Second meeting of the EU — Montenegro Stabilisation and Association Council

Joint Press Release
The Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and Asso­ci­a­tion Coun­cil (SA Coun­cil) between the Euro­pean Union and Mon­tene­gro held its sec­ond meet­ing on 21 June 2011 in Lux­em­bourg. The meet­ing was chaired by Milan Roćen, Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs and Euro­pean Inte­gra­tion, on behalf of the Gov­ern­ment of Mon­tene­gro. The del­e­ga­tion of the Euro­pean Union was led by Mr Zsolt Németh, State Sec­re­tary of the Min­istry of For­eign Affairs of Hun­gary, on behalf of High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cather­ine Ash­ton. Com­mis­sion­er for Enlarge­ment and Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy Šte­fan Füle was also present.

The SA Coun­cil recalled its first con­sti­tu­tive meet­ing held on 14 June 2010 and reaf­firmed the con­tin­u­a­tion of con­struc­tive rela­tions and coop­er­a­tion between the Euro­pean Union and Mon­tene­gro. The SA Coun­cil wel­comed the progress achieved by Mon­tene­gro in imple­ment­ing the Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ment (SAA). The first meet­ing of the SAA Com­mit­tee was held on 13 May 2011 and meet­ings of all eight Sub­com­mit­tees have been held since the last SA Coun­cil. The SA Coun­cil wel­comed the hold­ing of two Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tees for Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and Asso­ci­a­tion that inten­si­fied par­lia­men­tary coop­er­a­tion between Mon­tene­gro and the EU.

The SA Coun­cil recalled that the Euro­pean Coun­cil grant­ed can­di­date sta­tus to Mon­tene­gro on 17 Decem­ber 2010 on the basis of the Novem­ber 2010 Opin­ion of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The SA Coun­cil wel­comed the adop­tion of the “Action plan for Mon­i­tor­ing the Imple­men­ta­tion of the Rec­om­men­da­tions from the EC Opin­ion” fol­low­ing con­sul­ta­tions with the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and a wide pub­lic debate with civ­il soci­ety and oth­er actors. 

The SA Coun­cil com­mend­ed the con­struc­tive role of Mon­tene­gro in main­tain­ing region­al sta­bil­i­ty and strength­en­ing good neigh­bourly rela­tions with oth­er West­ern Balkan coun­tries. It not­ed that coop­er­a­tion with the Inter­na­tion­al Crim­i­nal Tri­bunal for the For­mer Yugoslavia (ICTY) remains sat­is­fac­to­ry and recog­nised the over­all respect and ful­fil­ment of inter­na­tion­al oblig­a­tions. In par­tic­u­lar, it acknowl­edged Montenegro’s suc­cess­ful chair­man­ship of the South East Euro­pean Coop­er­a­tion Process, of the Cen­tral Euro­pean Ini­tia­tive and of the Adri­at­ic Ion­ian Ini­tia­tive and the Adri­at­ic-Ion­ian Char­ter, as well as its active par­tic­i­pa­tion in var­i­ous ini­tia­tives in South East­ern Europe. The SA Coun­cil high­light­ed the par­tic­u­lar impor­tance of the imple­men­ta­tion of the extra­di­tion agree­ments con­clud­ed with Ser­bia and Croa­t­ia and wel­comed steps tak­en on sign­ing such an agree­ment with the for­mer Yugoslav Repub­lic of Macedonia.

The SA Coun­cil reviewed the progress in meet­ing the Copen­hagen cri­te­ria —par­tic­u­lar­ly the polit­i­cal cri­te­ria. It took note that Mon­tene­gro con­tin­ued to make fur­ther progress in address­ing the areas of democ­ra­cy and rule of law. The SA Coun­cil encour­aged fur­ther efforts to strength­en the admin­is­tra­tive capac­i­ty of the Par­lia­ment. As regards the elec­tion law, the SA Coun­cil took note with regret that Montenegro’s 31 May dead­line for har­mon­i­sa­tion of the elec­toral leg­is­la­tion was not met and had to be extend­ed for anoth­er two months. It encour­aged polit­i­cal actors in Mon­tene­gro to work con­struc­tive­ly in order to reach a com­pro­mise on out­stand­ing issues and ensure the prompt adop­tion of the law, in line with rec­om­men­da­tions of the OSCE-ODIHR and the Venice Commission.

