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12th Jul 2020

Montenegro files EU membership application

Montenegro on Monday (15 December) presented its official application for EU membership to current EU President Nicolas Sarkozy, hoping to win EU candidate country status some time next year.

EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn welcomed the move, saying: "Today Montenegro has reached a historical milestone marking the country's important engagement to common European values and fundamentals."

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"Montenegro has made important progress in its preparations for the European integration," he added.

The move comes after the former Yugoslav country of some 680,000 people declared independence from Serbia in June 2006 and signed a pre-accession deal – the so-called Stabilisation and Accession Agreement (SAA) – with the EU in October 2007.

It had first planned to file its membership application in the first half of this year, under Slovenia's EU presidency, but changed its mind after Brussels warned it was too early for such a move.

The commission says the country is still lagging behind in many fields and EU membership is not expected to occur in the very near future.

Among other issues, Montenegro needs to reform further its public administration, as well as its judicial system and to make further efforts in the fight against corruption – problematic areas common to all Balkan states.

The Council - the institution representing EU member states - is now to ask the European Commission for an opinion on Podgorica's membership application.

If Brussels's opinion is positive, the application has then to be approved by all EU member states unanimously, giving Montenegro the status of a "candidate country."

Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic earlier stated he expected Brussels to give its opinion during the Czech Republic's EU presidency, which begins on 1 January 2009 and will run for six months.

Prague has already indicated that accelerating the enlargement process towards the western Balkans would be one of its priorities while at the EU's helm.

An example to the region

Commissioner Rehn underlined the example Podgorica set for its neighbours.

"The European perspective of the western Balkan countries, including Montenegro, is essential for the stability and the prosperity of the region and for the EU," he stated.

"By making solid progress in economic and political reform and by fulfilling the necessary conditions and requirements, the remaining potential candidates in the western Balkans should achieve candidate status, according to their own merits, with EU membership as the ultimate goal," he added.

Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo are all "potential EU candidates" and eye membership of the bloc in the long run.

For their part, Croatia and Macedonia have been EU candidates since 2004 and 2005, respectively.

Croatia opened EU accession talks in 2005 and is expected to conclude them by the end of 2009. It then aims to become a full EU member by 2011 at the latest.

Macedonia has not opened EU negotiations yet.

Slovenia is the only former Yugoslav country having obtained EU membership. It joined the bloc on 1 May 2004.

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