THE EUROPEAN UNION IN MONTENEGRO

Montenegro's path towards the EU

Montenegro is a candidate country for membership of the EU. Its European perspective was reaffirmed by the Council in June 2006 after the recognition of the country's independence by EU Member States. Montenegro submitted an application for EU membership on 15th December 2008. In line with Article 49 of the EU Treaty, the Member States requested, on 23 April 2009, that the European Commission prepare an opinion upon the merits of the application.

Based on the decision of the EU Ministerial Council of 15th September 2006, a political dialogue was established at ministerial level between the Government of Montenegro and the EU institutions. The first such dialogue took place on 22 January 2007 and further political dialogue meetings take place annually.

On 22 January 2007, the EU Council passed a Decision on the adoption of a new European Partnership with Montenegro. The priorities set forth in this document have been incorporated into the Action Plan for Implementation of Recommendations from the European Partnership adopted by the Government in May 2007. Reports on the fulfilment of the recommendations are submitted on regular basis.

On 15 October 2007 Montenegro signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) and an Interim Agreement on trade and trade-related issues. The latter entered into force on 1 January 2008 while the SAA entered into force on 1 May 2010.

By the act of signing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, Montenegro formally agreed an association with the European Community and its Member States, thereby accepting responsibility for its European future. The Agreement was unanimously supported by all parliamentary parties and ratified in the Parliament of Montenegro on 13 November 2007. The consent to the Agreement was given by the European Parliament on 13 December 2007.The Interim Agreement allows Montenegro and the EU to benefit from the trade parts of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement while the agreement itself is still being ratified. The Montenegrin government adopted an action plan for its implementation on 17th May 2007. The Interim Agreement entered into force on 1 January 2008. The Interim Committee, which is responsible for ensuring that the Interim Agreement runs smoothly, held its inaugural session on 22 January 2008.

Agreements between the EU and Montenegro on Visa Facilitation and Readmission took effect on 1 January 2008.

On 22 July 2009 European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn handed over to Montenegro’s authorities a Questionnaire to help prepare an assessment of the country's readiness to fulfil EU membership obligations.

On 9 December, Montenegro’s Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic delivered the answers to the EC's questionnaire to Commissioner Rehn.

As of 19 December 2009 EU visa were altered, allowing Montenegro’s citizens (along neighbours from Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) visa-free access to all 25 Schengen member states within the Union, as well as three states outside the European Union; Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. This was a result of a process that was launched in May 2008. Granting of visa-free travel required the fulfilment of key benchmarks in the areas of rule of law, travel documents and border security.

The European Commission has acknowledged that Montenegro has made significant progress toward opening talks on EU membership and voiced support and gave recommendation for its candidate status on 9 November 2010 and on 17 December 2010 the European Union granted Montenegro the official status of candidate country.

- On 12 October 2011 the European Commission has adopted its annual Enlargement Strategy and Country Progress Reports for 2011. Montenegro has made good progress in meeting the political criteria for membership of the EU, and made further progress in establishing a functioning market economy. Also, Montenegro continues to smoothly implement the Stabilization and Association Agreement.

- 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.

- On 10 October 2012, the European Commission has presented 2012 Progress Report for Montenegro. This is the first Progress Report on Montenegro since the country opened accession negotiations with the EU on 29 June. The European Commission concluded that the country has made further progress in establishing a functioning market economy, has improved its ability to take on the obligations of EU membership, and continues to sufficiently meet the political criteria for EU membership.

- On 18 December 2012, Montenegro opened and temporary closed Chapter 25 – Science and Research.

- Montenegro has made another step closer to the European family, when Chapter 26 – Education and Culture was opened and temporarily closed on 15 April 2013.

Diplomatic relations between Montenegro and the European Communities are conducted through the Montenegrin Mission to the EU in Brussels, which has been fully functional since 2006, and the EU Delegation to Montenegro in Podgorica, which has been open since November 2007.

By mid-September 2014, twelve negotiating Chapters, including the rule of law Chapters, 23 – Judiciary and fundamental rights and 24 – Justice, freedom and security, have been opened, out which two Chapters (25 – Science and research and 26 – Education and culture) have been provisionally closed. Opening benchmarks have been set for eleven Chapters.