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Procedure : 2012/2860(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B7-0087/2013

Texts tabled :

B7-0087/2013

Debates :

PV 17/04/2013 - 14
CRE 17/04/2013 - 14

Votes :

PV 18/04/2013 - 5.9
CRE 18/04/2013 - 5.9

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2013)0185

Texts adopted
PDF 138kWORD 29k
Thursday, 18 April 2013 - Strasbourg Final edition
2012 progress report on Montenegro
P7_TA(2013)0185B7-0087/2013

European Parliament resolution of 18 April 2013 on the 2012 Progress Report on Montenegro (2012/2860(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Montenegro, of the other part, of 29 March 2010(1) ,

–  having regard to the conclusions of the European Council of 19-20 June 2003 and to the annex thereto entitled ‘The Thessaloniki Agenda for the Western Balkans: moving towards European integration’,

–  having regard to the communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 9 November 2010 on the Commission’s opinion on Montenegro’s application for membership of the European Union (COM(2010)0670),

–  having regard to the report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 22 May 2012 on Montenegro’s Progress in the Implementation of Reforms (COM(2012)0222), and to the Council conclusions of 26 June 2012 deciding to open accession negotiations with Montenegro on 29 June 2012,

–  having regard to the Commission Staff Working Paper of 10 October 2012 on the 2012 Progress Report on Montenegro (SWD(2012)0331),

–  having regard to the communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 10 October 2012 on the Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2012-2013 (COM(2012)0600),

–  having regard to the declaration and recommendations of the 4th and 5th Meeting of the European Union – Montenegro Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee (SAPC) of 3-4 April 2012 and 28-29 November 2012,

–  having regard to the first meeting of the EU-Montenegro Civil Society Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) of 2 October 2012,

–  having regard to the recommendation of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the application of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages by Montenegro, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 12 September 2012(2) ,

–  having regard to the election observation report by the Ad hoc Committee of the Bureau of the Council of Europe of 29 November 2012,

–  having regard to Rule 110(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the country’s political leadership has received a fresh mandate at the elections to pursue the objectives of the accession negotiations;

B.  whereas significant progress has been achieved by Montenegro on the path to EU membership;

C.  whereas some shortcomings in the accession process continue to persist and need to be addressed, especially the fight against organised crime and corruption at high level;

D.  whereas the accession process should remain the driving force for continued reforms; whereas civil society has an irreplaceable role in the process of reform and EU integration;

E.  whereas Montenegro is the first country in which a new EU negotiating approach is applied with the strengthened focus on democratic governance, fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, the judiciary, the fight against corruption and organised crime;

F.  whereas the EU has put the rule of law at the core of the enlargement process;

G.  whereas Montenegro continues to play an important role in regional stability;

General considerations

1.  Welcomes the decision of the Council to open accession negotiations with Montenegro on 29 June 2012; notes that this decision is a major step in the country’s accession process and a clear reconfirmation of the EU’s attachment to the European future of the Western Balkans; underlines the progress achieved by Montenegro as noted in the Commission 2012 Progress Report;

2.  Welcomes the peaceful, free and fair conduct of the early parliamentary elections in line with international standards; notes that the electoral legislation is broadly in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR; underlines that the legal framework must be fully in line with the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations that no citizens are subject to undue restrictions; calls on the authorities to further improve the compilation of voter lists and transparency regarding the oversight of campaign finance, and to ensure the due implementation of the legislation on party funding, including by eliminating all forms of abuse, especially of public resources for political purposes; calls, furthermore, for the proper review of complaints in order to further increase, in line with the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations, public confidence in the electoral process;

3.  Welcomes the creation of the new government, and encourages all political forces to remain focused, through constructive dialogue and close cooperation with civil society, on the country’s EU integration agenda;

