Index 
 Previous 
 Next 
 Full text 
Procedure : 2018/2144(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A8-0339/2018

Texts tabled :

A8-0339/2018

Debates :

PV 28/11/2018 - 27
CRE 28/11/2018 - 27

Votes :

PV 29/11/2018 - 8.17

Texts adopted :

P8_TA(2018)0482

Texts adopted
PDF 272k
Thursday, 29 November 2018 - Brussels Provisional edition
2018 Report on Montenegro
P8_TA-PROV(2018)0482A8-0339/2018

European Parliament resolution of 29 November 2018 on the 2018 Commission Report on Montenegro (2018/2144(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the EU-Montenegro Stabilisation and Association Agreement, in force since 1 May 2010,

–  having regard to the declaration of the EU-Western Balkans summit of 17 May 2018 and its Sofia Priority Agenda,

–  having regard to the 9th meeting of the EU-Montenegro Stabilisation and Association Council on 25 June 2018,

–  having regard to Montenegro’s accession to NATO on 5 June 2017,

–  having regard to the ratification by the parliaments of Montenegro and Kosovo of the Border Demarcation Agreement between Montenegro and Kosovo,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 6 February 2018 entitled ‘A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans’ (COM(2018)0065),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 17 April 2018 entitled ‘2018 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy’ (COM(2018)0450), accompanied by the Commission staff working document entitled ‘Montenegro 2018 Report’ (SWD(2018)0150),

–  having regard to the Commission assessment of 17 April 2018 of the Economic Reform Programme of Montenegro (2018-2020) (SWD(2018)0131) and the Joint Council Conclusions of 25 May 2018 of the Economic and Financial Dialogue between the EU and the Western Balkans,

–  having regard to the reports of the Election Observation Mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE ODIHR) and to the statement by the European Parliament election observation delegation, on the presidential election of 15 April 2018,

–  having regard to the declaration and recommendations adopted at the 15th meeting of the EU-Montenegro Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee (SAPC), held in Podgorica on 16-17 July 2018,

–  having regard to the outcome of the 2017 survey on Marginalised Roma in Western Balkans, undertaken by the Commission, the World Bank and the UN Development Programme,

–  having regard to the Berlin Process launched on 28 August 2014,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Montenegro,

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0339/2018),

A.  whereas each enlargement country is judged individually on its own merits, and it is the speed and quality of reforms that determine the timetable for accession;

B.  whereas Montenegro is currently the most advanced in the negotiation process, having opened 31 of the 35 chapters of the EU’s acquis communautaire and having provisionally closed negotiations on three;

C.  whereas constructive dialogue among internal political forces and with neighbouring countries will be essential for making further progress in the EU accession process;

D.  whereas Montenegro has remained committed to creating a functioning market economy and has continued to build a track record in implementing the obligations of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA);

E.  whereas Montenegro benefits from pre-accession assistance under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA II);

F.  whereas Montenegro has to further strengthen, inter alia, parliamentary, legislative and oversight capacity, institutional transparency, respect for the rule of law and independence of the judiciary, domestic handling of war crimes cases, integrity of the electoral process, media freedom, and the fight against corruption, organised crime and the informal economy;

1.  Welcomes the continued engagement of Montenegro in the EU integration process and its continuing good progress overall, based on broad public support for this strategic decision;

2.  Underlines that the implementation and application of reforms remain a key indicator of successful integration; calls on Montenegro to improve the planning, coordination and monitoring of the implementation of new legislation and policies and calls for the timely implementation of interim benchmarks for chapters 23 and 24;

3.  Welcomes the Commission’s assessment, as stated in its communication of 6 February 2018 on the Western Balkans Strategy, that with strong political will, with delivery of real and sustained reforms and with definitive solutions to disputes with neighbours, Montenegro could potentially be ready for membership by 2025;

