It will be three years in June 2015 that Montenegro has started its negotiation process for the membership in the EU. So far, Montenegro has opened 18 negotiating chapters, including the chapters on the rule of law. Two out of these 18 have been provisionally closed,the ones relating to culture and science.
This specific negotiation process has been developing against the backdrop of new circumstances. Experiences from the previous waves of enlargement made the form and the content of the EU accession negotiations very much different than in the previous enlargements. Procedures of negotiations have become more demanding, and lessons learned have raised the demand for more quality and more standards in the early phases in the negotiation process. Rule of law, economic governance and public administration reform have been set up as pillars of accession process while the work on these issues is spread horizontally through all the chapters.
Montenegro is the first country that started negotiations under this new approach with the rule of law area is the heart of the overall approach. Reforms in the field of judiciary, anti-corruption, fighting against organised crime, fundamental rights, migration policies etc. are now treated with due responsibility and raised expectations.
Montenegro started its work in this field by adopting the most comprehensive action plans that its administration has ever developed. Now in their second year of implementation, we can share the accomplished results.
In the field of justice reform, Montenegro has completed the legislative framework by adopting the amendments to the laws relating to the organization of the judiciary: Law on the Judicial Council and the Rights and Duties of Judges, Law on Courts, Law on State Prosecution Service and Law on the Constitutional Court. These laws provide the guarantees for full independence of the judiciary and public prosecution, manner of functioning in the justice system has been changed, transparent procedures for appointment of judges and prosecutors have been introduced. As a result of efforts undertaken in this field, we have improved the efficiency of the judiciary, which is reflected in the reduction of the backlog of cases older than three years.
In the area of anti-corruption, we have created a quality legislation framework by adopting five very important acts: Law on Financing of Political Parties, Law on Lobbying, Law on the Prevention of Corruption, Law on Special Prosecutor’s Office, Code of Ethics of the MPs. What is particularly important is the fact that we are working on establishing the three key institutions that should strengthen the fight in this field, namely the Anti-corruption Agency, Special Prosecutor’s Office for Fight against Organized Crime and the agency that will deal with the confiscated assets.
In the following period Montenegro will tend not only to align with the acquis in the area of therule of law, but also to continue building efficient institutions and ensure administrative capacities capable for effective implementation of the acquis and creating a credible track-record in these fields. These efforts will lead to fulfilment of 83 interim benchmarks that we have been assigned. More importantly they will ensure legal certainty and confidence of Montenegrin citizens in the negotiating structure and the institutions, as well as the trust of EU Member States in the ability of Montenegro to fully respond to the requirements arising from the membership.
Today, Montenegro is the most advanced country in the EU accession process. The fact that we are the closest to the membership rejoices, but also obliges. For us it is very important that other countries in the region maintain continuity in the implementation of reforms, show maturity in dealing with the challenges and responsibility and consistency in meeting the requirements of the European integration process. With that intent, Montenegro has made the knowledge and experience from the three year long negotiating process available to colleagues in the administrations of the countries form the region.
During the previous period, we organised anumber of visits and meetings with colleagues from the region where we shared lessons learned from negotiations process and discussed the modalities for improving the cooperation in specific areas of common interest.
Over the past year we had several meetings with our colleagues from Serbia who are in charge for the Rule of Law. These meetings were an opportunity to present our work on the preparation and implementation of the Action Plans for Chapters 23 and 24, as well as to exchange views on legislative and institutional solutions in certain areas.
In addition to the Rule of Law, most recently, this cooperation has extended to areas that are of vital interest for the economic and overall social development of the Western Balkans countries. By this I primarily mean the cooperation towards the establishment of a better infrastructure network that will enable better connectivity within the region, but also the region with the EU. Better regional integration will increase competitiveness, stimulate economic development and employment.
For this reason, during the previous period several meetings on these issues have been held. The purpose of these meetings is to finalise the Core Infrastructure Transport Network in the region that will provide quality link between the main cities, economic centers and most important seaports in the Western Balkans and the EU. In addition to this, cooperation will be intensified through the joint selected priority projects which contribute to regional development, with the support of the EU and other international partners.
I strongly believe that regional cooperation in the field of European integration will contribute to the development of each of these countries, but also improve the image of the region as a whole. Our good results will affect positive changes in other countries and accelerate the integration of the Western Balkans into the EU. There is plenty of room for further cooperation and we should use this opportunity.
Author: Aleksandar Andrija Pejović, State Secretary – Chief Negotiator for negotiations over Montenegro’s accession to the European Union