4.  Welcomes the opening of negotiations with Montenegro and takes the view that this also represents a positive signal for other countries in the region; encourages the authorities in Podgorica to keep up the reform processes; equally welcomes the EU’s new negotiating approach under which the crucial issues of Chapters 23 and 24 will be tackled early in the negotiations, thus reinforcing the focus on the rule of law, and allowing maximum time to establish the necessary legislation, institutions and solid track records of implementation; considers that new negotiating chapters should be opened as soon as possible, provided that the reform process is sustained and concrete results are delivered;

5.  Notes with satisfaction that assistance provided by the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) works well in Montenegro; encourages both the Montenegrin Government and the Commission to simplify the administration procedure for IPA funding, with the aim of making it more accessible to smaller and non-centralised civil organisations, trade unions and other beneficiaries;

Political criteria

6.  Welcomes the fact that the Montenegrin Parliament’s oversight role has been further strengthened through the adoption of a law on parliamentary inquiry and amendments to the Parliament’s rules of procedure and to the law on data secrecy, as well as with the start of implementation of the law on parliamentary oversight of the security and defence sector; underlines the fact that ensuring civilian control over the military is a critical element of democratic reform; stresses the need to further reinforce law-making capacities and consultations with civil society; calls on the Montenegrin Parliament to continue improving its oversight role especially with regard to the fight against organised crime and corruption; calls for a more active involvement of the Parliament in the accession negotiations through strategic and political discussions, policy analysis and legislative review in different parliamentary committees to gain a meaningful oversight over the negotiations; calls for stronger parliamentary oversight of the implementation of adopted legislation and resolutions;

7.  Urges the Montenegrin Parliament to adopt constitutional provisions to reinforce the legal independence, integrity and accountability of the judiciary and to enhance judicial independence and the professional autonomy of the Judicial and Prosecution Council; takes the view that further efforts are needed to ensure merit-based appointments and career development;

8.  Welcomes measures to enhance judicial efficiency, including a reduction in the backlog of cases, but remains concerned by the length of court procedures and poor infrastructure at many courts; calls on authorities to introduce clear criteria for the promotion and professional assessment of judges and prosecutors; calls for more transparency regarding due legal process and judicial verdicts;

9.  Is concerned by the lack of alternatives to detention for children in conflict with the law; calls on the authorities to promote measures to reinforce the capacities of professionals working with children in contact with the justice system;

10.  Calls for further measures to create a professional, effective, merit-based and impartial public administration which, in practice, should represent a service for citizens; stresses that this should be done in a financially sustainable manner and with adequate verification mechanisms; welcomes the comprehensive reform of the public sector aimed at rationalisation and modernisation, and calls for its implementation;

11.  Calls for strengthening of the links between policy-makers and civil society; welcomes the inclusion of NGOs in the working groups dealing with the accession negotiations in order to ensure the accountability and transparency of the accession process; considers it important that they are equal members of the working groups; welcomes the Government’s new e-petitions platform to enhance participatory democracy in policy-making and e-governance; encourages Montenegro to consider establishing a ‘National Committee’, composed of parliamentarians and civil society representatives, to act as a consultative forum throughout the negotiation period; underlines the responsibility of both the Government and Parliament to inform citizens and civil society in a timely manner on the developments in the negotiation process;

12.  Underlines the fact that Montenegro has ratified the eight core labour rights conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the revised European Social Charter; points out the important role of social dialogue, and encourages the Montenegrin Government to step up ambitions in the Social Council and to further strengthen it; underlines the importance of improving the transparency and effectiveness of the Social Council; encourages the Montenegrin authorities to amend the Labour Law in order to bring it into line with the EU acquis;

13.  Is worried that the performance of the labour market remains weak and that unemployment has continued to increase and is at 20 %; welcomes the national strategy for employment and human resource development for the period 2012-2015; encourages the Montenegrin authorities to swiftly implement the strategy, strengthen the capacity of the Public Employment Service and increase the efforts to address low activity, employment rates and the mismatch between the available skills and needs;

