Accession report praises Montenegro ‘good news story’

A report which could eventually pave the way for Montenegro to join the EU was approved by the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee today.

A report which could eventually pave the way for Montenegro to join the EU was approved by the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee today.

The update on the former Yugoslavian state’s progress towards membership was prepared by Charles Tannock, MEP for London and ECR spokesman on Foreign Affairs in the parliament.

While it calls for further improvement in several areas before Montenegro’s accession can become a reality, the report offers a generally-favourable assessment of its economic, social, political and judicial progress.

Dr Tannock told the committee: “Having been a candidate country since December 2010, Montenegro is now finally negotiating its entry to the EU. In terms of monitoring its progress towards EU accession…this is a clear cut case where small is beautiful. Sometimes that smallness is a problem – society is intimate and intertwined, and the branches of government are not always fully separated – but there is a broad national consensus on European integration.”

The report, which the committee approved by 50 votes to one, welcomes Montenegro’s free, fair and peaceful elections, and says the country is serious about fighting corruption and organised crime. Nevertheless, it stresses the need to bolster the independence and training of the judiciary, strengthen civil institutions and public decision-making, and reform administration structures.

It says, however, that Montenegro has legitimate questions to answer about its treatment of women and minorities. While ethnic minorities appear to be integrated better in society than they were, Dr Tannock identifies “much progress to be made” in the fields of gender equality and LGBT rights.

The report finds “real signs of optimism” on the economy. Montenegro was admitted to the World Trade Organisation in December 2011, which Dr Tannock predicts will help it to build a competitive, dynamic, well-integrated economy. The report points toward reform of labour conditions, tackling red tape and dismantling the unwieldy informal economy as key areas for improvement, together with promotion of growth through inward investment.

Dr Tannock said: “Montenegro shows every sign of absorbing the demands of EU membership; but we call on the government to improve political institutions, and coordination between institutions. It must also work to implement the climate and environment acquis, and invest in clean energy.

“Montenegro is a good news story. However, we are probably talking about the best part of a decade to successfully conclude all the negotiations and ratification formalities before EU accession.

“The EU is planning another treaty change before then, so the architecture of the EU in 10 years time may be different from the existing one. However, Montenegro is heading in the right direction, and the European Parliament will be strongly supporting this process.”

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