News 16 Jan 13

Montenegro Shuts Media out of Constitutional Talks

Parliament’s constitutional committee was to discuss changes intended to bring EU accession closer but instead agreed to close its doors to press and public.

Milena Milosevic
BIRN
Podgorica

Committee members adopted the closed-door policy at their first session on Tuesday, suggesting that it would stop the talks being manipulated for political advantage during the upcoming presidential election campaign.

"I think that this model will improve political dialogue and the possibility of reaching consensus," said parliamentary speaker Ranko Krivokapic, who heads the committee.

Krivokapic added that he hoped that the constitutional talks won’t be misused during the run-up to the presidential poll, which he is due to call by January 20.

It’s expected that opposition will be allowed to release certain information about the committee’s work, but only after the closed-door sessions.

The opposition warned that the agreement will only hold if there is adequate cooperation between MPs.

But it also pledged to help find a compromise over the proposed constitutional amendments.

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 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.

However differences remain between governing coalition MPs and the opposition about the details of the planned judicial reforms.

The committee will continue its work on Monday.

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