In 2015 Resolution on Montenegro, MEPs assess reform efforts. “Montenegro continues to be the good news story of the Western Balkans and I am pleased that our resolution reflects that”, said rapporteur Charles Tannock (ECR, UK), adding that “2016 is a very important year for Montenegro. In the year of its tenth anniversary since independence, the country is going to the polls in parliamentary elections and is in the process of crucial negotiations regarding its potential accession to NATO.”
Montenegro is seen as a ‘scoreboard leader’ in the enlargement process as it has already opened most of the negotiation chapters with the EU. However, implementation is still lacking in key areas and remains to be addressed. In 2016, amidst political turmoil, the country expects to join NATO at its July Warsaw Summit, and is due to hold parliamentary elections, on a date yet to be fixed.
European Commission’s 2015 progress report
An overall positive 2015 progress report commends Montenegro for its leading role in the accession process, with 22 negotiation chapters open and two provisionally closed, and for its improved preparedness to assume membership obligations. It marks Montenegro’s constructive regional role, particularly the border agreements signed with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, and its full alignment with the EU’s foreign policy. However, like other countries in the region, Montenegro needs to address certain core issues related to the rule of law, fundamental rights, institutional strengthening, and setting a track record in the fight against corruption and organised crime. Montenegro’s overall anti-corruption framework has been strengthened through the establishment of a Special Prosecutor’s Office (2015) and an Anti-Corruption Agency (2016), as well as through the adoption of a new parliamentary code of ethics and a new law on prevention of corruption, in force since January 2016. Another positive step has been the adoption of new electoral legislation, which needs to be fully implemented for all future elections. However, there has been no political follow-up to the ‘surveillance affair’ involving the alleged abuse of public funds for political purposes in the 2012 parliamentary elections. Other highlights in the report include media freedom, the role of civil society and the need to adopt a new strategy on public administration reform in 2016. The report has a positive outlook on the economy, expecting investment-driven growth while also acknowledging concerns that the construction of the Bar-Boljare highway might be a risk to public finances.
MEPs welcome the steady progress made in EU accession negotiations with Montenegro, but note that corruption remains a serious concern, particularly in public procurement, healthcare, education, spatial planning, privatisation and the construction sector. They call on Montenegro “to make combating corruption one of its priorities” and welcome the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Agency to this end.
They also commend Montenegro for contributing to EU-led crisis management missions and implementing international restrictive measures, including imposing sanctions against the Russian Federation. Finally, MEPs also “welcome NATO’s decision to invite Montenegro to join the alliance”.