German chancellor says 4-year timeline for Montenegro's EU membership is realistic

German chancellor says 4-year timeline for Montenegro's EU membership is realistic
Montenegro's Prime Minister Milojko Spajic (left) meets German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin. /
By bne IntelliNews May 2, 2024

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who met Montenegro's Prime Minister Milojko Spajic on April 29, said that the idea of Montenegro joining the EU in four years is a realistic ambition, the government in Montenegro announced.

Montenegro became an EU candidate country in 2010 and was given the go-ahead for accession negotiations two years later. It is considered the closest country to accession among all the candidate countries from the Western Balkans, with all 33 screened chapters opened, and three provisionally closed. 

However, progress stalled in recent years after the appointment of several unstable coalition governments. Spajic’s Europe Now party came to power pledging to reinvigorate the process. 

The meeting took place during Spajic’s first official visit to Germany, and came after efforts made by Montenegro towards European integration over the past six months. Chancellor Scholz affirmed Germany's unwavering support for Montenegro, which he said was akin to the assistance extended to countries joining the European Union in 2004.

Scholz also spoke more broadly of the urgent need for EU enlargement to come to fruition, highlighting the promising prospects for Montenegro. He noted Montenegro's rapid progress, unmatched by any other country in the region.

“I see significant progress that Montenegro has achieved in the past period, and what is impressive is your ambition to close a large number of chapters in the shortest possible time. With this pace, completing the process within the next four years is a realistic ambition, and we will provide support at all levels,” Scholz stated.

Montenegro is due to receive its Interim Benchmark Assessment Report (IBAR) in June, which Spajic said would serve as an indication of the country’s progress in the integration process.

“We expect Germany's support in reforming the security and police systems, further affirming our work in the rule of law. We do not want the rule of law to be merely a dead letter; we want it to be fully implemented. We are confident that this, along with the fair treatment of investors and the security provided by the reformed system, will be the best recommendation for attracting major German companies," Spajic said.

Regional cooperation, particularly through the Berlin Process, featured prominently in the discussions, with Montenegro's commitment highlighted through its ratification of all four mobility agreements. 

Both parties announced plans to sign a Cultural Agreement in May or June, signalling a deepening of bilateral ties. Additionally, the issue of mutual recognition of driver's licenses is set to be resolved soon.

The talks concluded with a recognition of the potential for collaboration in energy, infrastructure and tourism sectors, laying the groundwork for enhanced partnership between Montenegro and Germany.