PODGORICA – Prime Minister of Montenegro Duško Marković and EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn expressed satisfaction with the European Commission’s Credible Enlargement Strategy for the Western Balkans’ maintaining the regatta principle, i.e. merit-based accession process, stressing that Montenegro maintained its leadership position in the EU integration process.
“We are pleased that Commissioner Hahn is visiting Montenegro to present the Strategy for the Western Balkans. We thank Commissioner Hahn and High Representative Mogherini for the positive messages sent to Montenegro and the region while presenting the strategy. Montenegro has reasons to be satisfied with what has been stated in the strategy, as the country that has advanced the most in the negotiation process. It is a viable platform for enlargement both for the countries in the process and the EU. Merit-based process remains a valid principle, which is both realistic and fair,” said PM Marković at a joint press conference following his meeting with EU Commissioner Hahn.
Commissioner Hahn noted that Montenegro is a country that has made the most notable progress and that it is up to it to maintain such a status. He added that he is grateful to the Prime Minister that Montenegro is such a reliable and constructive regional player.
“Montenegro’s accession to the European Union is not only the country’s strategic goal. It is also the EU’s firm and unquestionable objective, which has been reaffirmed by our Western Balkan Strategy. I am looking forward to our special Summit in Sofia, where I hope the Strategy will be endorsed by heads of state. We have paved the path to the European Union. Now it is up to Montenegro to walk it,” EU Commissioner Hahn stated.
He stressed that the whole process remains merit-based, that the EU remains committed to the regatta principle and that everyone has to use their chances and opportunities.
When asked by a journalist, he said that there will be no other conditions for Montenegro other than those that are already known.
“We will not add additional conditions, but we will not take away conditions. The strategy aims to channel in a way what we have already done and to give clear indication, a clear perspective to everyone in the region of what is possible, what can be achieved,” Commissioner Hahn said.
Montenegro is acting as if it is already in EU
Prime Minister Marković reiterated at the press conference that Montenegro is acting as a member of the European Union, but it also will continue with the reforms.
“I want to reiterate that Montenegro is already acting as a member in many aspects. We stand in solidarity with EU foreign and security policy, thus showing our commitment and acceptance of European values. We have established and maintained good neighbourly relations in the region without generating problems but dialogue. We are devoted to further reforms in all key areas. Yesterday, at the Cabinet session, we adopted reports on the implementation of Montenegro’s EU Accession Programme for 2017 and reports on the implementation of measures from chapters 23 and 24, concluding that we have a high level of realisation – over 70%,” Prime Minister explained.
The European Commissioner also underlined the importance of reforms throughout the region, especially in the area of the rule of law.
Regarding the rule of law, the EU also expects Montenegro’s further commitment in this domain, which is a prerequisite for EU accession, but also a key value in attracting investors and achieving economic goals and improving the lives of citizens of Montenegro, Commissioner Hahn noted. He added it is the right time to achieve tangible results and to make sure that institutions, such as the Special Prosecutor’s Office and the Anti-Corruption Agency, perform their work in an independent and transparent fashion.
Integration successes come as result of consensus in Montenegro
The Prime Minister reiterated that the country’s successes came as a result of a social consensus and that Montenegro has chosen the European future without hesitating between several options.
“We are committed to European values and European integration. Therefore, we want to take advantage of the time ahead, not only in terms of opening the three remaining chapters in the first half of this year, but the overall dynamics of the negotiations, including the closing of the chapters, and we believe that with our determination and the Commission’s support we will be able to maintain and improve this dynamic,” said Montenegrin Prime Minister Duško Marković.
Parliament boycott is not European
EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn reiterated twice at a press conference that “the ongoing parliamentary boycott is not a European way of dealing with disagreements” and that the main course of action should take place in the Parliament, which is evidence of democratic maturity.
When asked by a journalist of national broadcaster RTCG “to what extent the official Brussels is ready to defend the national broadcaster from political influence”, Commissioner Han said that the freedom of expression and freedom of the media are some of the core values of the European Union.
“We pay much attention to independent and transparent media scene in the region. And this is something we will stress again and again. But I understand that certain improvements are necessary and it is also part of the development of a society – to accommodate with these challenges and requested standards, Commissioner Hahn concluded.