EU/Montenegro — First Meeting


Joint Press Release
The Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and Asso­ci­a­tion Coun­cil (SA Coun­cil) between the Euro­pean Union and Mon­tene­gro held its first meet­ing on 14 June 2010. The meet­ing was chaired by the Span­ish State Sec­re­tary for the Euro­pean Union, Mr. Diego Lopez Gar­ri­do, on behalf of the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cather­ine Ash­ton. Mon­tene­gro was rep­re­sent­ed by Mr Milan Roćen, Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs. The meet­ing was also attend­ed by Mr Ste­fan Fuele, Com­mis­sion­er for Enlargement.

The Euro­pean Union wel­comed the hold­ing of the first meet­ing of the Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and Asso­ci­a­tion Coun­cil between the EU and Mon­tene­gro, fol­low­ing entry into force on 1 May 2010 of the Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ment (SAA). The SAA will pro­vide the con­trac­tu­al frame­work with­in which the EU and Mon­tene­gro will inten­si­fy their coop­er­a­tion and take stock of devel­op­ments in their rela­tion­ship. The SAA marks a new qual­i­ta­tive stage in bilat­er­al rela­tions, imply­ing sig­nif­i­cant new oblig­a­tions and engage­ment. The SAA will be the core of bilat­er­al relations.

The SA Coun­cil recalled the min­is­te­r­i­al polit­i­cal dia­logue meet­ing on 23 Feb­ru­ary 2010 which reviewed bilat­er­al rela­tions, polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic devel­op­ments in Mon­tene­gro and in the region. It con­firmed the con­struc­tive rela­tions between the par­ties and the con­cur­rent views on devel­op­ments in the West­ern Balkans.

The SA Coun­cil was informed by Mon­tene­gro about its sub­mis­sion, on 15 Decem­ber 2008, of an appli­ca­tion for mem­ber­ship to the Euro­pean Union. The EU not­ed that the appli­ca­tion is being assessed accord­ing to the prin­ci­ples set out in the Treaty on Euro­pean Union and the cri­te­ria defined by the Copen­hagen Euro­pean Coun­cil in June 1993, as well as the Decem­ber 2006 Euro­pean Coun­cil con­clu­sions on the renewed con­sen­sus for enlarge­ment and the con­di­tion­al­i­ty of the Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and Asso­ci­a­tion Process. The Coun­cil will return to the mat­ter when the Com­mis­sion has pre­sent­ed its opinion. 

The SA Coun­cil high­light­ed the impor­tance of region­al coop­er­a­tion which is as essen­tial ele­ment of the Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and Asso­ci­a­tion Process. Point­ing to region­al coop­er­a­tion and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion efforts in the West­ern Balka­ns, the SA Coun­cil appre­ci­at­ed the results of the High Lev­el Meet­ing in Sara­je­vo on 2 June. It wel­comes the con­struc­tive role of Mon­tene­gro in main­tain­ing region­al sta­bil­i­ty and fos­ter­ing good rela­tions with oth­er West­ern Balkan and neigh­bour­ing EU coun­tries, Montenegro’s sat­is­fac­to­ry coop­er­a­tion with the Inter­na­tion­al Crim­i­nal Tri­bunal for the for­mer Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the con­tin­ued active par­tic­i­pa­tion of Mon­tene­gro in var­i­ous region­al ini­tia­tives in South East­ern Europe, includ­ing the Cen­tral Euro­pean Free Trade Agree­ment, the Cen­tral Euro­pean Ini­tia­tive, the Adri­at­ic Ion­ian Ini­tia­tive and the South East Europe Coop­er­a­tion Process which are or will be presided over by Montenegro.

