Igor Lukšic´, the prime minister of Montenegro, has defended his government’s record in fighting corruption and organised crime ahead of a decision by the European Union on whether membership negotiations should start
EU leaders agreed last December that accession talks should open in June if Montenegro met certain requirements, primarily in the field of judicial reform and combating crime and corruption. Štefan Füle, the European commissioner for enlargement and neighbourhood policy, is expected to report to the member states by mid-May on whether Montenegro has done so.
Crime and corruption
France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden voiced concerns ahead of December’s decisions that Montenegro’s government had not done enough to weed out the crime and corruption said by observers to have run riot under Milo Djukanovic´, Lukšic´’s predecessor. Djukanovic´ dominated Montenegrin politics as both president and prime minister for 20 years following the demise of Yugoslavia.
“We haven’t stopped working very hard,” Lukšic´ said, pointing to new anti-corruption legislation and several high-profile court cases that are in their final stages, with verdicts expected within a few months. This, Lukšic´ said, demonstrated “credible efforts that we’re investing in tackling the problem”. “Bit by bit, through legislative changes, through building of administrative capacities, we’re making everybody aware that this is high on our agenda,” he said.
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The European Commission has introduced several innovations in the way it manages Montenegro’s membership application and its future accession talks. It plans to open talks on the difficult policy chapters dealing with the judiciary and related issues early on, to prevent them delaying the overall process. It has also invited officials from Macedonia and Serbia – both membership candidates that have not yet opened accession negotiations – to sit in on preparatory talks, the latest round of which is taking place in Brussels this week.
The 35-year-old Lukšic´, who took office at the end of 2010, said that the last year and half showed how “things have quickly changed in Montenegro”, a membership candidate since December 2010. “The government’s openness encourages other segments of society to become more open, to change the way politics is done in Montenegro,” he said. But, he conceded, a “pretty conservative approach to politics” still prevails in the country.
He said Montenegro served as a “positive example” for its neighbours and that the whole region of the western Balkans had made progress over the last year. The regional situation a year ago had been marked by Serbia’s “non-co-operation” with the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, by “desperate tension between Belgrade and Pristina” and by the inability of leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina to form a government – all issues that have been resolved in the meantime.
Štefan Füle, the European
commissioner for enlargement and neighbourhood policy, on Tuesday (27
March) launched a feasibility study for Kosovo’s accession to the EU in
Pristina. The feasibility study is a precondition for Kosovo to
establish contractual relations with the EU, five of whose member states
– Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain – do not recognise it as
an independent country.
The feasibility study
does not prejudge whether the EU will actually offer Kosovo, a former
Serbian province which declared independence in 2008, a stabilisation
and association agreement, the first step towards eventual membership.
Initiating a feasibility study was offered to Kosovo’s government early
in March as a reward for a compromise on the way Kosovo presents itself
in international meetings.