A representative of the NGO “Mladiinfo Montenegro” attended the Conference “Challenges of Montenegro in the negotiation chapters 23 and 24”, which was held on 28th October 2019, at the Hilton Hotel, beginning at 09:30 h.
Accession negotiations are characterized by a mere strike of obligations from the action plans and keeping the positions without significant changes. It is necessary to inform the citizens and to enter into the essence of the dialogues and solutions regarding the accession negotiations with the European Union. We have tried to review the situation of Chapters 23 and 24 to bring the current situation in the above mentioned areas closer to citizens.
However, it should be noted that the high referendum threshold during the process of independence was the result of initiatives originating from the European Union. It was the only time in which a divided Montenegrin society would rise to a greater degree of stability, and the decision was not only legally valid but also legitimate from the point of view of a significant majority of the population, that is, those who had the right to vote in the referendum. Opening negotiations with the EU in the chapters Judiciary and Fundamental Rights (23), and Justice, Freedom and Security (24), respectively, was of enormous importance for Montenegro. This applies above all to international credibility as well as to the quality of legislation and procedures that are covered in the areas covered by the chapters.
The basis for monitoring the progress made towards accession to the European Union is two important documents: the provisions of the founding treaty (in particular Articles 2 and 49) that arise from the so-called The Copenhagen Criteria and the much more specific Agreement on Stabilisation and Association of Montenegro with the EU, which in Art. 72 defines Montenegro’s obligations in the EU accession process.
The latest report on Montenegro has highlighted key problems for Montenegro in its further progress towards the EU when it comes to Chapter 23. The report indicates that corruption is widespread and remains a concern. Administrative measures to improve the functioning of the judiciary are planned and operationally implemented on the basis of the relevant Strategy and the adoption of action plans.With respect to the statistics in the judiciary, it can be concluded that the previous Judicial Information System (PRIS) has not produced adequate results, and in some areas of local jurisdiction it has barely functioned. According to the Chief Negotiator Mr. Aleksandar Drljevic since 26th September 2018, 81 percent of the Action Plan for Chapter 23 has been realized, 74 percent of the Action Plan for Chapter 24, and 60 percent of the Operational Document.Reforms in the field of fundamental rights include continuing to cooperate with international organizations and strengthening them with the European Court of Human Rights – in order to eliminate the consequences of violations of human rights and freedoms. The Ombudsman institution shows signs of progress while receiving very little budget support for promotional and research activities. Torture is another area that needs to be given full attention, especially with regard to effective investigations and prosecutions of perpetrators.In relation to free access to information, it is worrying that the practice of declaring requested documents as secret is being developed in order to restrict access to information. The 2018 EK report states that public institutions need to urgently improve law enforcement and respond quickly to requests for access to information, especially in areas where there is a risk of corruption.Freedom of expression can be said to be absent without adequate response by the state to violence against journalists, effective investigations and detection of perpetrators and warrants, and prosecution of the perpetrators of these crimes.Balkan Democracy Fund Director Gordana Delic said there were other “players” in the Western Balkans looking to pursue their interests. Deputy Prime Minister Zoran Pazin said that the Government was not responsible for not receiving the final benchmarks for negotiation chapters 23 and 24, stating that all institutions should bear their share of responsibility.He indicated that in the recent period, the Government has sent to Parliament almost 70 laws that do not deviate from European standards. Again criticizing the 2013 constitutional rulings that make it difficult to elect prominent lawyers to the Judicial Council, Pazin stressed that citizens’ confidence in the prosecution is unacceptably low and that work needs to be done to change that.Civic Alliance director Boris Raonic said “this can’t go on like this”. He stressed that citizens’ support for the EU process is falling dramatically, noting that the problem is with the EU Delegation and the Union itself. Montenegro’s chief negotiator with the EU, Aleksandar Drljević, said that it was in the aim of everyone to get the benchmarks in Chapters 23 and 24 as soon as possible, as we would receive clearer guidelines for further work.”It is important for us to maintain continuity with EU membership,” Drljevic said, adding that we cannot be discouraged because our numbers are beyond question. He emphasized that we all want the integration process to be more intensive, but that there can be no blockade.