The SA Coun­cil reviewed devel­op­ments relat­ed to the polit­i­cal cri­te­ria. It not­ed that Mon­tene­gro has con­tin­ued to make progress in address­ing issues relat­ed to democ­ra­cy and the rule of law which are fun­da­men­tal aspects of the polit­i­cal cri­te­ria for EU acces­sion. The Con­sti­tu­tion is on the whole imple­ment­ed effec­tive­ly. The EU wel­comes the fact that par­lia­men­tary elec­tions held in March 2009 met almost all OSCE and Coun­cil of Europe stan­dards and the order­ly con­duct of munic­i­pal elec­tions in May 2010. The EU calls for fur­ther efforts to meet the rec­om­men­da­tions of the 2009 ODIHR report, includ­ing on minor­i­ty rep­re­sen­ta­tion and for the com­ple­tion of the align­ment of the elec­toral leg­is­la­tion with the Con­sti­tu­tion. The SA Coun­cil not­ed that, upon request of the Gov­ern­ment of Mon­tene­gro, the Venice Com­mis­sion draft­ed an expert opin­ion on the Bill on the Elec­tion of Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment and the Mem­bers of Local Par­lia­ment, which is to be tak­en into con­sid­er­a­tion in the process of final­is­ing the Bill.

The SA Coun­cil not­ed that Mon­tene­gro is fur­ther pur­su­ing the com­ple­tion of its legal frame­work and strength­en­ing insti­tu­tion­al and admin­is­tra­tive capac­i­ty. The EU encour­ages Mon­tene­gro to focus par­tic­u­lar­ly on the imple­men­ta­tion of leg­is­la­tion enact­ed and fur­ther improve admin­is­tra­tive capac­i­ty, which remains lim­it­ed, includ­ing for the non-tradere­lat­ed pro­vi­sions of the SAA and for its imple­men­ta­tion. The EU encour­ages Mon­tene­gro to step up its cur­rent efforts on improv­ing admin­is­tra­tive capac­i­ty and estab­lish­ing a pro­fes­sion­al, account­able, trans­par­ent and mer­it-based civ­il ser­vice free of polit­i­cal interference.

The SA Coun­cil also reviewed progress on judi­cial reform, which is a key Euro­pean Part­ner­ship pri­or­i­ty, not­ing that fur­ther progress has been made in Mon­tene­gro, notably regard­ing the adop­tion of a new Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure Code, the func­tion­ing of the Judi­cial and Pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al Coun­cils and reduc­tions in court case back­logs. The EU calls Mon­tene­gro to step up efforts to ensure inde­pen­dence of the judi­cia­ry and the pros­e­cu­tion from polit­i­cal influ­ence, as well as to enhance the account­abil­i­ty and effi­cien­cy of the judi­cial system.

The SA Coun­cil sup­port­ed the good progress achieved in enhanc­ing the legal and admin­is­tra­tive frame­work regard­ing efforts in the fight against cor­rup­tion and organ­ised crime. The SA Coun­cil was informed by Mon­tene­gro of spe­cif­ic results which it had recent­ly achieved in this field. The EU con­sid­ers that cor­rup­tion and organ­ised crime con­tin­ue to be par­tic­u­lar­ly seri­ous con­cerns and called on Mon­tene­gro to step up its efforts to effec­tive­ly imple­ment leg­is­la­tion, strength­en inves­ti­ga­tion capac­i­ties and coor­di­na­tion of law-enforce­ment agen­cies. It recalled that greater efforts to estab­lish and empow­er inde­pen­dent super­vi­so­ry author­i­ties are necessary. 

The SA Coun­cil not­ed pos­i­tive­ly that in Mon­tene­gro the leg­isla­tive frame­work was already broad­ly in place on human rights and the respect for and pro­tec­tion of minori­ties, in accor­dance with the Copen­hagen polit­i­cal cri­te­ria. The EU encour­aged Mon­tene­gro to imple­ment mea­sures to ful­fil its com­mit­ments in these areas. The EU fur­ther high­light­ed the need to improve aware­ness of the judi­cia­ry about all aspects of human rights vio­la­tions and added that fur­ther efforts are need­ed in the area of fight­ing ill-treat­ment and tor­ture as well as ensur­ing access to jus­tice for all citizens.

