After it was given candidate status in December 2010, followed by accession negotiations were opened in June 2012, Montenegro has achieved some level of preparation with the relevant European and international standards. Such as in terms of the fight against corruption, the protection of human rights, in developing a functioning market economy and in its capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union.
As regards its ability to take on the obligations of membership, Montenegro is moderately prepared for most acquis chapters although aligning with the acquis and strengthening the administrative capacity remains a substantial challenge. Montenegro’s judicial system is moderately prepared. Good progress has been made on strengthening the legislative framework to increase the in dependence, accountability and professionalism of the judiciary, but rules are not fully applied in practice.
The track record on effective investigation, prosecution and final convictions in corruption cases, in particular regarding high-level corruption, remains limited. In the fight against organized crime, the country has some level of preparation. Further efforts are needed, in particular to investigate wider criminal networks and to counter money laundering. Major reforms are still needed to strengthen the country’s physical infrastructure and human capital, and to ensure a predictable and supportive regulatory environment.
The institutional and operational capacity of prosecutors, judges and police to fight corruption is insufficient. The prosecution service has the lead in criminal investigations. However, in practice, cooperation between the police and the prosecution in pre-trial investigations remains to be improved. The capacity to carry out financial investigations needs to be improved. Some progress was made in the past year, notably on strengthening the legal and institutional framework and operational capacity for the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing. Regional and international cooperation has been smooth, and a number of joint operations were conducted.
However, further work is needed in this area. Montenegro’s track record on organized crime needs to be consolidated. In particular, the number of final convictions for organized crime and the number of seizures and confiscations of criminal assets and number of suspicious transactions detected also remains low. Trafficking in human beings remains a concern. Despite progress on the legal and institutional aspects, Montenegro has achieved limited results, both in terms of victims identified and cases prosecuted. Despite, remaining a transit country towards Western Europe and remaining vulnerable to both domestic and regional trafficking, only few criminal cases have been launched and four victims identified.
Montenegro is gradually shifting its focus from incorporating EU standards into its legal framework to improving its institutional framework and support activities that make the protection and enforcement of human rights possible. However, the country still suffers shortcomings in regard to Human rights institutions which remain weak. Staff knowledge on international and European human rights law and standards, and their ability to supervise the spending of funds, remains insufficient. Poor transparency and control of the funds for minorities must be urgently addressed. Furthermore, lack of a uniform approach and low levels of penalties in the area of human rights violations create legal uncertainty.