At the Intergovernmental Conference in Brussels on Monday, Montenegro opened two new negotiating Chapters, 2 – Freedom of movement for workers and 3 – Right of establishment and freedom to provide services. It was jointly assessed that by meeting the obligations of the accession process Montenegro confirms its strong pro-European commitment and continues to pursue its path towards EU membership.
Jovana Marović, Executive Director of the Politikon network, a Podgorica-based think tank, a member of the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG), explaines that chapters on the freedom of movement for workers and the right of establishment and freedom to provide services had been subject of numerous controversies.
“There were media speculations about blocking by the EU member state, so it is good now to have closing benchmarks as a new framework for the development of these areas of the EU acquis.”
Marović notes that defined benchmarks “imply a strong enforcement capacity for the EU regulations on freedom of movement for workers by the time of accession, as well as the adoption of a list of regulated professions and laws within the chapter 3.”
However, she believes that this is not an easy task and that Montenegro has so far shown that harmonization of legislation is an easier part of the negotiation process, while its implementation and building of strong and independent institutions are missing.
With the two new chapters, Montenegro has opened 30 chapters so far, and it is said to be in the advanced stage of meeting the initial conditions in the EU accession process.
Marović explains that after five years of negotiation talks, the number of opened chapters is not an indicator of success, adding that Montenegro has kept only three provisionally closed chapters.
“There is still no tangible progress in meeting criteria for opening challenging chapters regarding the environmental protection or economic and monetary policy. In addition, concerns are also on the level of readiness and achieved reforms in many already opened chapters.”
When it comes to the chapters on the rule of law, they are believed to be the essence of the negotiation process. She points out that Montenegro cannot be satisfied with the achievements.
“While the EU, with every new report on the state of play in these areas, is getting sharper in its ratings, I would say that the Montenegrin authorities have recognized this new potential framework for accession in (until) 2025 as a chance to do nothing to build the rule of law up to a third of that time,” Marović concludes.
The publication of this article has been supported by the European Fund for the Balkans