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Opinion on Montenegro’s accession to the European Union
The Commission issues a positive opinion on Montenegro’s progress towards membership of the European Union (EU). The results obtained through the Stabilisation and Association Process have been satisfactory, and the EU should continue to support reforms to pave the way for accession negotiations.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council – Commission Opinion on Montenegro’s application for membership of the European Union [COM(2010) 670 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
In this Opinion, the Commission recommends that the Council grant Montenegro the status of candidate country. The country has achieved satisfactory progress since its membership application was addressed to the European Union (EU) in 2008.
In accordance with the Lisbon Treaty, the Council must rely on a Commission Opinion when granting candidate country status and when deciding to initiate accession negotiations. In this regard Montenegro must undertake reforms in line with the accession criteria laid down by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993.
Relations between Montenegro and the EU
Relations began in 2006 following Montenegro’s declaration of independence. In 2007, the country adopted a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, realised through a European Partnership for the implementation of reforms, and an Interim Agreement on trade.
Since then, the partners have maintained regular political dialogue, and Montenegro participates in the EU economic and fiscal surveillance and reporting arrangements. Moreover, the partners have agreed on liberalisation of the visa system and the rules on the readmission of persons staying illegally as from 2009, to facilitate the movement of Montenegrin citizens in the Schengen area.
Montenegro is supported by the Instrument of Pre-Accession Assistance (IAP) in pursuing its reform process. European funding is aimed mainly at strengthening institutions, transposing the EU acquis, improving socio-economic conditions, strengthening civil society, protecting the environment, and sustainable development.
The country has been a member of the Energy Community of South East Europe since 2005 and of the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA) since 2006. It participates in EU programmes, particularly in the areas of research, innovation, entrepreneurship and culture.
The constitutional and legislative framework in Montenegro complies with EU standards and principles. Nevertheless, the functioning of democratic institutions and the implementation of legislation should be improved.
Institutional reforms are aimed at strengthening democratic oversight of government, the independence and effectiveness of the judicial system, as well as the functioning of the administrative system. Furthermore, the internal control of public bodies, and control over the financing of political parties, public procurement and privatisation processes should be systematic.
The country has put in place legal instruments to protect human rights, to combat discrimination, and to promote gender equality, but their implementation remains insufficient. Similarly, the country should improve the implementation of measures to combat organised crime, money laundering and drug smuggling.
Lastly, Montenegro has reached a good level of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Following the reform of its economic policy, the country has benefited from a high rate of growth, and a moderate level of public debt and budget deficit.
These reforms have, in particular, improved rules relating to competition, privatisation processes and the investment environment. The country has also reached a high level of trade and investment with the EU and other Western Balkan countries.
However, the global economic crisis has threatened the country’s macro-economic stability. Montenegro should pursue reforms relating to the supervision and regulation of the banking sector, the reduction of unemployment and informal employment, the flexibility of the labour market, and the improvement of education and vocational training systems.
The Feira European Council in June 2000 had acknowledged that Western Balkan countries were potential candidates for membership. The prospect of EU membership was confirmed by the Thessaloniki European Council in June 2003, and then by the Sarajevo ministerial meeting in June 2010.