news 15 May 13

Montenegro Launches Plan to Depoliticise Judiciary

The Montenegrin government has published a draft action plan to increase judicial independence and answer EU concerns about politicisation of the country’s legal system.

Milena Milosevic

The government called for the public consultations on the document which is aimed at satisfying EU concerns ahead of the opening of one of the most demanding chapters in Montenegro’s accession talks with Brussels.

The draft plan envisages that constitutional changes will be implemented by September this year which should depoliticise the current system of appointing the supreme state prosecutor, the president of the supreme court and members of judicial and prosecutorial councils.

“Consultations would ensure that the public is informed as widely as possible… with the aim of having a more detailed exchange of information and the participation of all interested parties in the preparation of the action plan,” the government said in a statement on Monday.

The draft document is partially based on recommendations from the Venice Commission, an advisory body to the Council of Europe, which urged Montenegro last year to reform judicial appointments.

Chapter 23 of the EU’s list of conditions for membership, which covers the judiciary and fundamental rights, states that “the establishment of an independent and efficient judiciary is of paramount importance. Impartiality, integrity and a high standard of adjudication by the courts are essential for safeguarding the rule of law.”

However talks on the constitutional changes are currently stalled because the largest opposition group, the Democratic Front, is boycotting parliament in protest at what it says was a rigged presidential election on April 7 which gave a third term to Filip Vujanovic of the governing Democratic Party of Socialists.

European Commission progress reports on Montenegro have frequently highlighted the politicisation of the 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.

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