Montenegro’s run for adhesion ” “

Great expectations by citizens that confide in the European Union

On 15 October 2007, the Republic of Montenegro signed with the European Union the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, entered into force on 1 January 2010. It was the first formal step towards EU membership of Montenegro, which fulfilled an ancient European vocation nurtured during the communist experience, in the short period of accession to Serbia, and especially since June 2006, when it became an independent state following the referendum of the previous 21 May.Two years after the proclamation of independence, Montenegro submitted an application for EU membership. As a result, the European Council of June 2012 officially opened accession negotiations after having submitted to the Commission, on April 23, 2009 the related dossier on the basis of which the latter would have conveyed its opinion. On 9 November the same year, the European Commission issued the recommendation to grant Montenegro the official status of candidate country, which the European Council endorsed at the meeting of 17 December 2010.Two years later, on 26 June 2012, the European Council gave the go-ahead to accession negotiations, as the Commission had recommended in October 2001. On 29 June in Brussels the new phase of negotiations finally began with the first conference on adhesion to the presence of the permanent President of the European Council, Herman Van Ropuy, foreign Minister of Montenegro, Milan Rocen, Nicolai Wammen, Danish Minister for European Affairs, and Stefan Fule, European Commissioner for enlargement. The endeavour was demanding, long and with no holds barred.A “new approach” in the negotiations of a candidate country had been applied for the first time to Montenegro, as Stefan Fule said in the first accession conference in June 2011. In particular, chapters 23 and 24 of the Agreement, relating to justice and fundamental rights, including the fight against corruption and crime, constituted for the EU an important testing ground requiring a strong commitment by Montenegro and a careful screening by the Commission. The commitment of the small Adriatic country was awarded in December 2013, when the European Council, appreciating its efforts, gave the green light to the opening of 5 negotiating chapters (no. 5, public procurement, no. 6, company law: no. 20, enterprise and Industrial Policy, no. 23, judiciary and fundamental Rights, n. 24, Justice, Freedom and Security), in addition to the two opened in June 2013 (25, science and research, and 26, education and culture). Especially the chapters 23 and 24 require a deep commitment and significant reforms by the government of Montenegro, in order to comply with EU standards.Despite the large number of challenging reforms and requirements, Montenegro was determined to move quickly on the road to accession. In fact, on December 26, 2013, the Government approved the EU membership Programme for the period 2014-2018, one of the most important strategic documents concerning negotiations with the EU. Moreover, EU membership was one of the recurring themes in the election campaign of 2013, which saw the re-election Filip Vujanovic as President of the Republic.At the end of 2013, a visit to Rome’s chief negotiator in the accession of Montenegro to the European Union, Aleksandar Pejovic, with specific reference to the accession process, highlighted the importance of the role that could be played by Italy in the Community seat, which could provide support at many levels, notably with reference to chapters 23 and 24 of the negotiation, confirming the strong link with Montenegro, a strategic link to the Balkans, due to the geographical location of the state of Montenegro, and to the strengthening of the role of Mediterranean countries in Europe.The population expects from accession a better life, more investments, more jobs, fight on the privileges and better regulations, even though it has no real knowledge of what the EU is and what it may offer. The “European proclivity” of Montenegro is perceivable in its history and in the frequent contacts with a number of EU countries (Italy and Germany most of all), with which it established cultural, academic, and economic agreements (on the way to recovery after a short period of strong presence of Russian businessmen). Moreover, it cannot be ignored that Montenegro had adopted as its national currency first the Deutschmark, since the end of the Eighties, and unilaterally the euro since the beginning of the millennium, for economic freedom and, above all, to promote access to foreign investment.

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