The SA Coun­cil appre­ci­at­ed Montenegro’s efforts towards final­is­ing the legal frame­work in order to strength­en a de-politi­cised, pro­fes­sion­al, effi­cient and mer­it-based pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion. The EU encour­aged Mon­tene­gro to meet the set dead­line for pass­ing the Law on Civ­il Ser­vants based on these prin­ci­ples and to con­tin­ue work on draft­ing the Law on Admin­is­tra­tive Procedure.

As regards the judi­cia­ry, the SA Coun­cil was informed that the Mon­tene­grin Gov­ern­ment had adopt­ed a pro­pos­al on amend­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion to strength­en judi­cial inde­pen­dence and sub­mit­ted it to the Par­lia­ment for adop­tion, and that a num­ber of laws relat­ing to jus­tice were in the pro­ce­dure of adop­tion by the Government.

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 and encour­aged Mon­tene­gro to con­tin­ue with its efforts towards achiev­ing con­crete results. The SA Coun­cil was informed that Mon­tene­gro had com­plet­ed an organ­ised crime threat assess­ment and had under­tak­en ini­tial steps to devel­op a crime map­ping in this area. The SA Coun­cil recalled that cor­rup­tion and organ­ised crime remain issues of par­tic­u­lar seri­ous con­cern and form part of the key pri­or­i­ties, as iden­ti­fied in the Commission’s Opinion. 

The SA Coun­cil wel­comed that the leg­isla­tive frame­work gov­ern­ing human rights and the respect for and pro­tec­tion of minori­ties, in accor­dance with the ‘Copen­hagen cri­te­ria’ is large­ly in place and notes that fur­ther efforts are still need­ed for its imple­men­ta­tion. This applies also to anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion poli­cies, espe­cial­ly when it comes to vul­ner­a­ble groups. The Coun­cil stressed the impor­tance of adopt­ing the Ombuds­man Law, in accor­dance with the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Venice Com­mis­sion as soon as possible.

The SA Coun­cil wel­comed the deci­sion of the Mon­tene­grin Gov­ern­ment to pro­vide aid to elec­tron­ic and print­ed media and sup­port­ed efforts made to strength­en the right to free­dom of expres­sion. The Coun­cil wel­comed efforts to abol­ish defama­tion and insult as crim­i­nal offences. In this sense, the SA Coun­cil empha­sised the impor­tance of con­sis­tent imple­men­ta­tion of the case-law of the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights. The Coun­cil wel­comed the coop­er­a­tion between the Mon­tene­grin Gov­ern­ment and civ­il soci­ety, as well as civ­il society’s increas­ing­ly active par­tic­i­pa­tion in the process of adop­tion of leg­isla­tive acts and pro­gram­mat­ic documents.

Mon­tene­gro informed the SA Coun­cil about efforts made to pro­vide a legal sta­tus to dis­placed per­sons present in the coun­try and to find a sus­tain­able solu­tion for the Konik Camp. In that con­text, both sides empha­sised the impor­tance they attach to the grant­i­ng of legal sta­tus to dis­placed per­sons. The EU recalled that the Mon­tene­grin Gov­ern­ment needs to ful­ly and effec­tive­ly imple­ment its action plan for dis­placed per­sons. Mon­tene­gro report­ed about fur­ther steps under­tak­en to this end.

The SA Coun­cil wel­comed the progress made by Mon­tene­gro in pre­serv­ing macro­eco­nom­ic sta­bil­i­ty, by imple­ment­ing appro­pri­ate fis­cal pol­i­cy and oth­er mea­sures which result­ed in a 1,1% GDP growth in 2010. The SA Coun­cil also encour­aged Mon­tene­gro to con­tin­ue struc­tur­al reforms, in par­tic­u­lar strength­en­ing the rule of law, phys­i­cal infra­struc­ture and human resources and to con­tin­ue fur­ther mea­sures for removal of busi­ness bar­ri­ers and improve­ment of busi­ness environment.

