EU, Montenegro open key chapters on judiciary and justice in accession talks

By bne IntelliNews December 18, 2013

The EU opened on Wednesday, Dec 18, five new chapters in Montenegro's negotiations, including the two key ones - on judiciary and fundamental right (chapter 23) and on justice, freedom and security (chapter 24), which are at the heart of the enlargement process, enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele said.

The opening of the chapters marks a new approach in the accession talks implementation, Fuele said after the EU-Montenegro intergovernmental conference, which took place in Brussels. The EC usually opens these two chapters at the end of the accession talks since they are among the hardest ones. Yet, now they are being opened in the beginning but will remain open and closely monitored throughout the whole process.

"The EU has set interim benchmarks for these chapters: they mirror commitments of Montenegro in this area and progress towards meeting them will be closely monitored," Fuele said.

The other three chapters are related to the business environment and Montenegro's alignment to them will help it prepare to participate in the EU's internal market and contribute to the responsible use of public funds, Fuele added.

Chapter 5 is on public procurement, where Montenegro has made progress with the new public procurement law adopted in 2012. But it now need to strengthen the implementation capacity at all levels in order to ensure the effective enforcement of the legislation. Further efforts are also needed in areas like concessions, public private partnership, and defence procurement. The chapter is linked as well to chapter 23 since a well-functioning public procurement and remedies system plays a key role in the prevention of corruption.

Chapter 6 is on company law, where Montenegro needs to align to the directives on transparency and takeover bids. It should also implement the new EU accounting rules and establish an independent and adequately funded and staffed public audit oversight body in order to ensure compliance with the rules on statutory audit.

Finally, chapter 20 is on enterprise and industrial policy, where Montenegro's performance is satisfactory but it still needs to  is to improve the administrative capacity and strategies in order to enhance the implementation and boost competitiveness. Montenegro should put in place a comprehensive industrial competitiveness strategy, supported by a system of evaluation indicators and benchmarks.

Fuele also said that in 2014 Montenegro should focus on addressing the opening benchmarks set in chapters like competition policy, agriculture and rural development, food safety, and environment. This may include the adoption of  concrete measures  - as for example, for the opening of the competition policy chapter 8, Montenegro should adopt a restructuring plan for the aluminum producer KAP in line with the acquis.

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