4.  Calls on the Commission and the Council to ensure adequate provision in the next multiannual financial framework (MFF) to cater for Montenegro’s possible accession to the European Union, as outlined in the Western Balkans Strategy;

Democratisation

5.  Reminds all political parties that constructive political engagement depends on a fully functioning parliament in which all politicians assume their responsibility towards voters by taking up their seats in the parliament; welcomes the fact that most opposition parties have returned to the parliament following a longstanding parliamentary boycott; urges all other political parties to return to the parliament and to make more concerted efforts to bring about genuine political dialogue in order to ensure that it has the means to fully play its role of legislator and oversight, thereby restoring a functioning democratic process;

6.  Calls for the implementation of the legislation on public and political participation of women and minorities, in particular Roma(1) people, including by enabling minority women to meaningfully participate in decision-making processes and take up positions within the public administration and other public institutions;

7.  Calls on Montenegro’s political leadership to focus on the remaining challenges, by tackling problems with the rule of law, media freedom, corruption, money laundering, organised crime and its associated violence, and to approach these issues as a matter of priority;

8.  Notes that fundamental freedoms were respected in the April 2018 presidential elections; calls on the government to work together with opposition parties and civil society so as to comprehensively address shortcomings identified by the OSCE ODIHR and fully implement its Election Observation Mission Priority Recommendations by adopting pending national legislation, and to reinforce the transparency and professionalisation of the electoral administration, in order to improve public trust in the electoral process; calls for local elections to be held simultaneously across the country and for the quality and transparency of elections to be improved; urges that provisions on the transparency of political party financing be strengthened;

9.  Calls for full investigations into all alleged electoral irregularities; insists, once again, on due follow-up on the 2012 ‘audio-recording affair’; calls on the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) to step up the monitoring of possible abuse of public resources for political party purposes;

10.  Raises its concern at the Montenegrin Parliament’s decision to dismiss Vanja Ćalović Marković from the Council of the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption; urges full transparency in the handling of this case;

Rule of law

11.  Notes the central role played by the Audit Authority, the ACA, the Public Procurement Control Commission, the Competition Agency and the State Aid Authority in tackling organised crime and corruption; welcomes the continued reforms aimed at improving the capacity and independence of these institutions, but notes the need to improve efficiency, establish better track records, encourage the prevention of corruption, including by means of appropriate sanctions, and remove remaining obstacles to achieving their full independence;

12.  Notes the progress made in strengthening the capacity of the ACA when it comes to investigating campaign funding; stresses the need, however, to improve trust in the agency and to enhance its reputation, which could be achieved by further distancing its work from all political influence;

13.  Welcomes the efforts made to improve the transparency of public administration and information sharing, but encourages the establishment of a more citizen-friendly, professional and de-politicised public administration; commends the more effective work of the Ombudsman; calls for improved regulatory impact assessments, comprehensive reports on audits and inclusive public consultations on law proposals; stresses the importance of cooperation with civil society organisations (CSOs) and of open access to information for the purposes of fighting corruption effectively, and encourages a revision of the legislative changes made in May 2017; recommends that resources and human capital in the public administration be optimised;

14.  Welcomes the considerable progress shown by Montenegro in e-governance and e-participation, with the country now one of the top 25 performers in these areas according to the UN E-Government Survey 2016; calls on the Montenegrin Government to maintain this pace of reform in order to further enhance the efficiency of and accessibility to the public administration;

15.  Welcomes the moderate progress made towards increasing the independence, transparency, accountability, professionalism and efficiency of judicial institutions; calls for safeguards against political interference and for a coherent application of codes of ethics and disciplinary measures; welcomes the fact that new judges and prosecutors have been appointed for the first time using the new recruitment system;

16.  Notes the need to advance the judicial proceedings on the alleged October 2016 coup attempt by ensuring full judicial cooperation with third countries; welcomes the decision to publicly broadcast the court case proceedings in the interests of transparency;