The SA Coun­cil pos­i­tive­ly assessed Montenegro’s progress in har­mon­is­ing the legal frame­work and insti­tu­tion­al capac­i­ty with Euro­pean stan­dards in a num­ber of pol­i­cy sec­tors and urged Mon­tene­gro to inten­si­fy efforts in this regard.

The SA Coun­cil com­mend­ed Mon­tene­gro for the so far smooth imple­men­ta­tion of the visa-free regime and effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion of the read­mis­sion agree­ment with the EU. The SA Coun­cil wel­comed the sign­ing of the Agree­ment between Mon­tene­gro and the Euro­pean Union on Secu­ri­ty Pro­ce­dures for Exchang­ing and Pro­tect­ing Clas­si­fied Infor­ma­tion (entered into force on 1 Decem­ber 2010) and the Agree­ment between Mon­tene­gro and the Euro­pean Union Estab­lish­ing a Frame­work for the Par­tic­i­pa­tion of Mon­tene­gro in Euro­pean Cri­sis Man­age­ment Oper­a­tions (pro­vi­sion­al­ly applied since 22 Feb­ru­ary 2011). 

The SA Coun­cil not­ed with sat­is­fac­tion Montenegro’s con­tin­u­ous align­ment with EU state­ments in the field of Com­mon For­eign and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy. Mon­tene­gro informed the SA Coun­cil that it has aligned with Coun­cil Deci­sion 2011/168/CFSP on the Inter­na­tion­al Crim­i­nal Court (ICC). The EU invit­ed Mon­tene­gro to ful­ly align its posi­tion on the ICC to that of the EU as soon as possible.

The SA Coun­cil not­ed an extra­or­di­nary high lev­el of use of IPA funds and was informed of the sta­tus of imple­men­ta­tion of approved projects under the annu­al pro­grammes for 2007–2010, while pro­gram­ming of the nation­al pro­gramme for 2011 is in its final phase. As a can­di­date coun­try Mon­tene­gro will have access to all five com­po­nents of the IPA pro­gramme. In this regard, the SA Coun­cil stressed the impor­tance of inten­si­fy­ing prepa­ra­tions for accred­i­ta­tion to intro­duce the Decen­tralised Man­age­ment Sys­tem and train­ing of nation­al oper­a­tional struc­tures regard­ing man­age­ment of Euro­pean funds. The SA Coun­cil not­ed that the annu­al IPA finan­cial allo­ca­tions to Mon­tene­gro amount to around EUR 35 mil­lion per year.

The SA Coun­cil wel­comed Montenegro’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Sev­enth Frame­work Pro­gramme for Research and Tech­no­log­i­cal Progress (FP7), the pro­gramme Cul­ture 2007- 2013, the Frame­work Pro­gramme for Com­pet­i­tive­ness and Inno­va­tion – the Entre­pre­neur­ship and Inno­va­tion Pro­gramme (EIP) com­po­nent and the com­po­nent for sup­port to the infor­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies devel­op­ment pol­i­cy (ICT) as well as final­is­ing the pro­ce­dures for par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Cus­toms 2013 Pro­gramme. The SA Coun­cil estab­lished two Joint Con­sul­ta­tive Com­mit­tees; one between the Euro­pean Eco­nom­ic and Social Com­mit­tee and Montenegro’s social part­ners and oth­er civ­il soci­ety organ­i­sa­tions, and anoth­er one between the Com­mit­tee of the Regions of the Euro­pean Union and Mon­tene­grin local and region­al author­i­ties. More­over, the Par­lia­men­tary dimen­sion of rela­tions is being strength­ened through the SA Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee meet­ings. Mon­tene­gro informed the SA Coun­cil about its inten­tion to become an observ­er to the Fun­da­men­tal Rights Agency in Vien­na. This con­tributes to the inten­si­fi­ca­tion of our rela­tions in all areas, at all levels. 

Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union 

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