News 14 Jan 13

Montenegro to Debate Constitutional Changes

Parliament’s consitutional committee will discuss moves that will help address EU concerns about judicial independence.

Milena Milosevic

The committee will meet on Tuesday to discuss proposals for constitutional amendments, with Montenegro under pressure from the European Union to implement reforms.

Changes aimed at increasing the independence of the judiciary are among the key conditions for Montenegro to open the most demanding chapters in its accession negotiations with the EU.

European Commission progress reports on Montenegro have frequently highlighted the politicisation of judiciary as one of the country's weakest spots.

Judicial independence is seen as key to the fight against organised crime and corruption - two issues seen as major obstacles to the country's further advance towards the EU.

“The failure to implement constitutional reforms might stall Montenegro’s negotiation process with the EU,” Mitja Drobnic, head of the EU's delegation to Podgorica, told newspapaer Vijesti on Thursday.

In December, the Council of Europe's advisory body on constitutional matters, the Venice Commission, said that the most important judicial roles in Montenegro should be decided by a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

The advice differed from proposals for constitutional changes adopted by ruling colaition MPs in May, which would allow decisions to be made by a simple majority.

The ruling coalition needs the support of 'pro-Serbian' opposition parties to gain enough votes in parliament to make constitutional changes.

However these parties have demanded concessions considered unacceptable to some ruling coalition MPs in return for their support, such as making Serbian an official language and cutting two verses out of the national anthem because they believe that the author was a war criminal.

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