Press Release – 27-02-2017
Further steady progress has been made in the accession negotiations with Montenegro. The counrty is currently considered to be the most advanced in its accession process as Euro-Atlantic integration remains a key foreign policy priority. Yet, concerns remain about the polarized domestic climate and boycott of the opposition in Parliament. Therefore, I would like to remind that constructive dialogue and cooperation between ruling coalition and opposition are critical to maintaining progress in the accession process.
The report commends authorities for holding credible parliamentary elections in October under a revised legal framework, but expects that any irregularities and shortcomings will be duly investigated and addressed. I call for consistent political will to rationalize the public administration and foster further progress of reforms in view of efficient future conduct of accession negotiations. The report notes progress in judiciary reform, however remains concerned about undue influence on judicial independence, especially with regard to appointment of judges.
We should welcome the further strengthening of the anti-corruption framework, and call on the new government to make combatting corruption one of its priorities by allocating sufficient human and financial resources to the task. I commend the new strategy on combatting violent extremism 2016 – 2018, and consider it important to increase efforts in preventing radicalization in the early stages. The progress on addressing money laundering and terrorism financing in welcome, there is need for increased efforts on tackling organized crime and trafficking.
Concerns persist regarding the high politicization of the media community where censorship and self-censorship persist, and journalists suffer from violence as well as economic and political pressures.
Some progress has been noted in the improvement of the situation of minorities, and authorities are further encouraged to continue strengthening efforts to safeguard human rights of all citizens in Montenegrin society. While civil society organizations (CSOs) have been involved in the reform process, cooperation between CSOs and competent authorities should be improved in view of the accession negotiations.
The report urges the new government to launch further structural economic reforms to improve the business and investment climate, reduce the informal sector, pursue reduced state involvement in the economy and rationalize public spending, and remains concerned about high youth unemployment.
Finally, I welcome Montenegro’s proactive and constructive role in regional and international cooperation and commends its full alignment with all relevant EU foreign policy positions.