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BiEPAG Reacts: EC Country Report 2023 on Montenegro - Average, and still the best in the region – Montenegro is the champion of the second-tier competition

9 November, 2023

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BiEPAG Reacts: EC Country Report 2023 on Montenegro - Average, and still the best in the region – Montenegro is the champion of the second-tier competition

Another annual report of the European Commission has been published which only a few will read in detail and carefully, while everyone else will look for at least one positive sentence to justify their inaction.

The overall rating of this year's European Commission report is 3.12, slightly worse than last year's report, which conveys a message that Montenegro continues to stagnate in the negotiations for EU membership. Problems in the judiciary, the fight against corruption and organized crime, insufficiently reformed public administration, poor conditions for holding elections are noticed as problems by the Commission year after year.

This year, the European Commission has again listed in its Report the institutional and systemic problems that persisted during the year and even worsened in some segments. The infiltration of corruption in state structures, the government's turning a blind eye to the recommendations of the European and the Venice Commission, non-compliance with court rulings, disparagement of the civil sector, are just some of the problems pointed out in this year's report. The European Commission also assesses that Montenegro is not ready to provide justice, as well as that the judicial branch of government is in a deep institutional crisis.

Despite being the front runner in a race to become the 28th member of the EU due to the fact that Montenegro has opened all of the accession negotiation chapters, has achieved certain progress in each of them, has no remaining bilateral disputes, is committed to regional cooperation and aligned with the EU common foreign and security policy, the country cannot take advantage and make a decisive turn of it.

The year 2023 is about the end without internal political dialogue, with the Government in a technical mandate, a non-existent parliamentary majority and constant problems in the work of the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, which since its establishment in 2016 has not had the necessary level of independence and professionalism. In this way, almost all branches of government remain dysfunctional.

Currently, all eyes are on the country's new Government, which was formed at the end of October, as well as its capacity to implement required reforms. Although the government formation negotiations were long and several options were on the table, it is not certain that the one that prevailed would speed up the European integration process. The first reason for this assessment is to be observed in the problematic majority that formed the Government and whose integral part is the "For the Future of Montenegro" coalition, which, despite declarative support for EU membership, does not inherit EU’s fundamental values and principles.

Another reason is the lack of professional experience of most incumbent ministers, as well as the announcement of possible reconstruction of the Government. A third reason for caution is the lack of a qualified majority in the Parliament needed for the adoption of laws related to the country’s obligations stemming from the EU rule of law conditions.

Hence, Montenegro 'welcomes’ this report with a lack of optimism, a lack of responsibility on the other side, and little hope that we will finally make that necessary and decisive turn, whereas a stable, European and civic government could really implement the necessary reforms during one mandate. There is still no such Government in sight.

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  • Jovana Marović  Jovana Marović is the former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of European Affairs of the Government of Montenegro.
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