The Progress Report on Montenegro is part of the 2013 Enlargement Package adopted today by the European Commission. This is the second Progress Report on Montenegro since the country opened accession negotiations with the EU in June 2012. The European Commission concluded that the country has made further progress in establishing a functioning market economy, has improved its ability to take on the obligations of EU membership, and continues to sufficiently meet the political criteria. The screening meetings have been completed. Two negotiating chapters have been opened and provisionally closed. The accession negotiations have integrated the new approach for the chapters 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights), and 24 (justice, freedom and security). Montenegro adopted Action Plans for both. On this basis, Montenegro was invited to send its negotiating position on these chapters, which it submitted in early October. The implementation of the action plans will determine the overall pace of the negotiations. Montenegro will need to further develop its track record in this area, in particular with respect to high-level corruption and organised crime.
Montenegro continues to sufficiently meet the political criteria for EU membership. During the reporting period, it faced a number of political challenges, including allegations of misuse of public funds for party political purposes, a lack of trust in the electoral process, the need to address the shortcomings identified by the OSCE/ODIHR concerning the electoral legislation, and the need to complete the constitutional amendments in order to strengthen the independence of the judiciary. Parliament adopted these constitutional amendments in July. A working group, set up to examine how to improve trust in the electoral system, had, by September, already adopted a number of recommendations on electoral legislation. An inquiry committee set up to investigate the “audio recordings affair” (alleged misuse of public funds for party political purposes) could not agree on conclusions and limited itself to adopting a technical report of its investigation in July. Montenegro has continued to play a constructive role in the region and to respect its international commitments, including the conditions of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
Continued efforts are needed to efficiently implement the action plans on chapters 23 and 24, as well as to build a sustainable track record in the fight against corruption and organised crime. Attacks against journalists are a cause for concern and need to be investigated and prosecuted.
Macroeconomic stability has been broadly maintained. After entering into recession in 2012, the country came out of it in 2013. The current account deficit is declining but still remains very high. In July, the aluminium producer KAP was put into bankruptcy procedure, which represents a risk to public finances, in view of the considerable size of its contingent liabilities. Some progress has been made towards a functioning market economy. However, Montenegro needs to strengthen competitiveness, by improving productivity and attracting further Foreign Direct Investments into other sectors in addition to tourism and real estate.
Montenegro continued the alignment process over the reporting period. The country is now at varying degrees of alignment with the EU legislation.
Chapter 25 – Science and Research and 26 – Education and Culture were opened and provisionally closed.
The Commission has recommended the opening of accession negotiations for Chapters 5 – Public Procurement, 6 – Company Law, 7 – Intellectual Property Law, 10 – Information Society and Media, 16 – Taxation and 20 – Enterprise and Industrial Policy.
Opening benchmarks have been set for Chapters 1 – Free movement of goods, 3 – Right of establishment and freedom to provide services, 8 – Competition policy (opening benchmarks related to the restructuring of KAP), 11 – Agriculture and rural development, 12 – Food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy, 22 – Regional policy and coordination of structural instruments.
The Commission recommended the opening of Chapters 23 – Judiciary and Fundamental Rights and 24 – Justice, Freedom and Security after it assessed that Montenegro fulfilled the opening benchmarks.
Montenegro’s limited administrative capacity represents a challenge in a number of areas and needs to be strengthened to ensure effective implementation of EU legislation.
1999: The EU proposes the new Stabilisation and Association Process for countries of Southeast Europe
June 2000: The European Council states that all the Stabilisation and Association countries are potential candidates for EU membership
June 2003: Thessaloniki Summit: EU perspective for the Western Balkans is confirmed
June 2006: the EU decides to establish relations with Montenegro as a sovereign and independent state
October 2007: The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU is signed
December 2008: Montenegro presents its application for membership to the EU
December 2009: Visa-free travel to Schengen area for citizens of Montenegro
May 2010: The SAA enters into force
November 2010: The European Commission issues its Opinion on Montenegro’s application for EU membership
December 2010: The European Council grants candidate status to Montenegro
June 2012: The accession negotiations are formally opened at the first Intergovernmental Conference.
June 2013: The screening process is completed.
August 2013: The Commission recommends the opening of Chapters 23 – Judiciary and Fundamental Rights and 24 – Justice, Freedom and Security.