On 15th December 2008, Montenegro presented its official application for EU membership to French President Nicolas Sarkozy (presiding EU at that time), hoping to win EU candidate country status during 2009.
On the occassion, EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn welcomed the move and stated “Today Montenegro has reached a historical milestone marking the country’s important engagement to common European values and fundamentals.” He also added that “Montenegro has made important progress in its preparations for the European integration.”
Some three months later, things are not looking so bright for tiny Montenegro. European Union has its own problems, as economic crisis spreads across member states. Apart from financial impact, issue of Lisbon Treaty ratification is still strongly affecting leaders in Brussels. Therefore, nobody even thinks about enlargement policy at the moment. On the other side, Montenegro is full of its own issues, and it indeed looks far away from progressing. Key findings of European Commission in Progress Report on Montenegro (2008) says that country lags behind in many fields and EU membership is not expected to occur in the very near future. Montenegro signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU on October 15, 2007. The Interim Agreement on Trade and Trade-related matters, which entered into force on January 1st, 2008, is being smoothly implemented, while SAA ratification is ongoing. Among major issues, Montenegro needs to reform its public administration, as well as judicial system and to make further efforts in the fight against corruption. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said that corruption and organized crime are still the main obstacles on Montenegro’s EU path.
In the meantime, headlines of Montenegrin newspapers are overloaded with scandals about salaries, payments and other financial benefits that high government officials took in the past. The series of scandals errupted when Government decided to bring new “savings measures” in order to deal with economic crisis. The financial benefits of many government officials were unbelievably high, even for EU standards. Starting from “compensations” for members of Board of Directors of State Rail Company, to salaries and other benefits of the Coal Mine Company. Network for Affirmation of the Non-Governmental Sector (MANS) showed that Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, his vice presidents and many of the ministers do not worry about how they will survive the financial crisis. According to the data of the Commission for Determining the Confict of Interest and the analysis of MANS, Djukanovic family receives EUR 13,663 a month, which is without competition in Montenegro. (most earnings are contributed by PM’s son). Recently, Montenegro’s application for EU membership has been blocked in the Council before the European Commission had a chance to give its opinion on how much Montenegro was prepared for EU membership on the political, judicial and technical levels. It was reported that several countries in the task force in charge of enlargement – primarily the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France and Belgium – are against forwarding the issue to the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) and then to the Council.
Let’s hope that both – EU and Montenegro, will start solving their own issues.montenegro