27th Jan 2021

No starting date for Montenegro's EU accession talks

Montenegro will be declared an EU candidate country in December but no date will be set for the start of accession talks, according to diplomatic sources.

The declaration will be made at European Council meeting of heads of state next month, but actual negotiations are unlikely to begin before 2012.

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The Netherlands, the only country that still has reservations about awarding Macedonia candidate status, could pose a last-minute stumbling block as the Lisbon Treaty requires unanimity on all decisions on enlargement.

"Most enlargement-friendly countries believed that the greatest obstacle to granting Montenegro candidate status had been removed when Berlin made clear that – with the Lisbon Treaty in force – it did not need extra time to let the matter pass the German parliament," a diplomat told WAZ.EUobserver.

"So internal procedures of the Bundestag would not constitute a reason to delay the decision in the December European Council. The door seemed open until the Dutch position put everything into question again."

But diplomats working for the member states and the European Council believe there is still room fr optimism.

"The fact that the European Council is going only to give candidate status and no date for the start of accession negotiations with Montenegro relaxed the atmosphere a lot," said an EU official. "In the case of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia we saw that awarding candidate status without a date for the start of accession negotiations is an important decision – but not as important as adding a date.

"So, I believe that the Hague's reservations on candidate status for Montenegro demonstrate a general conviction that the enlargement process should be highly conditional, strict and fair and not too fast. Bear in mind that we have new a government in The Hague and that they are still fine-tuning their foreign and enlargement policy."

One official said that accession negotiations will not start in 2011. "The list of required results in the EU's key areas is so long and tough that even the most optimistic officials in Brussels and Podgorica don't believe that the talks will kick off next year," they daid.

"But with a very positive European Commission progress report next year and perhaps additional evaluation in the spring or summer of 2012, the negotiations with Podgorica could start in autumn 2012."

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