The Head of Delegation and the Ambassador of the European Union to Montenegro, Mitja Drobnič, presented few days ago the Report for 2015 which involved also discussion on the key findings of the Report adopted by the Commission.
In general, the Commission concluded that the country continued to make progress as regards the political and economic criteria, and has improved its ability to take on the obligations of EU membership. Among the eight negotiating chapters that were opened with Montenegro, good progress was made in improving the legislative framework for the independence of the judiciary and the fight against corruption. However, Montenegro needs to make further progress in strengthening the institutional framework and in establishing a solid track record in the fight against corruption and organized crime.
In regard to the political criteria, the judicial follow-up to the alleged abuse of public funds for party political purposes remains to be completed and political responsibility ensured. Parliament adopted a new code of ethics, strengthening the overall anti-corruption framework. The implementation of the action plans and progress in meeting the interim benchmarks will determine the overall pace of the negotiations.
Montenegro’s judicial system is moderately prepared as Montenegro has achieved some level of preparation in the fight against corruption. The track record on effective investigation, prosecution and final convictions in corruption cases, in particular regarding high-level corruption, remains limited however. Some progress was made during the reporting period on public administration reform, mainly on legislation, service delivery and public financial management. Concerns remain about freedom of expression, although attacks against the media decreased in the reporting period. Montenegro should continue efforts to solve all old and recent cases of attacks and implement the recommendations issued by the ad hoc media commission.
Regarding its economic criteria, macroeconomic stability has been broadly maintained as to developing a functioning market economy. Some progress was made in addressing economic challenges, including on fiscal consolidation and the business environment. The economy grew, albeit at a slower pace than in the previous year, boosted by investments. However, further efforts are necessary to reduce the high unemployment rate.
Overall, Montenegro has continued to broadly implement its international obligations and its obligations under the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) and to play a constructive role in the region. Montenegro participated actively in the implementation of the Berlin agenda and it signed border agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina and with Kosovo in the margins of the Vienna Summit in August.