For some people it is still the youngest state on the Balkans, for others – there are younger. Typically for the Balkans there would be at least one defendant and one opponent of the facts. And the facts are that on May 21 Montenegro celebrated the sixth anniversary of its independence. “Six years after recovering independence, it is time for us to recall all the achieved results. We have strengthened Montenegro’s relations with the neighbours, within the region and worldwide. We have been actively taking part in all international events as a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, since recently as part of the World Trade Organisation. We have signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union, agreements on visa facilitation and visa liberalisation, we are on the verge of starting membership negotiations with the EU and we are just a step away from full NATO membership.”
This is how the young prime minister of the young state, Igor Lukšić, summed up the first six independent years during the official celebrations in the country's historical capital Cetinje. As a present for its sixth birthday, but also as a proof for its progress, on Wednesday, May 23, the European Commission has confirmed that the country is ready to start membership negotiations next month. According to the report on the country’s progress in seven key areas, since last September the local authorities have managed to achieve further progress in strengthening the work of the parliament, the professionalism and de-politicisation of public administration, media freedom and cooperation with the civil society.
The report also points out that the process of constitutional revision, aiming at providing solid guarantees for the independence of the judiciary, was a step in the right direction. According to the document, Montenegro has also achieved progress in combating corruption and organised crime. The Commission, however, warns that the country will need to sustain its efforts, to further develop a track record in the area of rule of law, in particular with respect to high-level corruption and organised crime cases, and to ensure a safe environment for investigative journalism. “In view of the further progress made, the Commission remains of the view that Montenegro has achieved the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria and in particular the Copenhagen political criteria, to start accession negotiations. In light of these considerations and taking into account the Council conclusions of December 2011, the Commission reiterates its recommendation that accession negotiations be opened with Montenegro,” the overall conclusion of the report read.
"Montenegro is a very good example of how the EU enlargement policy can transform societies and stimulate the reforms needed to achieve European standards in all areas of life. Building on the progress achieved to date, the good work needs to continue. I hope that today's report will provide further momentum for Montenegro to step up its efforts toward European integration", Stefan Fule, EU commissioner for enlargement and the European Neighbourhood Policy said.
Along with the recommendations, however, the Commission warns that it will continue to closely monitor the implementation of the reforms during the negotiation process with a particular focus on the area of rule of law and fundamental rights, especially the fight against corruption and organised crime, so as to ensure a solid track record. “It will make full use of the tools available at all stages of the accession process, the report read.” Montenegro was recently included in the list of mafia states such as Bulgaria, Guinea-Bissau, Myanmar (also called Burma), Ukraine, and Venezuela, according to an article for the May/June issue of the Foreign Affairs magazine by Moises Naim.
The Commission also reminds that it will use for the first time the new approach when opening the talks with Montenegro, according to which the chapters on judiciary and fundamental rights and justice, freedom and security will be opened at an early stage, so that they serve as a basis for other chapters to be opened depending on the progress achieved.