Montenegro is committed to its strategic goal of becoming the next member state of the European Union. This strategic principle will be the essence of activities of all our institutions, as well as our society as a whole, because our vision of Montenegro’s development indisputably points to the European future.
System of shared values
In these challenging times that we live in, faced with uncertainty about health, economy and quality of life of each individual as a social being, let us remind ourselves that the values uniting us are solidarity, democracy, equal rights and opportunities for all. These are the foundations on which the European Union rests, being, above all, a project of peace and social cohesion. In its historic evolvement, the EU has proved to be a visionary project of unification through values, whose actors have for decades promoted the generations’ dream about the future of Europe. Citizens of Montenegro share the same system of values.
Beyond the fact that we are geographically, historically, culturally already part of Europe, we want to participate in shaping of its future. EU membership is the exact opportunity to do that. Moreover, our path to membership is a process of consolidating these values through transformation of our institutions, administrative culture, development of knowledge and skills, tolerance and cooperation.
EU accession as a beacon of development
Montenegro wants European values for its citizens, which we have indisputably demonstrated when in the aftermath of the recent parliamentary elections, we left no room for doubt as to which geopolitical path Montenegro intends to follow. The new Government is committed to accelerating its pro-European course by speeding up the process of European integration, deepening NATO alliance and fostering good neighbourly relations. These remain the complementary pillars of our foreign policy, to the synergy of which will lead us to the EU membership.
EU enlargement policy is of an evolving nature, political decision-making processes are becoming increasingly complex at the EU level, and the Union itself, as a geopolitical actor, wants to overcome many challenges, including the Brexit, migrant crisis and COVID-19 pandemic.
Montenegro, as the only candidate country with all chapters of negotiations opened, despite this advanced position, should accept geopolitical specificities of the European Union and its member states, and, therefore, continue implementing reforms regardless of foreign policy circumstances. In recent years, the emphasis in the EU has been increasingly on the rule of law and the criteria are becoming stricter when it comes to individual member states, therefore we must double our efforts in this regard.
Specifically, the focus of our work during 2021 will be on fulfilling the remaining interim benchmarks for Chapters 23 – Judiciary and Fundamental Rights and 24 – Justice, Freedom and Security and obtaining closing benchmarks which will encourage the gradual closure of all other chapters.
In parallel with the joint efforts of all three branches of government in the reform of the rule of law, our negotiating structure will work together with the European Commission to define concrete actions in order to obtain closing benchmarks. We have an intensive period of work ahead of us in order to enable the European Commission, as our strategic partner, to prepare an appropriate report and present it to the EU member states. This is a task that will mark this entire year and bring together all our institutions, with full respect for the competency framework and mutual cooperation.
EU accession remains a beacon of development and a driving force of Montenegrin institutions, so that the process of fulfilling obligations from the European agenda, as the most important trigger for social reforms, can continue to be a process of improving society as a whole: strengthening skills, administration capacity and raising standards in various public policies.
New methodology – new opportunity
With the adoption of the new methodology for the EU accession process, EU enlargement policy has been back in a vivid political debate. The new framework opens more space for political dialogue with candidate countries, and I believe that in this regard, during the forthcoming EU presidencies, Montenegro should take an active role in various forums dedicated to political debate at the highest level, be it on enlargement policy in general, on the state of play in negotiations or on strategic priorities in various EU sector policies. The new methodology should stimulate better use of IPA III funds, as it indirectly puts candidate countries in a competitive position when it comes to projects planned by sector policies.
In its Programme, Portuguese Presidency of the Council of Europe has been sending indisputable support to the EU enlargement policy embedded in the Trio’s strategic agenda, based on the new, more credible and effective methodology. Montenegro should make best use of Portugal’s readiness to advocate implementation of the new methodology and high-level political dialogue with Member States, through active participation in various formats in which we can reassure Member States of our commitment to the reforms and our key strategic goal – membership in the EU.
Project of our entire society
According to the results of the latest survey from January 2021, public support to the EU accession amounts to almost 75 percent. Therefore, the message of our citizens is unequivocal.
The desire to become part of the European family binds the entire Montenegrin society, motivating and additionally obliging us to work better and more determinedly. Furthermore, we are continuing with activities to bring citizens closer to the opportunities offered by the EU accession process – to encourage them to participate more in projects funded by EU funds and to better understand the benefits of membership, but also the nature of the European Union with all its specifics.
In the end, it is all about people-to-people experience. Precondition for achieving good results and our progress towards the EU, and more importantly, the adoption of European standards and values and strengthening of the democratic environment, is to bring together all available capacities and strengthen cooperation with all actors in the society. Only by uniting our efforts will we be ultimately able to reach our strategic priority – Montenegro to become the next EU member state.