news 10 Nov 15

EU Report Charts Uneven Progress in Montenegro

Electoral law reforms, freedom of the media and the fight against corruption will be the main focus areas for Montenegro in this year's EU Progress Report, sources in Brussels said.

Dusica Tomovic

The forthcoming European Commission report on Montenegro is likely to positively assess progress in the country but will stress the need for a more efficient fight against corruption and the need for guarantees of media freedom, sources in Brussels said.

The report due out on Tuesday will urge the strengthening of the rule of law and fresh measures to spur economic recovery, media in Podgorica reported.

The presentation of the report, first announced for October 14, was postponed twice due to the refugee crises. 

Citing diplomatic sources in Brussels, media reports said the EU will note progress in Montenegro's membership negotiations - but not in some key areas, such as electoral law reforms and the fight against organized crime and high level corruption.

In December, Montenegro is expected to be invited to join NATO and this is expected to be particularly emphasized in the report. 

The European Commission will urge Montenegro to implement a new electoral system in the context of the upcoming general elections, daily Vijesti reported.

A Slovenian member of the European Parliament, Ivo Vajgl, told local media that Montenegro is seen as "the least problematic country" compared to other EU candidates in the Balkan region. 

"The report will bring nothing essentially new, but you can expect that European parliamentarians and the Commission will be quite critical about media policy, freedom of expression and the issue of corruption," he said.

However, a Foreign Ministry official, Snezana Radovic, said this year's report would provide a "realistic view of the situation on the ground", and would record progress in specific areas.  

"We expect guidelines and requirements for those areas in which we need to work more," Radovic said on Monday. 

Montenegro started its accession negotiations in 2012.  Of a total of 35 negotiation chapters, 20 chapters have been opened for negotiations, of which two chapters have been provisionally closed.

In December 2013, Montenegro started negotiation talks with the EU on Chapters 23 and 24, which represent the most challenging phase of the accession talks as they deal with organized crime and corruption.

The EU's new approach to membership negotiations, which is being implemented for the first time with Montenegro, means that Chapters 23 and 24 are to be kept open until the negotiations end.

Most people are in favour of EU membership – the latest poll said over 60 per cent backed membership of the bloc and only 9.8 per cent were against.

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