17.  Welcomes the amendments to the Law on the Judicial Council passed on 29 June 2018, which allow for the regular functioning of the Judicial Council to continue; notes that these amendments were adopted in line with the Venice Commission’s recommendations; highlights that these changes with regard to the election of lay members to the Council only represent a temporary solution; urges Parliament’s newly formed ad-hoc working group to resolve this issue swiftly;

18.  Is concerned by the increasing instances of violence and assassinations linked to organised crime, which have a detrimental effect on the daily life of ordinary citizens; welcomes the fact that the authorities have identified this issue but calls for more robust preventative action, including the use of non-conviction-based asset forfeiture; commends the investigation, prosecution and the handing down of convictions in high-level corruption cases; acknowledges, however, that this track record must be further strengthened, particularly in money laundering and human trafficking;

19.  Calls for progress in preventing conflicts of interest and the illicit enrichment of public officials, including at municipal level; calls on the authorities to intensify the confiscation of criminal assets, to advance inquiries into unjustified wealth and to take other steps leading to the dismantlement of criminal gangs, severing the links between organised crime, business and politics; denounces, meanwhile, the practice of issuing sanctions below the statutory minimum, as it is counterproductive to the prevention of corruption offences;

20.  Recalls that Montenegro must make further efforts to ensure the effective protection of the right to property, in line with the EU acquis and international human rights standards; urges the state authorities to provide for fair proceedings within a reasonable time when implementing the existing national legal framework, including on property rights and restitution of property; notes that a robust, non-discriminatory and stable property rights’ regime is a prerequisite to citizens’ and outside investors’ trust and business confidence;

Border management and migration

21.  Notes that Montenegro has hitherto proven itself capable of handling asylum requests, but underlines that further progress must be made; encourages Montenegro to work in closer cooperation with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency in order to improve border management in line with European norms, address irregular migration and disrupt migrant smuggling networks; calls for intensified efforts and cross-border cooperation to prevent and dismantle organised criminal networks related to human trafficking, as well as drug and tobacco smuggling; emphasises the persistent concerns related to illicit tobacco trade in Montenegro, particularly those surrounding its free trade zones; calls on the Commission to continue to support Montenegro in controlling its free trade zones and in working to prevent illicit trade;

22.  Regrets the lack of progress in addressing human trafficking and urges that particular attention be paid to the prevention of forced organised prostitution and child begging; stresses that additional efforts are needed with regard to the identification of victims and their access to assistance, compensation and protection measures; calls on Montenegro to provide effective protection to the victims of trafficking, and to devote particular attention to the rehabilitation of the child victims of trafficking and to Roma women and girls, on account of the vulnerable circumstances in which they find themselves as a result of poverty and marginalisation;

Media

23.  Is increasingly concerned about the state of freedom of expression and media freedom, in which three successive Commission reports have noted ‘no progress’; recalls that the related chapter 23 was opened in December 2013 and that it is progress in this chapter and chapter 24 that determines the overall pace of negotiations; condemns in the strongest possible terms intimidation, smear campaigns and verbal and physical attacks against journalists; notes that there were seven reported cases of attacks against journalists in 2017; urges the government to ensure that journalists are protected in practice; calls for further steps to be taken to ensure the independence of the media and journalists and encourages the systematic collection of data on threats against journalists; notes that the EU Delegation in Montenegro is following the situation closely;

24.  Is particularly concerned by the attack on 8 May 2018 against Vijesti journalist Olivera Lakić, and calls for a full investigation into the case; deems it unacceptable that there have been no new developments regarding investigations into old cases of violence against journalists; calls on the authorities to firmly condemn all attacks against journalists and to promote measures to protect journalists and eradicate impunity;

