He points out that during the recent PM’s visit to Brussels, European officials particularly emphasised that Montenegro justified all previous expectations by quality and content of its reforms and good pace of its work.
At a time when the EU is faced with terrorist attacks and the migrant crisis, not to mention the countries in the region that have not opened any chapters yet, it seems that Montenegro’s dynamics in integration has never been better. Your comment?
Pejovic: I am convinced that our success arises from the fact that we, as a responsible state and society, set up European integration as the most important internal task to which everyone involved in the process is committed. From the very beginning, all the reforms have been implemented in accordance with the set plans and priorities and in partnership with the EU. Therefore, there are no delays in the progression towards EU membership. Current developments in the EU, the region and in Montenegro’s internal policy definitely have an impact on the dynamics of enlargement. However, the key factors that determine the pace of integration are individual results of each of the countries involved in the enlargement process. Montenegro has achieved such results, which has been particularly emphasised by European officials during PM’s recent visit to Brussels. It has been pointed out that Montenegro remains an example that should be followed by other countries in the Western Balkans.
Montenegro has already opened 22 negotiation chapters and it is internally ready for the rest of eight chapters. Which are these eight chapters and when could they be opened?
Pejovic: Having opened 22 chapters, Montenegro has achieved internal readiness to open negotiations in the rest of eight chapters of the acquis soon. We have submitted negotiating positions for five chapters, while the other three are ready and we will submit them immediately after the EU presidency’s invitation. Certainly, among the first chapter expected to be opened are: Chapter 11 – Agriculture and rural development; 12 – Food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy; and 13 – Fisheries. The remaining three chapters, the opening of which is expected in the coming period are: 19 – Social Policy and Employment; 1 – Free movement of goods; and 22 – Regional policy and coordination of structural instruments. We have also submitted the plan and we are ready for the opening of Chapter 2 – Free movement of workers and 3 – Right of establishment and freedom to provide services. So, Montenegro has met the conditions and the pace of further opening negotiating chapters depends on the dynamics, procedures and plans of the EU.
Is it realistic that the chapters will be opened by the spring of next year?
Pejovic: Bearing in mind that Montenegro set clearly defined obligations, responsibilities and deadlines in compliance with strategic documents, and that the country is fully focused on meeting all the obligations, I am confident that we have the capacity to open all negotiation chapters by the middle of next year. Of course, in addition to the internal momentum and our commitment to continue opening the remaining chapters, one should always take into account the current situation in the EU, its priorities and valid procedures that require a certain time. What I can certainly confirm is that Montenegro will do everything that is necessary to prepare opening of the chapters.
In addition to chapters 23 and 24, which chapters will be last to close?
Pejovic: Practice has shown that chapters that are the most challenging and those that directly affect the work or the procedures and activities of the EU are the last to be closed. I believe that it would be the same in the case of Montenegro. Thus, Chapter 27 is characteristic within the first group since it includes the largest volume of the acquis with which Montenegro has to align its legislation, the need to strengthen administrative capacity at national and local levels and the provision of substantial financial resources for the implementation of the standards. As for the second group of chapters, I primarily think of the Chapter 33 – Financial and budgetary provisions. Although this chapter is not challenging and there is little acquis, it is usually one of the last to be closed, because then the funds Montenegro is to allocate to the EU budget are defined, as well as the withdrawal of funds from the EU structural funds. Also, the chapters related to the traditional EU means such as Chapter 16 – Taxation; 29 – Customs union; and Chapter 5 – Public are among those that are closed at the end.