President, Minister, Honourable Members,
Thank you for your invitation to the discussion on the Parliament’s Resolution on Montenegro. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Rapporteur for Montenegro, Charles Tannock, for hisbalanced and comprehensive draft Resolution. It is a text that well reflects the assessment in the Commission’s 2015 Montenegro Report.
This June, we will mark four years since the opening of accession negotiations with Montenegro.
As your Resolution points out, we have to-date opened, twenty-two, negotiating chapters with Montenegro, out of which two are provisionally closed.
Concerning the rule of law, which is, as you know, at the heart of the accession process, over the last few years we have seen the first steps in achieving lasting reforms, through the adoption of legislation and the establishment of institutions.
As you also point out, however – and as the Commission stated in its November report – this is not the whole story:
Our assessment is, unfortunately, that real progress on the ground in the rule of law remains limited, including in establishing a track record in the fight against corruption and organised crime. This is the message that the Commission is giving to Montenegro at a rule of law meeting in Podgorica today.
When I met Prime Minister Djukanovic last month, I congratulated him on his country’s invitation to join NATO. I also stressed, however, that while the country was moving ahead overall, we were now entering a decisive phase, in particular in the accession negotiations and on the rule of law. We need to see Montenegro making credible progress on Chapters 23/24. We must see a tangible track record of implementation.
This is not only for the benefit of the accession negotiations: legal certainty, a functioning independent judicial system, a transparent administration and fundamental rights like for instance property rights are necessary not only for meeting the rule of law criteria – they are preconditions for attracting investment, improving competitiveness and stimulating growth and jobs.
We are also working closely with Montenegro on improving the country’s competitiveness through our economic dialogue. The focus is on sectoral reforms, including on education, labour market, infrastructure, and the business environment.
Concerning the other negotiating chapters, we have given Montenegro guidance on what needs to be done, through the opening benchmarks.
Meeting them is a challenge for the country, in particular when we talk about alignment with the EU acquis on competition policy, or environment and climate change.
Let me turn now to the political situation in Montenegro. The political dialogue that was launched in December was put on hold, without an agreement on 19 February.
However, despite the fact that there is, to-date, no agreement among the political leaders on the establishment of a “government of electoral trust”, it is crucial that the dialogue within the Parliament continues. This year, Montenegro will hold local and parliamentary elections. The full implementation of the electoral legislation is crucial for the organisation these elections so that they are credible. It is the responsibility of Montenegro’s political leaders to ensure this.
Thank you for your attention.