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Montenegro has met the interim benchmarks in the rule of law and can start closing chapters
Historical moment for Montenegro: statements after the intergovernmental conference, Photo: consilium.europa.eu
Historical moment for Montenegro: statements after the intergovernmental conference, Photo: consilium.europa.eu

Montenegro has recently become the first EU candidate country to receive a positive Interim Benchmark Assessment Report (IBAR). “This is an historic day for Montenegro, but also for the European Union"was the message conveyed during the Intergovernmental Conference in Brussels, on June 27, where the country received a positive report on the fulfilment of the interim benchmarks in Chapters 23 and 24. On this basis, the EU also set benchmarks for the provisional closure of Chapters 23 and 24, including detailed criteria for meeting these benchmarks. The green light from the EU Ambassadors, indicating Montenegro’s substantial progress in the chapters of judiciary, fundamental rights, justice, freedom, and security, also means that Montenegro can now start closing other negotiating chapters.

The European Union delegation at the 16th EU-Montenegro accession conference was led by Minister Hadja Lahbib on behalf of the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, with the participation of Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi. The Montenegrin delegation was led by Prime Minister Milojko Spajić.

Among the voices who congratulated Montenegro for achieving this step, European Commissioner Varhelji said that it is clear that enlargement is a top priority and that an important decision has been made. "I expect that by the end of the year we will see a critical number of chapters closed," said Varhelji.

“Montenegro waited 11 years to reach this position and to achieve this result. Since 20 June 2017, moreover, seven years have passed without us seeing even an inch of progress in our European integration. And our European path was de facto stopped – until today,” said Prime Minister Milojko Spajic after receiving the IBAR.

In 2008 Montenegro applied for EU membership. In 2010, the European Commission issued a favourable opinion on Montenegro’s application, and the Council granted it candidate status. In December 2011, the Council launched the accession process with a view to opening negotiations in June 2012. The accession negotiations with Montenegro started on 29 June 2012 and all 33 screened chapters have been opened, of which 3 are provisionally closed. Monitoring of progress in the alignment with and implementation of the acquis in both Chapters 23 and 24 will continue throughout the negotiations.

Montenegro’s recent achievement is also an important result in the context of the support provided by the Knowledge for Reform Action (K4R) Programme to the country. Since 2021, the K4R Programme has implemented a number of technical support assignments, providing horizontal support and advice to the Prime Minister Office and the Ministry of European Affairs on EU negotiations and on the implementation of Montenegro’s reform agenda. The Programme is also actively assisting Montenegro on several negotiating Chapters, including Chapter 1 (Free movement of goods), Chapter 11 (Agriculture and Rural Development), Chapter 27 (Environment and climate change), Chapter 21 (Trans-European networks), Chapter 15 (Energy), Chapter 6 (Company law) and Chapter 12 (Food Safety, Veterinary and Phytosanitary Policy). The IBAR achievement spreads a general sense of confidence surrounding the potential for the country to achieve new milestones in its EU accession process, in the near future. 

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Jun 26, 2024