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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
2012 Progress report on Montenegro
European Parliament, plenary debate /Strasbourg
17 April 2013
President, Honourable Members,
I would like to express my gratitude to the Rapporteur for Montenegro, Mr. Charles Tannock, for this draft resolution. It reflects well the findings of the 2012 Progress Report on the country.
Montenegro continues to make great progress on its path towards the European Union. The decision to open accession negotiations last June opened a new chapter in the history of the country´s place in Europe.
In the meantime we have entered the substance of the accession negotiations. The screening process of all chapters is under way. We have been able to provisionally close chapter 25 Science and Research in December and chapter 26 Education and Culture just three days ago. We have started with the rule of law related chapters, in line with the new approach, and we will maintain this focus.
I have four remarks about the main challenges that lie ahead:
First, priority needs to be given to the completion of the on-going constitutional reform to ensure the independence and accountability of the judiciary in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission. Finalising this reform will be crucial to advance in the accession negotiations.
Second, some progress has been made in the fight against corruption and organised crime, but the number of investigations, prosecutions and indictments remains low.
Third, full compliance with European standards in the area of fundamental rights is essential for Montenegro to move ahead with its European integration. Protection of media freedom needs to be ensured. We call on the Montenegrin authorities, at all levels, to step up the efforts to investigate and prosecute present and earlier cases of violence against journalists.
Fourth, further efforts are needed to improve the situation of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian community and of displaced persons by ensuring access to their civil and political as well as economic and social rights.
Our dialogue with Montenegro on these outstanding challenges will continue and intensify during the negotiations.
Allow me to make a brief remark regarding the recent presidential elections, which are being contested. Montenegro is a country negotiating for EU membership. Any complaints need to be dealt with swiftly. The election result must be beyond reproach. I am confident that Montenegro's political leaders will take measures to reinforce the credibility of public institutions as well as their independence from party-political interests.
Thank you for your attention.