Representatives of civil society bodies discussed in Brussels the current situation of Montenegro's EU accession negotiation at the 12th meeting of the EU-Montenegro Civil Society Joint Consultative Committee (JCC). All the participants welcomed in a final joint declaration the accelerated growth of Montenegro's economy in 2018, as well as the fall of unemployment.
This positive trend has allowed bringing the number of open chapters to 32, three of them provisionally closed, which led Bojan Šarkić, Head of the Permanent Mission of Montenegro to the EU, to declare that the country would be "ready to become a member of the EU" before the expected date, set in 2025. In this context, the JCC supported the Commission's proposal of a Regulation establishing the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA III) and called on the EU institutions to provide Montenegro with sufficient funding, including through Pre-Accession Assistance, to help it meet the criteria for EU accession.
On the other hand, the JCC noted that the political scene in Montenegro remains fragmented and marked by lack of political dialogue. It also showed its concerns relating to media freedom in Montenegro and the political interference in the work of the national public broadcaster, and pointed out to the lack of progress in dealing with cases of violence against journalists. Lidija Pavić-Rogošić, Co-Chair of the JCC and member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), underlined that when it comes to readiness for EU accession "it is not just a matter of adopting rules; an increased capacity is also needed to put things into practice". Regarding the right of establishment and the freedom to provide services, the JCC acknowledged Montenegro's significant progress in aligning its national legislation with EU law, but urged Montenegrin authorities to pay attention to the ongoing discussions within the EU on the services package.
The JCC also welcomed the establishment of the council for cooperation between government institutions and NGOs and emphasized the importance of civil society organisations' involvement in all aspects of policy-making and in EU accession negotiations.
Migration was other key topic debated by JCC members. Montenegro's national legislation alignment with the acquis communautaire in the area of legal and irregular migration and asylum was very much welcomed. But the joint declaration also states that Montenegro must further "strengthen its migration management capacity to avoid overstretching of systems, constraints on national resources and the challenges of managing migration flows in compliance with international standards and protection of human rights in the event of a sudden influx of migrants".
The JCC also commended Montenegro's support to the UN's Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, recently signed in Marrakech. In the same vein, it called for a number of actions related to migration management, as the full support to the established inter-agency task force to address the smuggling of migrants, build capacity and train staff in the public bodies dealing with asylum legislation. It also urged EU institutions and Montenegrin authorities to improve mechanisms for managing Montenegro's border and the exchange of information while ensuring that the human rights of persons in transit are respected.
The EU-Montenegro Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) is a civil society platform established between the EESC and civil society in Montenegro (social partners and other civil society organisations). It complements, with a civil society point of view, the EU institutional framework related to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and Montenegro. The JCC comprises members from each side and allows civil society organisations to monitor the path of Montenegro towards the EU, and to adopt recommendations for the attention of the government of Montenegro and the EU institutions.