Civil society representatives give their support to the sustainable development of Montenegro

The EU-Montenegro Civil Society Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) held a meeting in Podgorica on June 7 to discuss the state of play in Montenegro's EU accession negotiations. The members of the JCC agreed on a joint declaration, which calls on the EU institutions to continue to be supportive of the EU enlargement policy after the European elections in May 2019 and on the Montenegrin authorities to produce tangible results in the areas of rule of law, media freedom, fight against organised crime and corruption.

Montenegro is currently negotiating its accession to the EU, with only one remaining chapter to be opened (chapter 8, competition). The JCC expressed its hope that efforts will be increased towards meeting the benchmarks set for closing the opened chapters. Exchange of views and cooperation between civil society organisations (CSOs) and the government is of great importance for improving the EU accession process and this JCC is the right framework for improving such a cooperation, stated Pavle Radovanović, the co-chair of the JCC from the Montenegrin side.

The joint declaration points out that an improved business environment and sustainable economic growth can be achieved only by ensuring stable regulatory framework, by effective application of the rule of law and by decisively addressing corruption. The JCC members regretted the fragmentation of the political scene in Montenegro and the lack of dialogue, as well as called for a credible, independent and effective institutional response to the "envelope" affair.

Sustainable development, environment and climate change

Environment, climate change and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals were also topics discussed at the JCC meeting. Members urged the European Commission to do more to promote the 2030 Agenda both in the EU and in Montenegro. Montenegro made good progress as far as legislation and strategies are concerned but challenges remain in their implementation that needs to involve all relevant stakeholders, stressed Lidija Pavić-Rogošić, the co-chair of the JCC from the EU side.

They also welcomed the adoption of Montenegro's National Strategy for Sustainable Development until 2030 and its action plan, as well as the signature of the Podgorica Statement on Clean Energy Transition for the Western Balkans in February 2019, in which the Western Balkans partners agreed to align with the EU's energy, environment and climate policies and targets.

In the area of environmental policy and climate change, JCC members stressed that training and education are essential for all stakeholders and recommended the establishment of a comprehensive accessible information system for consumers when purchasing goods and services. They also asked the Montenegrin authorities to address as a priority the management of the Natura 2000 network of sites and to include CSOs in the management structure of the protected areas. Environmental protection is very challenging and what Montenegro needs is to adequately protect Ulcinj Salinas, lake Skadar and Tara river, pointed out Aivo Orav, Head of the Delegation and Ambassador of the EU to Montenegro.

Civil society organisations and media

The situation of CSOs and the media in Montenegro was also discussed, as JCC members expressed their concerns relating to media freedom in Montenegro, especially for the political interference in the work of national public broadcaster RTCG, where critically oriented NGOs are not welcome.

JCC members noted that the implementation of the law on NGOs seems to be proceeding satisfactorily and that the new Council for cooperation between government institutions and NGOs is meeting regularly. Nevertheless, the joint declaration strongly emphasises the importance of independent CSOs being effectively involved in all aspects of policymaking and in EU accession negotiations, highlighting the role of civil society when it comes to improving the overall democratic environment in Montenegro.