The SA Coun­cil not­ed that Mon­tene­gro has achieved some progress on free­dom of expres­sion. It wel­comed draft­ing of a set of laws in accor­dance with the rec­om­men­da­tions and con­clu­sions of the EC as well as Montenegro’s com­mit­ment to fur­ther step up its efforts in this area. The EU stressed the impor­tance of respect­ing media free­dom, which is a fun­da­men­tal pil­lar of good gov­er­nance and account­abil­i­ty, as well as the impor­tance of strength­en­ing media self-reg­u­la­tion to fos­ter eth­i­cal and pro­fes­sion­al stan­dards. The SA Coun­cil was informed that Mon­tene­gro is com­mit­ted to improv­ing the effi­cien­cy of its legal and insti­tu­tion­al frame­work on anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion, on the fight against domes­tic vio­lence as well as on social dia­logue. The EU under­lines the need for fur­ther improve­ments in the above areas. The EU encour­ages Mon­tene­gro to take action to progress on children’s rights, to improve trade union rep­re­sen­ta­tions and social dia­logue and to com­bat dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBT per­sons in line with EU and inter­na­tion­al standards.

The SA Coun­cil wel­comes the good inter-eth­nic cli­mate in Mon­tene­gro which is cre­at­ing con­di­tions for fur­ther progress in this area. It looks for­ward to fur­ther improve­ment, in par­tic­u­lar through bet­ter coop­er­a­tion between the author­i­ties and the Minor­i­ty Coun­cils and bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tion of per­sons belong­ing to minori­ties in pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion, police and judi­cia­ry as well as in the par­lia­ment and local gov­ern­ment. The EU wel­comes spe­cif­ic steps which Mon­tene­gro is tak­ing to improve the sit­u­a­tion of the Roma, Ashkali and Egypt­ian (RAE) pop­u­la­tion but also notes that the RAE pop­u­la­tion con­tin­ues to face very dif­fi­cult liv­ing con­di­tions and that fur­ther activ­i­ties should be tak­en in order to pre­vent any kind of dis­crim­i­na­tion of the RAE pop­u­la­tion, to improve their access to edu­ca­tion, social pro­tec­tion, health care, hous­ing and employment.

The SA Coun­cil acknowl­edged that dis­placed and inter­nal­ly dis­placed per­sons need to be pro­vid­ed with clear legal sta­tus and access to fun­da­men­tal rights. Mon­tene­gro informed the SA Coun­cil on its efforts to imple­ment the government’s action plan in order to address this issue. The EU encour­ages Mon­tene­gro to make fur­ther efforts in order to find a sus­tain­able solu­tion to the sit­u­a­tion in the Konik camp.

The SA Coun­cil wel­comed the progress and efforts of Mon­tene­gro to become a func­tion­ing mar­ket econ­o­my. It not­ed that the small and open Mon­tene­grin econ­o­my was harsh­ly hit by the glob­al finan­cial and eco­nom­ic cri­sis. It con­sid­ers impor­tant the sev­er­al mea­sures tak­en in adjust­ing to a more bal­anced growth mod­el — and encour­ages to con­tin­ue in this vein — as eco­nom­ic diver­si­fi­ca­tion would mit­i­gate the cur­rent risks of a large expo­sure to a lim­it­ed num­ber of sectors.

Con­cern­ing pub­lic finance, the SA Coun­cil acknowl­edged that improv­ing the qual­i­ty of pub­lic finances by restrain­ing cur­rent pub­lic spend­ing while enhanc­ing pro­duc­tive expen­di­tures would strength­en the basis for future growth. Not­ing that the com­pet­i­tive­ness of the econ­o­my still needs improve­ment , the EU calls on Mon­tene­gro to con­tin­ue imple­ment­ing the struc­tur­al reform agen­da, upgrad­ing infra­struc­ture and skills, enhanc­ing insti­tu­tion­al capac­i­ty and sus­tain­ing efforts to enhance the rule of law.

The SA Coun­cil wel­comed that Mon­tene­gro is align­ing its leg­is­la­tion and capac­i­ty with Euro­pean stan­dards and imple­ment­ing con­trac­tu­al com­mit­ments, in par­tic­u­lar in areas such as trade lib­er­al­i­sa­tion and cus­toms. It acknowl­edged that in oth­er areas, such as sta­tis­tics, ener­gy, trans­port and intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty rights progress needs to be inten­si­fied and that fur­ther progress on qual­i­ty stan­dards, vet­eri­nary and phy­tosan­i­tary con­trol is nec­es­sary to ful­ly ben­e­fit from trade con­ces­sions under the SAA.

