The effect in the rule of law is crucial for the speed and quality of accession negotiations, since the speed and quality are closely related categories, was the conclusion of the debate “Speed and (or) quality of negotiations,” which was organised by the NGO Centre for Civic Education, the Embassy of Finland, and the EU Info Centre.
Kimmo Lähdevirta, the Finnish Ambassador to Montenegro, highlighted the importance of the EU enlargement policy for promoting peace, prosperity, security, as well as the continuation of work on a credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans – referring to the current Finnish EU presidency.
“A constructive approach means respecting criticism from the EU, as well as from experts and the civil society, and taking concrete steps to remedy the situation in a credible and transparent way. The EU accession process can only succeed if it has really led to the necessary reforms in practice and if the citizens agree that things have improved,” Lähdevirta said.
Plamena Halacheva, Head of the European Integration, Political Affairs, Media and Information Section at the EU Delegation to Montenegro, stated that the speed and quality of negotiations are closely related categories because, as she stated, there can be no speed without quality. She emphasised that speed is predominantly dependent on progress in each of the States and a lot of work needs to be done.
“The people of the region expect reform agendas to be pursued with determination so that they can see concrete benefits now. The general public doesn’t care about the number of chapters opened or closed, but about when their quality of life will match the one of an average European,” Halacheva explained.
Halacheva recalled that the Communication on EU Enlargement Policy since last May indicates that some countries have stagnated in their reform activities, especially in key areas related to the rule of law and fundamental rights, and that they need to step up their efforts to reach ambitious goals.
“With the institutional framework complete and the legal framework largely in place, it is now crucial for Montenegro that the entire rule of law system delivers more tangible results and a strengthened and sustainable track record,” Halacheva explained, adding that the Western Balkans’ EU perspective was not called into question.
While commenting on the decision not to open negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, Marko Mrdak, the Deputy Chief Negotiator, said that this shows the reservations of certain Member States towards the EU enlargement policy, stressing that the regional aspiration for the EU is extremely important in ensuring the stability and prosperity of the entire region.
“The whole negotiation process is conducted primarily because of the quality of life of Montenegrin citizens. It is important for Montenegro to reach European standards in order to be ready for the closing phase of the negotiation chapters,” Mrdak said.
Daliborka Uljarević, the Executive Director of the NGO Civic Education Centre, believes that Montenegro has a high level of social consensus on the EU as a destination, but that there are differences when it comes to the different views of the actors involved, the reasons as to why they should join the EU, the dynamics necessary, and the domestic tasks which should be fulfilled.
She recalled that after seven years of negotiations, Montenegro had made good progress in four Chapters, limited progress in 28 of them, and had a score of “no progress” in only one. In assessing the perspective of the Montenegrin negotiations, she stated that Montenegro is halting itself.
The debate was followed by a lively discussion and brought together close to 60 participants from the negotiating structure, State institutions, non-governmental organisations, the media, businesses, governing and opposition political parties, universities, academia, student associations, and the diplomatic corps./ibna