Montenegro is well advanced in comparison to other countries on its road to EU accession, as reforms had begun even before relations between Brussels and Podgorica were institutionalised, the diplomat said.
Pejanović-Đurišić said that before 2006, her country's prospects depended on relations between Serbia and the EU, which were difficult following a series of wars in the post-Yugoslav space. Montenegro was unaffected by this period of violence, she said.
Asked if Montenegro could overtake Macedonia, which obtained candidate status as early as December 2005, Pejanović-Đurišić said that given the slow pace of progress in the country, Montenegro could surely do better.
She said that Montenegro had answered the Commission's questionnaire on the country's readiness to join the Union in December 2009, and that the EU executive's opinion was expected by the end of the year or in early 2011.
The diplomat admitted that the Commission was particularly demanding on progress in justice and home affairs and wanted to make sure that rule of law prevails in Montenegro. In this context, she mentioned the importance of twinning projects with French partners in the field of justice.
Asked about organised crime, as Montenegro is often cited as a haven for trafficking and money laundering (EurActiv 19/05/10), Pejanović-Đurišić said that the whole region suffered from the phenomenon, but that her country was cooperating with the FBI and Interpol and the situation was improving.
As for the Western Balkan summit in Sarajevo, due on 2 June (EurActiv 17/05/10), she said the region needed reassurance on its EU prospects. In contrast to some Western Balkan countries that would like the region to move forward towards accession as a group, she said Montenegro preferred the "regatta" principle, by which the most advanced crosses the finish line first.
The visa requirement for Montenegro nationals was lifted at Christmas. She said this was an important symbolic step, but citizens had not really been able to take advantage of freedom to travel due to the economic crisis.
Tourism has slightly increased, but there has not been massive transit to the EU, she said.