At a ceremony at the European Commission, Ms Michèle Coninsx, President of Eurojust, and H.E. Mr Zoran Pažin, Minister of Justice of Montenegro, signed an Agreement on Cooperation in the presence of Ms Věra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, followed by a press conference attended by the signatories and the Commissioner. Accompanying Minister Pažin were Ambassador Ivan Leković, Chief of the Mission of Montenegro to the EU, Ms Mirjana Vlahović, Chief of the Cabinet of the Minister, Mr Nikola Šaranović, Director General for International Cooperation and European Integration in the Ministry of Justice, and Mr Alen Nikezić, First Secretary at the Mission of Montenegro to the EU.
Entering into a cooperation agreement with a third State often leads to a greater number of cases between the third State and Eurojust. With the inclusion of Montenegro, Eurojust has signed eight such cooperation agreements. Cooperation with third States is a crucial step in combating serious crime, particularly organised crime and terrorism. The process leading to today’s signing was relatively swift. Formal negotiations commenced in April 2015, and the draft agreement was approved in June 2015. The Justice and Home Affairs Council adopted the draft agreement in April 2016.
As an EU candidate country currently undergoing accession negotiations, Montenegro’s formal cooperation with Eurojust is a necessary precondition for closure of Chapter 24 on Justice, Freedom and Security. Cooperation agreements offer the possibility to exchange operational data, including personal data, in accordance with EU data protection regulations. They also provide for the possible secondment of a Liaison Prosecutor from Montenegro to Eurojust, and a Eurojust Liaison Magistrate to Montenegro. Eurojust currently has two contact points appointed by Montenegro.
Minister Pažin said: ‘I am delighted to be here today to sign this Cooperation Agreement with Eurojust and to affirm the commitment of Montenegro to assist the European Union in fighting cross-border crime, especially organised crime. This Agreement is a vital step, bringing us closer to EU membership and even greater participation in true democracy and the rule of law.’
President Coninsx said: ‘Cooperation with third States is essential. Only one year after commencement of negotiations, we are now able to take the next step and add Montenegro as an essential member of our growing network of third States with which we have cooperation agreements in place. We look forward to enhanced cooperation with Montenegro.’