and the EU – Information Society and Media”, “Montenegro and the EU – negotiating Chapters 23. and 24.”, “Montenegro and the EU – free movement of capital “,” Montenegro and the EU – legislation on taxes”, as well as discussions on the content of the negotiation Chapter 2. – Freedom of movement for workers, Chapter 28. – Health and Consumer Protection and the Chapter 29. – Customs Union. Also, in November 2013, the action of public events for high school students has been Initiated, as well as meeting of members of the Board with representatives of local authorities. The aim of these activities is to bring the process of European integration closer to young people, to those who will benefit the most of that process, and who will be its bearers in the future, as well as the exchange of information with local authorities on development projects, in the context of the use of pre-accession funds. In addition, the Committee has activated the Facebook (Odbor za evropske integracije Skupštine Crne Gore) and Twitter (@EUOdborCG) accounts, which mark an increase of followers.
I will return to the beginning… I believe that the state must provide European standards by the implementation of national policies which are in line with European legislation. What is with the people, and what I do not recognize as a problem only in Montenegro, but in all countries of the region – it is a change of mentality, changing of habits, acting and rules that are transposed for centuries from generation to generation, and which are not in accordance with the Western values. These are things that are related to environmental protection, agriculture, food safety and many other areas.
EWB: When it is expected the next session of the joint Committee of Montenegro and the European Parliament?
SR: As a rule, the Parliamentary Committee for Stabilisation and Association – PCSA meets twice a year, alternately in Brussels or Strasbourg and Podgorica. The last meeting was held on 25 and 26 March 2014 in Podgorica, so that the next, the ninth meeting, will be held in the fourth quarter of this year in the European Parliament.
EWB: National Assembly of Republic of Serbia and Sobranje of Republic of Macedonia have already developed a relationship with the European Parliament. Do you have consultations with your colleagues from other parliaments in the process of joining? If you do, which are areas in which you cooperate?
SR: First, we must separate the statements that are presented with the question that follows. The Parliament of Montenegro has very good communication with the various bodies of the European Parliament, and we have already mentioned the PCSA as an institutionalized element of cooperation,respectively joint body that we have with this European institutions.
It’s the only form of cooperation. Representatives and employees of the Parliament take a part in activities which are organized as part of the support of the European Parliament for the countries of Western Balkans and Turkey. In June 2012 The Parliament of Montenegro hosted a regional workshop, at which was discussed on the role of parliaments in the negotiation process, and which is organized in cooperation with the European Parliament. A year ago there was a high-level meeting, in cooperation with the National Council for European Integration and the European Commission, at which, in addition of members of the Assembly, senior officials of the Directorate for Enlargement of the European Commission and the ministers in charge of the seven priority areas, previously assessed the key to open negotiations, attended. Lately, there have been a strong commitment that the Parliament itself has its representatives in Brussels, which would be located in the Mission of Montenegro to the European Union, and which, as that the main task, has monitoring of the work of the European Parliament.
I will go back to the question… One of the key elements of the integration process is regional cooperation, and the speed of the accession to EU depends on the mutual cooperation between Balkan countries and their willingness to belong to a united Europe. In the framework of cooperation between the parliaments of the region, which takes place through bilateral cooperation and mechanisms of regional initiatives, the role of the Parliament of Montenegro was recognized as a constructive and comprehensive, respectively as specifically dedicated to the further development and enhancement of the capacities of regional initiatives whose member is. These are Central-European Initiative (CEI), the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative (AII), Cooperation Process in South East Europe (CPSEE), and the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for European Integration/activities of the participating countries of the Stabilisation and Association of South East Europe (COSAP) and others.
When I mention COSAP, two weeks ago we finished the chairmanship of this initiative, in which the Committee for European Integration, of wich I am chairman, organized a meeting with the participation of parliamentary delegations of the Republic of Albania, Republic of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro, as well as guests of the Croatian Parliament, the EU Delegation to Montenegro, Regional Cooperation Council, the Regional Secretariat for Parliamentary Cooperation of South East Europe and the diplomatic corps. I was able to inform member of parliaments of 28 member states of the European Union about a part of the conclusions adopted at the meeting, as part of the Joint Statement, at a meeting that was held in Athens, about ten days later, under the Greek presidency of EU. So, we in Montenegro believe that it is necessary that the countries of the region help each other, to show to Brussels, Washington, Moscow or Beijing, that a time of intolerance in this region is the past, and that we are ready to build good neighborly relations, assistance, support and solidarity – we want to cherish values on which EU was built.
EWB: Do you think that, in addition to the harmonization of the laws and policies with the EU, should be lead to changes in the ratio of deputies to their responsibilities? In which direction these changes should be directed?
SR: All national parliaments in the region are faced with low-confidence, or if you will – with a lack of trust in the members of Parliament who were elected by citizens themselves. It is a phenomenon that requires deeper analysis, which I will not consider this time. I would say that the main factor is the poverty, respectively discontent of the citizens in the quality of life, for which directly accuse government officials. However, it begs the question of why the greater confidence is in the executive body. It is because the parliaments are more transparent in their work than governments. Parliamentary sessions are public, reports of the work, on spending, business trips, etc. are regularly published. So, we are exposed to public judgment of our colleagues who sit in ministerial positions, and please allow me to use the expression, that the time of parliamentarisation of problems is occurred, and the government assumes a reward for positive results, while the parliament is imposed when it comes to a negative balance.
I think that, where it has not been done, it is necessary to professionalize the role of MPs, so that in the parliament primarily you have achieved political workers, career politicians, and that the people from other professions are in the minority, how they possibly contribute with their experience to the discussion or legal solutions. In addition, the lack of a sufficient number of contributors, in the caucuses and the support of the working groups, influence in that way that MPs spend lot of their time on technical stuff that should be completed by the third parties, and that time should be spent on the preparing for professional discussion or for the touch with their constituents.
EWB: What is it that you consider particularly important for further integration of Montenegro into the EU?
SR: The membership in the European Union by itself should not be our goal. The goal must be adoption of European values, and the implementation of legislation that is harmonized with the acquis. If we lead ourselves by this idea during the negotiations, we will avoid the risk of petty political points that authority gained by opening a chapter or opposition by blocking it. As the Union, respectively the Member States take account of their interests in the negotiations with the candidate countries, we need to be focused of public interests. You know, if it is called negotiations for the membership, a room for “maneuver” is extremely narrow. Absolute implementation of legislation is related to 96-98% of the acquis, and about other commitments you can negotiate so that their application should be kept for a period by an instrument called a transition period or to seek a permanent exemption, or non-application of certain rules in the territory of your country. Right through these instruments national products and businesses are protected, and the economy is protected from the impact that inevitably sees when it is released to the free market.
EWB: Again thank you Mr. Radunović for your time. European Western Balkans wishes you very best in process of integration of Montenegro into European Union.
Author: Nikola Ristić