14.  Regrets the fact that corruption remains common; encourages the Government to implement anti-corruption measures and measures in relation to the conflict of interest, including the new Law on Political Party Financing, in a consistent manner; considers it essential to build up a track record in terms of investigations and convictions, in particular in high-level corruption cases, to further strengthen preventive tools and awareness-raising campaigns and to protect citizens’ reporting on corruption cases; stresses the need to reinforce inter-agency cooperation, enhance related administrative capacities of the supervisory institutions and implement the respective recommendations of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) in order to increase the transparency in the funding of political parties and election campaigns; calls for concrete results to be achieved in the investigation of high-level corruption cases, including a re-assessment of controversial privatisation cases;

15.  Calls on the Government to reinforce the legal framework and strengthen the capacities of law-enforcement bodies in combating organised crime; calls for extending domestic, regional and international cooperation, particularly in the field of financial investigations; commends the measures to prevent and combat human trafficking, but calls for effective investigations and prosecution, as well as for measures to strengthen the capacities of law enforcement and judicial authorities dealing with human trafficking and to reinforce the identification and protection of victims, especially children and women;

16.  Calls on the Montenegrin Government and Parliament to develop and adopt, prior to the presidential elections in 2013, a new law on financing the election campaign for the President of Montenegro that is in accordance with the new Law on Political Party Finance and with international best practices of other countries, in order to prevent any misuse of public funds;

17.  Calls on the Montenegrin Parliament to adopt a code of conduct for the prevention of conflict of interest, and to publish information on financial interests of members;

18.  Notes that the media environment is diverse and divided along political lines; urges the competent authorities to ensure and promote media pluralism and freedom of expression by means of a media free from political or any other interference, given that the safeguarding of media freedom is a core EU principle; recalls the importance of fostering responsible media and editorial independence;

19.  Welcomes progress in decriminalising defamation and libel; considers it important to duly investigate and prosecute all threats and attacks against journalists and threats to press freedom; is concerned that police investigations regarding a number of violent attacks against Montenegrin media representatives and facilities have not yet resulted in any final verdict; stresses the need to bring justice to the victims; invites the authorities to ensure the independence, self-sustainability, monitoring capacity and functioning of regulatory bodies based on EU standards;

20.  Calls on the Montenegrin Parliament to ensure the transparency of Montenegrin institutions, and, in particular, to reveal information that could disclose corruption and organised crime, through adequate implementation of the new Law on Free Access to Information, in accordance with the standards of the European Court on Human Rights and with best international practices;

21.  Welcomes progress in the protection and inclusion of all minorities and persons with disabilities; acknowledges, however, that the inclusion of, in particular, the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians needs to be improved, especially through the implementation of the relevant policy documents; calls on the authorities to take further measures to combat discrimination and to raise awareness of the problem, to improve the living conditions, access to social security, health, education, housing and employment services of the groups in question, to ensure their proper participation in public services, with special regard to the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian population, including access to inclusive education for all children, and to protect their cultural heritage and identity; condemns physical and verbal attacks against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and calls on the authorities to do the utmost to prevent such attacks; underlines the responsibility of the Government and of all political parties to take proactive steps to create a climate of tolerance and inclusion;

22.  Welcomes the Government’s commitment to combating discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, including by organising the international conference ‘Together against Discrimination’, which brought together high-level governmental entities from the region to discuss the socio-legal situation of LGBT people in March 2012; welcomes the creation of a shelter for LGBT people and hopes that its financing can be secured; calls on the Government to work together with NGOs to prevent further attacks and discrimination; looks forward to closer cooperation in this field; calls on the Montenegrin Government to publicly support plans for a Pride in Podgorica festival in 2013 and to ensure the safety of its participants;

23.  Notes that only limited progress has been made with regard to women’s rights and gender equality; stresses the problem that women remain underrepresented in the Montenegrin Parliament and in other top decision-making positions, on the labour market, and that their employment rights, including equal pay, are often ignored; encourages the authorities to strengthen governmental and other bodies responsible for gender equality with sufficient human and financial resources;

24.  Notes that domestic violence against women still prevails in the society, and encourages the authorities to step up efforts to implement the legislative framework to address this issue and to raise awareness about it; encourages the authorities to express concern over child poverty and the fact that some three out of four poor children live in distant rural areas without access to basic services; calls for improved services for children and families at risk, and for reforms to strengthen the relevant social welfare sectors;

