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European Commission - Statement

Accession negotiations with Montenegro remains a priority

21 November 2014

Podgorica

Johannes Hahn, the European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations is in Montenegro today. On his first official visit to Montenegro in his new capacity, Commissioner Hahn is discussing Montenegro's accession prospects in meetings with President Filip Vujanović, Prime Minister Milo Đukanović and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Igor Lukšić. In the morning Commissioner also addressed the members of the European Integration Committee of the Parliament of Montenegro. In the press conference following the meeting with Prime Minister Prime Minister Milo Đukanović, Commissioner Hahn said: 'It is a pleasure for me to be here in Montenegro today and meet with you as part of my first trip to the country. Montenegro has achieved much in the past five years: candidate status in 2010, started accession negotiations in 2012, opened twelve chapters to-date, including rule of law Chapters 23 and 24 and this is very important achievement as the reforms in the area of rule of law attract investments. With the establishment of the new European Commission under President Juncker, enlargement policy and accession negotiations with Montenegro remains a priority. The fact that one of my first trips abroad is to Montenegro, is testimony to my commitment to the accession process. The 2014 Progress Report sent a clear message: progress in rule of law chapters, demonstrated by tangible results, will determine the pace of accession negotiations overall. Currently, neither the European Commission nor the EU Member States have suggested activation of overall balance clause. However, Montenegro needs to show that it has received the message of this year's Progress Report by, inter alia, making progress in the rule of law. The coming weeks are crucial to finalise the work on legislation in anti-corruption, currently in the parliament. I discussed Montenegro's accession prospects with Prime Minister Đukanović. I appreciate that reforms are not easy. Political commitment is needed and I made this point to Prime Minister. I told Prime Minister that Montenegro needs to show tangible results in rule of law, allowing for progress in accession negotiations (December Inter-governmental Conference). Montenegro also needs to improve economic competitiveness (also through the preparation of the National Economic Programme - NERP), and continue working with neighbours on improving connectivity within the region. Next few months will be crucial for all these elements: roll-out of NERP, follow-up to Berlin Summit and Belgrade Ministerial, tangible results in rule of law including in fight against corruption. Regarding media freedom: I welcome the recent steps taken by government to promote media freedom, investigate violence against journalists. The European Commission will continue to monitor the situation. At the same time I call on Montenegro media to promote professional and ethical standards. Better, more responsible and more accurate media also means better communication on accession negotiations. Montenegro has started well on its journey to EU accession. This journey concerns not only civil servants and diplomats, but all citizens of Montenegro. EU integration provides many opportunities for a more modern Montenegro, for a country based on rule of law and with enhanced economic competitiveness. I also expressed appreciation regarding the alignment of Montenegro on EU sanctions. The European Commission and I personally, will remain on Montenegro's side during this journey. Read Commissioner's speech to the Montenegro of Parliament here: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-14-2045_en.htm

STATEMENT/14/2060

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