European Western Balkans

EU-Montenegro Intergovernmental Conference: Focus remains on rule of law interim benchmarks

Jakov Milatović, Gašper Dovžan and Oliver Varhely at the press conference; Photo: European Union

BRUSSELS – EU Member States held the fourteenth accession conference with Montenegro yesterday. Since the country has already opened all negotiating chapters, emphasis was put on the rule of law interim benchmarks that need to be fulfilled in order for the process to move forward.

This is the second intergovernmental conference since the Council approved the revised enlargement methodology. The first one took place in June this year under the Portuguese Presidency.

Several hours before the IGC, 40 opposition MPs withdrew the motion of no confidence in the Government of Montenegro. The support for Government, which marked its first anniversary in power last week, remains unstable.

At the press conference following the IGC, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia Gašper Dovžan said that, as the current holder of the Presidency of the Council of the EU, Slovenia was striving to speed up the enlargement process.

“Let me make it very clear that for the EU, enlargement remains a key policy… We welcome the progress made by Montenegro. At the same time, we took note of the areas where further progress is needed. In our discussion, we stressed that progress in the negotiations will depend on the advancement of Montenegro in its preparations for accession, especially in relation to the rule of law interim benchmarks,” Dovžan said. 

Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi said that the meeting provided the participants with an opportunity for an open political dialogue on key reforms, which should help Montenegro make progress in the accession process.

“Montenegro has already opened all chapters, and our discussions therefore focused on the rule of law area which will continue to determine the overall pace of negotiations… It is now key for all relevant actors in Montenegro, government, all Members of the Parliament and the judiciary, to turn this commitment into tangible results. This is essential for progressing further in the accession process, an objective supported by the overwhelming majority of Montenegrin citizens”, Commissioner said.

Later in the press conference, Várhelyi highlighted two areas that need further work, the freedom of expression and the judiciary.

“We need action when it comes to the appointments, but we understand that this is not only down to the Government. So this is why it is important that the Parliament is also backing the EU path with votes when it comes to the judicial reform”, he said.

Jakov Milatović, Minister of Economy and Economic Development of Montenegro, stated that the meeting was a good opportunity for a discussion of the results of the Government in the areas of the rule of law, economic convergence and public administration reform.

“It was also a good opportunity for me to present the Action Plan which was adopted last week in which we are targeting all the priorities in the latest progress report by the Commission, with a clear path on how to tackle them”, Milatović said.

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