Economic criteria

25.  Commends Montenegro for being at the vanguard of structural reforms in the Western Balkans and for maintaining macroeconomic and fiscal stability, despite the economic crisis; notes, however, the rise in public debt; encourages the Government to continue carrying out structural reforms, rationalise spending, increase labour market flexibility, tackle raising unemployment, foster quality job creation, boost competitiveness in order to become a fully functioning market economy, and support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); calls on the Commission to help Montenegro develop a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth agenda, in line with the Europe 2020 strategy;

26.  Calls on the Montenegrin authorities to maintain the balance between economic development and environmental protection; calls on the Government to ensure that privatisation of the national electricity company is conducted in a transparent manner and that the agreed investments are carried out; also recalls the need to specifically bring the development of tourism into line with environmental protection; calls for long-term planning with regard to tourism along the coastline and for the creation of strong mechanisms to prevent the destruction of the environment and corruption in the field of spatial planning and construction;

27.  Encourages the authorities in Podgorica to implement the Strategy for Introduction of Business Clusters, adopted in July 2012, which could improve the competitiveness of the Montenegrin economy by strengthening SMEs and increasing export potential and employment opportunities;

28.  Is concerned about the size of the informal economy, which is a problem that needs to be addressed in order to attract investment, support enterprises and protect employees in an efficient manner;

Ability to assume the obligations of membership

29.  Calls on the Government to enhance the institutional and administrative capacities of state institutions dealing with key areas of the acquis, and to strengthen interinstitutional cooperation and coordination, especially with a view to speeding up the preparations for decentralised management of the IPA components in preparation for the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund; calls for further improvement in the efforts to establish a professional, effective, merit-based and impartial public administration;

30.  Encourages the authorities to take further measures to align national legislation with, and implement, the environment and climate acquis and to strengthen relevant administrative capacities and interinstitutional cooperation;

31.  Underlines the need to focus on the sustainable production of electric energy, reconciling the needs of economic development with those of conserving the environment; welcomes some progress in the area of renewable energies; calls for further measures to enhance energy efficiency and ensure security of energy supply;

32.  Encourages further efforts in areas such as the free movement of workers, the free movement of capital, company law, food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy, taxation, enterprise and industrial policy, and financial and budgetary provisions;

Regional cooperation and bilateral issues

33.  Underlines the importance of good neighbourly relations and welcomes Montenegro’s constructive role in regional cooperation, especially its active participation in numerous regional initiatives in South East Europe; commends Montenegro for maintaining good bilateral relations with all neighbouring countries; regrets, however, that the delimitation of borders with almost all neighbouring countries remains pending; calls for efforts to resolve all remaining open issues in a good neighbourly spirit, and highlights the need to resolve bilateral issues prior to accession; reiterates its call on the Commission and the Council to start developing, in accordance with the EU Treaties, a generally applicable arbitration mechanism aimed at solving bilateral issues between enlargement countries and Member States;

34.  Welcomes the continued cooperation of Montenegro within the framework of the Sarajevo Declaration Process with regard to the issue of refugees and displaced persons, notably the agreed Regional Housing Programme supported by the April 2012 International Donors Conference in Sarajevo; underlines the need for sustained efforts towards the resolution of issues pending in this process;

35.  Welcomes the signing by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia of a ministerial declaration and agreement on a Regional Housing Programme and the financing pledged in support of this programme;

36.  Invites Montenegro to align its position on the International Criminal Court with the EU Common Position on the integrity of the Rome Statute;

37.  Welcomes the ratification and entry into force of the agreement between the EU and Montenegro establishing a framework for the participation of Montenegro in European Union crisis management operations;

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38.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the Government and Parliament of Montenegro.

(1) OJ L 108, 29.4.2010, p. 3.
(2) CM/RecChL (2012)4.

Last updated: 9 November 2015Legal notice