Montenegro: Opening of negotiations big step towards EU membership
Brusssels (29th June) - The accession negotiations with Montenegro started in Brussels today. After the European Council has endorsed the decision of the General Affairs Council from last Tuesday, the Intergovernmental conference with Montenegro took place in Brussels under the Danish Presidency on Friday and the process was officially launched. Here are the remarks of Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle at the press conference after the Intergovernmental conference.
"I am very happy that we have opened accession negotiations with Montenegro today. I would like to thank the Danish Presidency for putting enlargement, and in particular Montenegro, so high on its agenda.
Starting negotiations is a success for Montenegro: its authorities, politicians, the whole society. The broad national consensus and reform efforts have paid off. They also confirm that we judge candidates on their own merits.
Montenegro already did a lot. But much more still needs to be done. This next phase of the accession process will mean even more work in more areas, with continued focus on fundamental freedoms, judiciary, fight against corruption and organised crime.
To help the candidate countries, the Commission has established a new approach to chapters covering these areas (Chapters 23, 24). Montenegro is the first country where we will apply it.
This new approach will allow these chapters to be opened early on in the negotiating process and to be closed at the very end; focusing on developing a track record and introducing interim benchmarks, but also with the possibility of applying corrective measures.
These two chapters are the most important and the most effective instruments for the Commission to support transformation in the candidate countries.
The whole Western Balkans region is moving ahead. Croatia will become the 28th member of the EU next year. Serbia was granted candidate status this March. We have launched High Level Accession Dialogues with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and High Level Dialogue on Accession with Bosnia and Herzegovina. We agreed on a list of deliverables on the key priorities with Albania. We also launched a Feasibility Study with Kosovo this spring.
This progress and continuing interest of the countries in our immediate neighbourhood - and beyond - to join the EU, is the most significant vote of confidence in the European project.
Opening negotiations with Montenegro is also a vote of confidence and it should be understood as an incentive for the country to keep up the reform efforts. Because, after today, the ultimate goal of these efforts - EU membership - is a big step closer for you."