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Stefan Füle

European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy

Address to the European Parliament on Montenegro

European Parliament Plenary Session

Strasbourg, 8 March 2011

President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

It is an honour for me to address the European Parliament on the European integration process of Montenegro.

I congratulate the Rapporteur for Montenegro, Dr. Charles Tannock, for his report and express my gratitude to all honourable members who have contributed.

The Parliament plays a key role in enlargement policy. I believe that with the concerted action of all European institutions we can achieve more.

Montenegro’s overall progress towards the fulfilment of the criteria for EU membership has been remarkable. There is a growing political consensus. The country has made important progress in putting in place its legal and institutional framework. It is also strongly committed to regional cooperation. There is a solid record of structural economic reforms and progress in most areas of the ‘acquis’.

The European Council decision to grant candidate status for Montenegro is recognition of these achievements and a strong signal which confirms the credibility of the EU’s enlargement policy.

The country has entered a decisive stage. Candidate status is a great responsibility for Montenegro. Tangible results are needed in order for Montenegro to be able to move to the next stage of European integration.

I am confident that the European Parliament resolution will send the right message to Montenegro of acknowledging past achievements, but also the strong expectation that the reform process will be pursued with determination and all key challenges on Montenegro's path to the EU membership will be thoroughly addressed.

I met the new Prime Minister of Montenegro, Dr Igor Lukšić, last week. His commitment to pursue the reform process and strong determination to meet the key priorities set out in the Commission Opinion are encouraging.

On 17th February, after public consultations with civil society and talks with the Commission services, the Government adopted an action plan to address the priorities. It is now crucial to focus on implementation and establish a solid track record.

Mr President, Honourable Members,

The key priorities set out in the Opinion are a significant but achievable challenge that requires the involvement and commitment of all actors in Montenegro.

Previous enlargements have shown the importance of addressing key issues under the political criteria as well as chapter 23 early in the accession process.

Early solid achievements in this area in Montenegro,

- notably in the de-politicisation of the public administration,

- the strengthening of the independence of the judiciary and

- the effective fight against corruption and against organised crime,

will later ensure smooth negotiations and integration in the EU.

Montenegro must improve its electoral framework in line with the recommendations of the OSCE-ODIHR and the Venice Commission. The parliament needs strengthening – an important priority for both the Commission and the European Parliament.

Effective compliance with European standards in the field of human rights is essential, in particular regarding freedom of expression and relations with civil society. Further efforts are needed to strengthen anti-discrimination policy, notably gender equality and the effective protection of vulnerable groups. Sustainable solutions are needed for the displaced persons.

Other shortcomings identified in the Opinion and in your draft resolution also need to be addressed. Montenegro needs to strengthen its administrative capacity and to upgrade its preparations in a number of areas of the European Union ‘acquis’.

President, Honourable Members, to conclude:

The future of Montenegro undeniably lies in the European Union. And we should act responsible.

The credibility of our enlargement policy is based on the enlargement countries' respect of the conditionality towards the European Union and the European Union's respect of its commitments towards the enlargement countries. It is in all our interest to ensure that the progress of Montenegro towards the European Union is based on solid achievements and concrete results.

Montenegro’s performance this year will be assessed in the Enlargement Package due in October 2011. Only if the Commission establishes that Montenegro has achieved the necessary degree of compliance with the accession criteria, in particular the seven key priorities set out in the Opinion, will it be in position to recommend opening of negotiations.

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