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Key findings of the Opinion on Montenegro

Commission Européenne - MEMO/10/552   09/11/2010

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MEMO/10/552

Brussels, 9 November 2010

Key findings of the Opinion on Montenegro

On 9 November, the Commission adopted its 2010 Enlargement package. It comprised a Strategy paper, the Opinions on the membership applications by Montenegro and Albania and seven Progress Reports on the other candidate countries and potential candidates. On Montenegro, the Commission concluded that Montenegro is ready to become a candidate country to EU membership, while further reforms are needed in a number of key areas, as set out in the opinion, before the country is ready to start accession negotiations.

Ahead of the adoption of the Report, Commissioner Füle stated: "I commend Montenegro's efforts in the last 12 months. They brought to the country the status of a candidate country. The sooner the country proceeds with the necessary reforms, the sooner it will be ready to move to the negotiating table with the EU".

Political criteria

Montenegro has continued to make progress in addressing the political criteria. It improved its legal framework and strengthened its administrative and institutional capacity. Regarding human rights and the respect for and protection of minorities, the legal and policy framework is largely in place and broadly corresponds to European and international standards. The institutional framework is largely adequate.

However, there are gaps in implementation. Montenegro needs to effectively implement and enforce legislation in all fields. Increased awareness and sensitivity of the administration, police and the judiciary for applying EU standards in this field are needed. Main concerns are related to the following areas: effectiveness of anti-discrimination policies, freedom of expression and government relations with civil society as well as the situation of displaced persons from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

Furthermore, Montenegro needs to intensify its efforts to consolidate rule of law, in particular in the fight against corruption and organised crime, which remain serious problems.

Montenegro plays a constructive role in maintaining regional stability and fostering good neighbourly relations with other Western Balkan and EU countries.

Economic criteria

Montenegro has taken important steps towards establishing a functioning market economy. To be considered as a functioning market economy Montenegro needs to further address internal and external unbalances, as well as weaknesses, notably in the financial sector and the functioning of labour markets. To be able to cope in the medium term with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union, Montenegro needs to continue implementing reforms and reducing structural weaknesses.

Montenegro achieved a good track record in the implementation of economic reforms and a broad domestic consensus on the fundamentals of economic policy. The free interplay of market forces has been developing in the last decade through privatisations and the abolition of controls on prices. Foreign investments were attracted by the improved business environment. The Montenegrin economy remains very open and the level of trade and investment integration with the EU and the Western Balkan region is high.

However, the global crisis unveiled significant internal and external imbalances exposing the country and threatening macroeconomic stability. The crisis also revealed vulnerabilities in the regulation and supervision of the banking sector, calling for critical recapitalisation of banks. Persisting unemployment points to weaknesses in the education and vocational training systems, as well as to some labour market rigidities. The country has a still insufficient energy and transport infrastructure. Persisting weaknesses in the rule of law and the large informal sector negatively affect the business environment.

EU Legislation

Montenegro has made further progress in aligning with European standards, particularly in some areas of the internal market, trade-related provisions, customs and taxation.

However, additional efforts are needed to align with the EU legislation and to implement it effectively in the medium term as regards freedom of movement for workers, services and capital, public procurement, competition, financial services, information society and media, transport policy, energy, economic and monetary policy, consumer and Health Protection.

The country faces major challenges in implementing and enforcing legislation. Administrative and judicial capacities remain overall limited and the country will need to make sustained efforts to strengthen them in order to assume the obligations of membership in the medium-term.

EU- MONTENEGRO: KEY DATES

October 2007: signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU

22 February 2008: Visa liberalisation dialogue with Montenegro.

15 December 2008: Montenegro applied for EU membership

19 December 2009: Montenegro obtained visa-free travel to the Schengen countries

1 May 2010: the SAA entered into force.

More information at:

http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/press_corner/key-documents/reports_nov_2010_en.htm

http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/potential-candidates/montenegro/index_en.htm

EU Delegation in Podgorica: www.delmne.ec.europa.eu/


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