Montenegro hopes to start accession talks ‘soon’


Montenegro expects to gain European Union candidate status in November and to start accession talks soon, its prime minister said on 8 October. The European Commission is set to present its opinion on Montenegro's readiness to acquire candidate status next month.

"I expect Montenegro will get a [EU] recommendation for candidacy status in November," the country's Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said in a news conference during a visit to Slovenia.

The European Commission will present its opinion on Montenegro's readiness to acquire candidate status on 10 November. The country is often cited as a haven for trafficking and money laundering, but the prime minister said that the country "deserved" to acquire the status after what the country had done "with economic and democratic reforms so far".

He said he hoped Montenegro would also get a recommendation to start EU membership talks, adding that the case of Macedonia showed that getting candidate status "was not enough".

Macedonia was granted candidate status in 2005 but has not since started membership talks due to a dispute with Greece over the country's name.

Balkan neighbour Croatia began entry talks in 2005 and is still hopeful of joining the bloc in two years' time despite having further work to do reforming its legal system.

Serbia, with whom Montenegro was part of the former Yugoslavia, faces a tougher task, with disputes about the status of Kosovo and UN war crime investigations hampering its progress.

Djukanovic said the latest economic indicators show that Montenegro's economy will expand in 2010 but gave no figures. He added tourism is expected to grow by about 5% this year after it remained unchanged in 2009 compared to 2008.

"Industry and manufacturing are in a similar position therefore I think that it is realistic to project that at the end of the year we will be in the positive zone," said Djukanovic.

When asked, he declined to say when he planned to step down as prime minister as he has previously suggested he would do. He added he was devoting all his attention to his present job although he was also considering "what I could do in my life in the future".

Djukanovic, who for two decades has dominated the politics of the least-populated Balkan country of 670,000 people, also urged the EU to continue its enlargement policy.

"It is truly in the interest of Europe to continue with its unification. That is a strategic vision. If Europe fails to establish that vision I fear that it will lose in competitiveness compared to other world players," he said.

(EURACTIV with Reuters.)

In May 2006 a referendum decided that the small Adriatic country would become independent from Serbia (55.5% voted for separation; 44.5% to remain with Serbia). The Montenegrin Parliament formally declared its independence the following month.

For a couple of years before the split, the EU tried unsuccessfully to discourage the separation of Montenegro from Serbia. Up to now, the prevalent opinion in Brussels has remained that the former Yugoslavia should not disintegrate any further.

One of the reasons for Montenegro's push for independence was that the small country, which has no big obstacles on its way to accession as Serbia has with Kosovo, would join the EU sooner.

The major ethnic groups in the country are Montenegrins (43%), Serbs (32%), Bosniaks (8%), Muslims (5%) and Albanians (3%).

  • 10 Nov. 2010: European Commission to present opinion on Montenegro's readiness to acquire candidate status.

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