25.  Deplores the ongoing financial and editorial pressure placed on Montenegro’s public broadcaster (RTCG) and the Agency for Electronic Media (AEM); urges that safeguards against undue political and business influences be put in place, and that full transparency in matters of state advertising in the media be ensured; reiterates the need for the RTCG and all other media outlets to be protected from undue political influence; urges the state authorities to provide both the media regulators and the public broadcaster with sufficient funds to secure the financial autonomy and independence of both RTCG and AEM, which are crucial for a solid media environment during electoral campaigns; regrets the change in composition of the RTCG council and the dismissal of the Director-General of RTCG, Ms Andrijana Kadija; believes that early dismissals should only be permitted in limited circumstances;

26.  Warns that a lack of financial autonomy for the media foments its political dependence and polarisation; believes that a transparent and non-discriminatory allocation of state advertising funds is required, and calls on the authorities to consider alternative forms of indirect subsidies to foster media independence;

27.  Underlines the role of the AEM and effective self-regulation in ensuring the highest ethical standards in the Montenegrin media and in reducing the number of defamation cases; notes that the precarious situation of journalists undermines the quality and professionalism of the media;

Civil society and human rights

28.  Underlines the crucial role of CSOs in improving the functioning of state institutions and fighting corruption and organised crime; strongly condemns the recent intimidation of and unacceptable smear campaign against CSOs that were critical of the overall slow progress, or lack thereof, in key rule‑of‑law areas;

29.  Calls for greater attention to be paid when drafting and implementing legislation in areas affecting civil society space, in order to ensure that the legislation does not place a disproportionate burden on CSOs, and does not have a discriminatory impact on or diminish the space for civil society; underlines the need for public funding available for CSOs working on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, including watchdog, advocacy and small grassroots organisations; believes that CSOs should be free to receive funding from other donors, such as private donors and international organisations, bodies or agencies;

30.  Takes note of the changes to the law on NGOs designed to improve their public funding, and recommends the swift adoption of the requisite secondary legislation; reiterates its call for systematic, inclusive, timely and genuine consultations with civil society and the wider public on key EU-related legislative reforms, including their implementation at local level, in order to enhance the democratic character of decision-taking and bring about greater transparency; recommends improving the financial regulatory environment for CSOs by providing additional resources, and setting clear rules as regards governmental mechanisms for CSO consultation;

31.  Welcomes the ongoing legislative alignment on fundamental rights; urges that the institutional framework enabling effective rights protection be strengthened, including in the event of ill-treatment by law enforcement, intimidation and physical attack; calls for updates to the law on freedom of religious beliefs;

32.  Welcomes efforts undertaken so far on the implementation of the Istanbul Convention, but urges improvements in the enforcement and monitoring mechanisms for human rights protection, including by tackling violence against women and children; calls, in this regard, for an effective implementation of fundamental rights policies, in particular on gender equality, the social inclusion rights of people with disabilities, children’s rights and the rights of Roma people, by securing adequate budget allocations and resources to implement the policies and build the capacity of the institutions responsible; calls on the authorities to take the necessary measures to prevent forced child marriages;

33.  Urges Montenegro to safeguard the full and timely implementation of gender equality and anti-discrimination legislation and to monitor its effect on women from disadvantaged and marginalised social groups; calls on Montenegro to secure unfettered access to justice for all women, and to provide free legal aid to women who have been the victims of gender-based violence, devoting particular attention to Roma women, women with disabilities and women living in rural and remote areas; calls on Montenegro to strengthen the role and capacity of its relevant authorities, so that they are better equipped to handle the protection and rehabilitation of victims and to work proactively with men not to commit violence against women; urges Montenegro to increase the number and capacity of its state-run shelters;

34.  Calls on the Montenegrin authorities to continue to improve the climate of societal inclusion and tolerance and to take effective measures against hate speech, social exclusion and the discrimination of minorities; notes that Montenegro is still not fully aligned with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; encourages the competent authorities to continue to strengthen their efforts to safeguard the rights of LGBTI people; remains concerned about the difficulties of accepting sexual diversity within Montenegrin society; expresses concern about the discrimination faced by women and girls in the Roma community, and the fact that marginalised Roma people in Montenegro have limited access to opportunities in every aspect of human development, as evidenced by the results of a 2017 survey on this issue; stresses the importance of strengthening the SME sector and providing support through better legislation and the implementation of industrial policy;

