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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
Montenegro: continued perseverance required
Joint debate Balkans / progress reports, European Parliament, Plenary Session
5 February 2014
President, Honourable Members,
Thank you for your invitation to participate in today's joint debate. Let me first of all express my gratitude to:
• Doris Pack for her report on Bosnia and Herzegovina;
• Richard Howitt for his report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; and
• Charles Tannock for his report on Montenegro.
All three reports are well balanced and accurately reflect the findings of the Commission's 2013 Progress Reports on the three countries.
As regards Montenegro, the December Inter-governmental Conference marked a milestone in the accession negotiations, with the opening of the rule of law Chapters, 23 and 24. This was also the result of Montenegro's intensive work on the detailed Action Plans that the government had adopted during the summer.
We now expect the Action Plans to be implemented according to the set deadlines, so that Montenegrin citizens can see and feel the benefits.
Respect for the rule of law is a pre-condition for accession to the European Union. But it is also – and even more importantly – in the interest of Montenegro and its citizens.
While the implementation of many measures foreseen in the Action Plans is on track, there are pending measures such as the revision of the legislative framework on political party and electoral campaign financing which has to be completed without further delay.
Today the Justice and Home Affairs Subcommittee met in Podgorica, where the Report prepared by the Montenegrin authorities on the implementation of the Action Plans was discussed. The report is public, and available for consultation by civil society and media.
Recent attacks against media are unacceptable. Avoiding impunity for the perpetrators is the best tool to prevent such crimes in the future.
Progress on Chapters 23 and 24 will determine the pace of the negotiation process as a whole. Even more important, we have high expectations that work on both chapters will have a positive impact on the situation on the ground.
It is now up to all relevant actors in Montenegro to deliver results on these issues. This will require strong political will and commitment by Montenegro's leadership. Let me assure you that we will continue to closely monitor progress with the authorities.
Thank you for your attention.
Finally, as regards Montenegro, the screening meetings were completed in June 2013. With the opening of Chapters 23 and 24, Montenegro has now opened a total of seven Chapters, two of which, 25 – Science and research and 26 – Education and culture, have also been provisionally closed.
We expect 2014 to be the year when Montenegro focuses on addressing the Opening Benchmarks set in chapters like Competition policy, Agriculture and rural development, Food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy, and Environment. These Opening Benchmarks include elements such as the elaboration of strategies and action plans, or legislative alignment.
We would also expect to open a number of chapters during the year. These are chapters without opening benchmarks.
For this progress to be achieved continued perseverance will be required from Montenegro – there is no other way to make progress on the road towards European Union membership.
Your Joint Parliamentary Committee in March will be a good occasion to remind them once more.
Let me also say: the "track record" is more than just implementation of the reforms. It is changing the way of thinking. Changing the relationship between the state and citizens, so that the state is here for its citizens. It is about leaders working first of all for the country and its citizens, it is about considering attacks on journalists as attacks on a very important pillar of democracy.
Thank you for your attention