The SA Coun­cil wel­comes that Mon­tene­gro had imple­ment­ed the Inter­im Agree­ment well and con­tributed to the smooth func­tion­ing of the var­i­ous joint insti­tu­tions such as the Inter­im Com­mit­tee and the­mat­ic Sub­com­mit­tees. The EU recalled that the entry into force of the SAA in the areas of jus­tice, free­dom and secu­ri­ty, free move­ment of work­ers, right of estab­lish­ment and free move­ment of cap­i­tal and ser­vices as well as on trans­port, audio­vi­su­al and elec­tron­ic communications.

The SA Coun­cil wel­comed the hold­ing of the fourth Inter-par­lia­men­tary meet­ing between rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and the Par­lia­ment of Mon­tene­gro in Octo­ber 2009 advanced the par­lia­men­tary dimen­sion of EU-Mon­tene­gro rela­tions. The SA Coun­cil not­ed that Mon­tene­gro is cur­rent­ly eli­gi­ble for com­po­nents I (Tran­si­tion Assis­tance and Insti­tu­tion Build­ing) and II (Cross Bor­der Coop­er­a­tion) of the Instru­ment for Pre-Acces­sion Assis­tance (IPA). The finan­cial allo­ca­tions are of a total of € 100,9 mil­lion between 2009 and 2011. The SA Coun­cil appre­ci­ates the ini­tial steps tak­en by Mon­tene­gro to pre­pare for decen­tralised man­age­ment of IPA funds and encour­ages Mon­tene­gro to fur­ther strength­en relat­ed efforts in this regard.

The SA Coun­cil wel­comes the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Mon­tene­gro in the 7th Frame­work Pro­gramme for research, tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment and in the Entre­pre­neur­ship and Inno­va­tion com­po­nent of the Com­pet­i­tive­ness and Inno­va­tion Frame­work Pro­gramme and Cul­ture 2007 — 2013. The EU looks for­ward to Montenegro’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in fur­ther Com­mu­ni­ty pro­grammes in the future.

The SA Coun­cil exchanged views on the devel­op­ments in the West­ern Balka­ns. The SA Coun­cil not­ed that Mon­tene­gro has aligned itself to 92,7% of the EU’s CFSP dec­la­ra­tions in 2008, 95,8% in 2009 and 100% in 2010. It expressed sat­is­fac­tion about the upward trend.

Mon­tene­gro informed the SA Coun­cil on activ­i­ties con­cern­ing the region­al ini­tia­tives it is pre­sid­ing over, name­ly the Cen­tral Euro­pean Ini­tia­tive and the Adri­at­ic Ion­ian Ini­tia­tive. The EU warm­ly wel­comes these efforts. It notes with great sat­is­fac­tion that Mon­tene­gro will take over the chair­man­ship of the South East Euro­pean Coop­er­a­tion Process (SEECP) in a cru­cial moment when the SEECP will have to give polit­i­cal guid­ance to the imple­men­ta­tion of the new strat­e­gy and work plan of the Region­al Coop­er­a­tion Coun­cil. It wish­es Mon­tene­gro well in these endeav­ours. The SA Coun­cil ful­ly sup­ports efforts to ratio­nalise region­al coop­er­a­tion and improve the effi­cien­cy of the RCC. The SA Coun­cil wel­comes the estab­lish­ment of the Region­al School for Pub­lic Admin­is­tra­tion (ReSPA) in Danilov­grad and looks for­ward to its future operations. 

The SA Coun­cil was informed by the EU that the bilat­er­al non-sur­ren­der agree­ment of Mon­tene­gro with the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca is still not in line with rel­e­vant EU guid­ing prin­ci­ples con­cern­ing arrange­ments between a State Par­ty to the Rome Statute of the Inter­na­tion­al Crim­i­nal Court and the USA.

The SA Coun­cil wel­comed each delegation’s deci­sion to nom­i­nate SAA co-sec­re­taries (M. Anto­nio Krcalovic for Mon­tene­gro and M Jonas Jon­s­son for the EU). 

Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union 

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