35.  Notes the continuing progress in improving the position of minorities; calls for the multi-ethnic identity of the Bay of Kotor to be respected and additional efforts made to protect it;

36.  Urges Montenegro to launch public awareness-raising campaigns to fight discrimination and violence against LGBTI people, and to safeguard fair investigations and prosecutions in cases of crimes committed against them;

37.  Urges Montenegro to launch public awareness-raising campaigns to encourage the reporting of domestic violence against women and girls, to increase the number of well-trained and gender-sensitive judges, to ensure the proper investigation and prosecution of crimes, and to safeguard assistance, counselling and reintegration services for victims;

Economy, social policy, employment and education

38.  Welcomes the progress made by Montenegro in ensuring macroeconomic stability and fiscal consolidation, and calls for budget transparency and a good employment and business environment; stresses that corruption, the informal economy, rule-of-law deficiencies and cumbersome regulatory procedures continue to deter growth and investment; stresses that the European social model requires dialogue with all economic stakeholders, including trade unions;

39.  Urges that the full potential offered by digital tools in the field of land registry, invoicing and the issuing of construction permits be used; notes the need to speed up the roll-out of broadband access to businesses and households; stresses the need for a government-wide interoperability framework to support further digitalisation and the simplification of administrative and business procedures; welcomes the ongoing development of online electronic company registration;

40.  Welcomes regulatory changes in the field of education and efforts to increase pre-school participation rates, including for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and highlights the importance of a comprehensive approach to early childhood development; urges the authorities to address the high long-term unemployment rate among young people and women, including through gender impact assessments where appropriate; notes the preparation of a white paper to promote youth employment, in cooperation with the International Labour Organisation; stresses the need to introduce active labour market measures, most notably for women negatively affected by the repeal of their social benefits;

41.  Notes that social partners should be effectively and systematically consulted on issues concerning employment and social affairs; underlines the need to further strengthen the capacities of the Social Council; welcomes the adoption of rulebooks in the area of health and safety at work, but remains concerned about the high percentage of fatal accidents at work and the low number of work inspectors;

42.  Welcomes Montenegro’s strengthened participation in the Erasmus+ programme and expresses its support for the Commission’s proposal to double the Erasmus+ budget; encourages greater coordination on cross-cutting issues affecting youth employment, inclusion, active citizenship, volunteering and education;

Environment, energy and transport

43.  Expresses satisfaction that according to Article 1 of its constitution, Montenegro is an ecological state; welcomes the possible opening of chapter 27 of the acquis in the negotiations with Montenegro this year; calls on the authorities to better protect the most valuable areas, notably biodiversity, and to review hotel and hydropower plant construction projects;

44.  Notes that the development of additional hydropower and tourism capacities, particularly those in protected areas, must meet EU environmental standards; expresses concern at unsustainable hydropower development, as many of the 80 hydropower plant projects are not being planned in line with international conventions or EU legislation, despite the requirements of chapter 27; urges the further exploitation of potential renewables and energy-efficiency measures and the improvement of water and waste management; welcomes the successful alignment between Montenegro’s 2016 law on the cross-border exchange of electricity and natural gas and the Third Energy Package; commends Montenegro’s improved legislative alignment on energy efficiency and renewable energy, but urges the authorities to fully align national legislation with the Renewable Energy Directive and Energy Performance of Buildings Directive;

45.  Urges the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) to review its support for hydropower plant projects, and to withdraw funding for all projects which are undertaken in protected areas or lack sound ex-ante environmental impact assessments;

