Montenegro: political tensions slow progress of EU-related reforms

  • No accession chapter negotiations closed since 2017
  • MEPs welcome new minority government of pro-European parties
  • Call for economic and financial assistance for Western Balkans countries joining EU sanctions against Russia

Parliament says Montenegro should advance its electoral and judicial reforms and its fight against organised crime and corruption.

MEPs welcome Montenegro’s continued commitment to European integration, repeating their position that the country’s progress in the accession process continues to depend on meeting the conditions related to the rule of law.

In a report adopted on Thursday with 506 votes in favour, 50 against and 35 abstentions, they are disappointed that since 2017, none of the negotiations on 33 screened accession chapters have been closed, slowing Montenegro’s positive track record and status as the country in the Western Balkans furthest along in the EU’s accession process.

New government’s political resolve could push reform process

The report calls for an inclusive political dialogue and the commitment of all parliamentary parties in Montenegro to overcoming the current polarised political climate. MEPs say this is crucial to achieve the political stability necessary for the country to continue with its substantial progress in key EU-related reforms, in particular electoral and judicial reforms and the fight against organised crime and corruption.

MEPs welcome a new minority government composed of pro-European parties, especially in light of the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine and the continuing influence of pro-Russian political parties and narratives in Montenegro. The new government’s political resolve could help accelerate the reform process, reflecting both the work already done on advancing European values and the overwhelming will of Montenegro’s citizens to join the European Union.

Growing volume of foreign and domestic disinformation campaigns

MEPs also welcome Montenegro’s continued and full alignment with the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, including its condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its full support for the latest EU sanctions against Russia. In addition, the report encourages the European Commission to consider EU economic and financial assistance for Western Balkans countries that have joined EU sanctions against Russia, to mitigate their effects on countries like Montenegro.

MEPs are concerned by the growing volume of foreign and domestic disinformation campaigns, and cyber and hybrid threats, including from Russia and China. Noting that foreign interference can also be pursued through the instrumentalisation of religious institutes, they call for religious tolerance in line with the Montenegrin constitution and European values and principles.

The rapporteur Tonino Picula (S&D, Croatia) said: “We again expressed our continued support for Montenegro’s European integration, especially in the new geopolitical context that emphasises the need for a strong and enhanced enlargement policy. Last year was marked by political blockages and stagnation on Montenegro’s European path. We noted the difficulties in progressing towards EU integration, the implementation of reforms, and meeting the expectations of Montenegrin citizens who support EU membership by a large majority. However, the report overall has a constructive tone and once again expresses the overwhelming support of the European Parliament for Montenegro’s European future. We also hope that the new government will not face the old government’s problems, will be more functional, and enjoy the continued support of the Montenegrin Parliament.”