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Brussels, 10 October 2012
Key findings of the 2012 Progress Report on Montenegro
The Progress Report on Montenegro is part of the 2012 Enlargement Package adopted today by the European Commission. This is the first Progress Report on Montenegro since the country opened accession negotiations with the EU on 29 June. The European Commission concluded that the country has made further progress in establishing a functioning market economy, has improved its ability to take on the obligations of EU membership, and continues to sufficiently meet the political criteria for EU membership. The screening process has begun and is expected to finish in summer 2013. The accession negotiations will integrate the new approach for the chapters on judiciary and fundamental rights, and justice, freedom and security, thereby reinforcing the focus on rule of law and on the irreversibility of the undertaken reforms. Montenegro will need to further develop a track record in this area, in particular with respect to high-level corruption and organised crime.
Montenegro continues to sufficiently meet the political criteria for EU membership. The legislative and institutional frameworks have been improved, thus strengthening the functioning of parliament, the judiciary, anti-corruption policy, human rights and protection of minorities. The ongoing constitutional and public administration reforms have further advanced. The legislative and oversight roles of the parliament have been strengthened. The track record on law enforcement has further improved.
Montenegro has continued to play a constructive role in the region and to respect its international commitments and the conditions of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
Efforts need to be pursued in the area of rule of law, in particular to finalise the ongoing constitutional reform to bring stronger judicial independence, and to further develop the track record of implementation, notably in the fight against corruption and organised crime.
Montenegro made further progress in establishing a functioning market economy. Macroeconomic stability has been broadly maintained. The banking sector is still recovering, with bank deposits gradually increasing. Further improvements have been made in market entry procedures and bankruptcy recovery. The telecom and energy industries have been liberalised and the respective regulatory authorities have become more assertive.
Nonetheless, persisting structural problems of the Montenegrin economy and the fragile international financial environment continue to put the recovery of country's economy in danger. Large external imbalances persist. Unemployment is high. The inflationary pressures and the public debt have continued to increase. The difficult economic situation of the aluminium producer needs to be addressed. The country needs to attract further investments to develop its infrastructure. Lingering weaknesses in the rule of law and the large informal sector negatively affect the investment and business environment.
Montenegro has made some progress in improving its ability to take on the obligations of membership. Good progress has been made in the areas of public procurement, transport policy, statistics and science and research. Overall, Montenegro continued to implement smoothly the obligations under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA). Some gaps remain as regards aid measures given by the State to sensitive sectors (such as steel and aluminium).
Progress has been limited in other areas such as free movement of workers, free movement of capital, company law, food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy, taxation, enterprise and industrial policy, environment and climate change, and financial and budgetary provisions. Montenegro's limited administrative capacity represents a challenge in a number of areas and needs to be strengthened to ensure effective implementation of EU legislation.
EU- MONTENEGRO: KEY DATES
1999: The EU proposes the new Stabilisation and Association Process for five countries of South-Eastern Europe
June 2000: The European Council states that all the Stabilisation and Association countries are potential candidates for EU membership
June 2003: Thessaloniki Summit: EU perspective for the Western Balkans is confirmed
June 2006: the EU decides to establish relations with Montenegro as a sovereign and independent state
October 2007: The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU is signed
December 2008: Montenegro presents its application for membership to the EU
December 2009: Visa-free travel to Schengen area for citizens of Montenegro
May 2010: The SAA enters into force
November 2010: The European Commission issues its Opinion on Montenegro's application for EU membership
December 2010: The European Council grants candidate status to Montenegro
March-May 2012: Screening meetings for Chapters 23 and 24
26 June 2012: The General Affairs Council (GAC) decides to open negotiations with Montenegro and adopts the negotiating framework.
29 June 2012: The European Council endorses GAC decision. Formal opening of the accession negotiations at the first Intergovernmental Conference.
24 September 2012: Start of the screening meetings for the remaining chapters.
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