46.  Stresses the need for timely and accurate information on the impact of the highway construction on the river Tara to be made available to a wide public, as well as for the cessation of all activities of waste dumping and riverbed alteration, in line with the commitments entered into by Montenegro to preserve areas having special national and international protection;

47.  Expresses concern at the special-purpose spatial plan for the Skadar Lake National Park; stresses the need to abandon the large-scale hydropower projects on the Morača river, as they are having considerable adverse effects on Lake Skadar and the river Tara, both of which are protected under national and international legislation;

48.  Welcomes the positive developments in further aligning Montenegro’s national environmental and climate change legislation with the acquis ; urges the Montenegrin Government to protect Ulcinj Salina, both at national and international level, in line with the recommendations of the EU-financed study on the protection of Ulcinj Salina; underlines the urgent need to ensure Ulcinj Salina’s integration into the Natura 2000 network; calls for the identification and designation of marine protected areas;

49.  Highlights Montenegro’s proactive participation and constructive role in regional and international cooperation through the Berlin Process and the Western Balkans Six initiative; welcomes the outcome of the 2018 EU-Western Balkans Summit, held in Sofia, and the adoption of the 2018 IPA package, which includes funding for two important infrastructure projects: the Budva bypass on the Adriatic–Ionian Corridor and the Vrbnica–Bar railway section on the Orient/East-Med Corridor; emphasises the importance of traffic routes which provide a direct link between Balkan countries and EU markets;

50.  Commends Montenegro’s intention to establish the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) within the next three years and its adoption of secondary legislation on fuel economy and emissions from new cars; notes the importance of incorporating into Montenegro’s national legislation aspects of the EU ETS, the Effort Sharing Regulation and the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM);

51.  Welcomes continued efforts to enhance regional cooperation, particularly in environmental protection, as outlined in the Adriatic Trilateral initiative;

Regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations

52.  Welcomes Montenegro’s continued efforts for constructive regional cooperation and good bilateral neighbourly relations; supports the proposal to reduce roaming charges in the Western Balkans;

53.  Welcomes the ratification of the State Border Agreement between Montenegro and Kosovo; calls for the speedy conclusion of agreements to resolve outstanding border disputes with other neighbouring countries;

54.  Welcomes Montenegro and Albania’s signature of a joint declaration and 12 agreements concerning mutual assistance in a variety of fields, and considers it an example of positive cooperation in the region;

55.  Urges Montenegro to intensify its efforts in proactively prioritising and punishing war crimes and clarifying the fate of missing persons; welcomes the efforts for reintegration of displaced persons under the Regional Housing Programme; stresses that, despite adopting four documents on war crime investigation strategy, the state prosecution service has not opened new inquiries, started new proceedings, or brought new charges; expresses concern at the fact that the Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) opened eight new cases in 2016, six of which are still only in the preliminary investigation phase; reiterates its support for the initiative to establish the Regional Commission for the Establishment of Facts about War Crimes and Other Serious Violations of Human Rights Committed in the Former Yugoslavia (RECOM); underlines the importance of this process and the active engagement of all regional political leaders; welcomes the prime minister’s public support for RECOM;

56.  Commends Montenegro on another year of full alignment with all EU positions and declarations made in the context of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), and welcomes its active participation in Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions; appreciates the manner in which Montenegro’s foreign policy has been conducted; calls on Montenegro to align itself with the EU’s common position on the integrity of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and with its guiding principles on bilateral immunity agreements;

57.  Calls for greater cooperation between Montenegro and the EU in the fight against cybercrime and on cyber defence issues;

58.  Recalls the strategic importance of Montenegro’s NATO accession for ensuring stability and peace in the Western Balkans;

o
o   o

59.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the Government and Parliament of Montenegro.

(1) The word ‘Roma’ is used as an umbrella term that includes different related groups, whether sedentary or not; not only Roma people, but also Ashkalis, Egyptians and others, which may be diverse in culture and lifestyles.

Last updated: 6 December 2018Legal notice