PODGORICA – Prime Minister of Montenegro Duško Marković said that the European Commission’s strategy for “A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans,” which was presented earlier today is an important document because for the first time the Western Balkans is getting a message, through defining a timeline, that it will be a formal and integral part of Europe, with the perspective of the next enlargement by 2025. He voiced confidence that Montenegro could become a member of the European Union even before the set deadline.
“For Montenegro, as the most advanced country with the most open chapters, this document has special significance, because our country is mentioned in the context of the next EU member by 2025, as a credible period in which we can become ready for membership. And if we produce adequate results, we will join even earlier,” Prime Minister Marković told a press conference which took place immediately after the European Commission’s presentation of the Strategy at the European Parliament.
The Prime Minister noted that the strategy represents a positive signal at the moment when the region needs a clear message that the European perspective for the countries of the Western Balkans is credible and alive.
“Today, we have received this message, it is as complex as the process of accession itself, but the message is clear. We will be part of the European Union,” PM Marković underscored.
Merit-based evaluation of countries’ progress
The Prime Minister stressed the importance of the European Commission’s document confirming consistency in the position of the European Union that the process remains entirely based on individual merit, thus enabling faster-moving countries to become members within a shorter period of time.
“This has been reiterated in the document on several occasions and we commend it,” said the Prime Minister.
He underlined the significance of the document as an important part of the EU plans for the preparation of new members, as well as concrete proposals on how to facilitate the process of coordination, programme funding and the participation of the Western Balkan countries in the Union’s policies and programmes.
“We in Montenegro consider this strategy incentive to continue our efforts and good results in implementing vital reforms in order to bring our political, economic and social transformation to an end. We are sure that we will be ready even before the expiration of the deadline, we are aware of what we are capable of, because we have the will and capacities. This is our priority,” concluded the Prime Minister, stating that Montenegro will continue to advocate for the European future of all its neighbours.
Ambassador Orav: Debates should take place in Parliament
Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro, Ambassador Aivo Orav, pointed out that the EU Strategy for the Western Balkans is a very good strategy for Montenegro, the Government, the opposition, civil society and all the citizens.
“Montenegro has been recognised in this strategy as a front-runner. If Montenegro wants to move quicker, of course, there is a possibility to move quicker,” said Ambassador Orav.
A lot has already been done, but still a lot remains to be done as well, the Ambassador noted, adding that reforms are needed in many areas, especially in the fields of the rule of law, media freedom, fight against organised crime and corruption, the judiciary and fundamental rights.
“To achieve all these goals, political dialogue is needed. There is a responsibility of all political stakeholders to engage constructively within the framework of the democratic process. And just to repeat what the European Union has stated many times – the debate should take place in the Parliament,” said the Head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro.
Commenting on the European Union’s assessment that the year 2025 represents an ambitious deadline for membership and Prime Minister Marković’s position that accession could be achieved earlier than that, Ambassador Orav said:
“Yes, those deadlines are quite ambitious, but if they are ambiguous, nothing will be done. So my advice could be not to focus so much on years, but on the homework. Do your homework, come to us and tell us what you have done, show us you are ready and it will be impossible for us not to accept you.”