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Montenegro’s Path to European Union Membership

Montenegro and European Union Membership

Montenegro’s European Union Membership Process

The EU enlargement plans have been perhaps dominated more by Montenegro’s path to the EU candidate status. History goes back to November 2005 when the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro started negotiations on SAA with the EU. In the aftermath of Montenegro’s secession via referendum in May 2006, the State Union was dissolved and negotiations on “a pragmatic” separation between Serbia and Montenegro began.

The agreement was formally enacted on March 15, signed into force by October 15 of the following year. In 2010, the European Commission issued an opinion where it found Montenegro ready to open negotiations, identifying seven key priorities that needed a stronger focus and action. Montenegro was then awarded candidate status for the EU.

Accession Process

Formal Application and Agreements

On December 15, 2008, Montenegro lodged its application for European Union membership. The Council then turned to the issue, asking the European Commission for an opinion on it on 23 April 2009. As part of the evaluation process, on July 22, 2009, Montenegro received a questionnaire developed by the Commission. On 9 December 2009 , Montenegro also provided its replies to the Questionnaire .

Stabilization and Association Agreement

It had been written by the end of September 2006,, probably around when Montenegro and the EU launched their Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) negotiation s.. Signed on October 15, 2007, and expected to be in force by May Day (May 1) of that year following all the EU-27-state ratifications.

Candidate Status and Challenges

Montenegro was recommended by the European Commission for candidate status on 9 November 2010 and received this status in December (17th) of the same year. But Montenegro’s journey to EU membership has hit difficulties so far over ecological, judicial and organized crime problems. In order to meet these challenges the Montenegrin Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration established a working bureau, Office for Support to Chief Negotiator, in cooperation with Zorka Kordić as a Government representative at the negotiating table.

Public Opinion and Visa Liberalization

According to an October 2009 poll, the majority of Montenegro’s population expresses strong pro-EU sentiment-76.2% support European Union membership. Visa facilitation and readmission agreement between Montenegro, on one hand and European Union institutions were signed on 18 October in Corfu are being implemented from January 1,2008. This resulted in Montenegro being placed on the list of visa-exempt nations implemented as of 19 December 2009. Citizens holding biometric passports able to enter the Schengen Area, Bulgaria and Romania (but not Cyprus) without having to obtain passports. However it did not apply to traveling in Ireland and the UK because of their own visa system.

Unilateral Adoption of the Euro

The currency history in Montenegro is an interesting one. Following the Second World War, Montenegro chose the Yugoslav dinar as its official currency and then later in 1999 also accepted the Deutsche Mark which was circulated co-officially with BEF until 2002 when it started to use the Euro. The ECB voiced concern about this unilateral adoption which it considered to be incompatible with the EU Treaty. While there is widespread understanding that Montenegro and the other former Yugoslav states will not be able to abandon the Euro as their currency due to limited capital resources, this issue should also be solved during negotiations over a new stabilization agreement with the EU (hence 2021 – MM), discussions are expected to focus on what kind of conditions must be fulfilled for continued use.

So briefly, that is the story of Montenegro’s path toward EU membership: A long history of negotiation and public approval with its fits and starts in progress along the way. The country, which strives to do what must be done in the face of all these adversities shall eventually join the European Union. ■