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Reforms in the areas of social policy and employment among top priorities for Montenegro's EU accession

The Civil Society JCC also focused on the situation of media and civil society

Members of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and representatives of Montenegro's civil society held the Civil Society Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) for the 11th time in Podgorica, on 17 July. The JCC discussed the state of play and the work ahead in Montenegro's EU accession negotiations and adopted a joint declaration.

The JCC calls for increased efforts from the Montenegrin government to meet the benchmarks set for closing the chapters, especially the interim benchmarks on the rule of law (Chapters 23 and 24). It stresses the fact that the business environment is directly linked to the rule of law. The JCC notes that while mechanisms are in place for government consultation of civil society organisations (CSOs), they need clear rules and genuine involvement on both sides.

On social policy and employment, the JCC stresses the importance of labour law as a basis for structural reforms of the labour market, beneficial to the overall economic and social situation in the country. The JCC urges the Montenegrin authorities to focus, in close cooperation with the social partners and other CSOs, on structural reforms in social policy and employment. When drawing up such reforms, the various proposals incorporated into the European Pillar of Social Rights should be taken into consideration. The JCC stresses the importance of social dialogue and calls on the Montenegrin authorities, including those at local level, to step up cooperation with the social partners and other non-state players. It calls on the Montenegrin authorities to ensure efficient protection of vulnerable groups in practice and to continue to improve their social inclusion.

In order to prepare for the free movement of workers within the EU, the JCC calls on the Montenegrin authorities to start to prepare in good time for participation in the coordination of social security systems and the EURES network, as well as for use of the European Health Insurance Card. It points out that participation in these complex processes demands substantial administrative capacities at national and local level, and urges the Montenegrin government to invest enough resources so as to employ and train staff well in advance of EU accession. It points out the potential danger of the so-called "brain drain" and invites the Montenegrin authorities to ensure that Montenegro is prepared to tackle it before EU accession.

As for the situation of the media and CSOs in Montenegro, the JCC expresses concern about freedom of the press, as regards the national public broadcaster RTCG. It points out that there have been no noticeable developments in investigations of old cases of violence against journalists, and regrets that the frequency of such cases has recently increased. The JCC welcomes the fact that the law on NGOs has begun to be implemented and commends its new model of public financing for NGO programmes and projects. It also stresses the importance of a fully functional National Office for Cooperation with NGOs, as the main coordinator of implementation of the 2018-2020 strategy for improving the enabling environment for the development of NGOs. The JCC welcomes efforts by the Office of the Chief Negotiator to open dialogue with representatives of civil society and to include CSOs more effectively in the process of accession negotiations.

The next JCC meeting will be held in Brussels in the second half of 2018. The topics to be discussed include Chapter 3 (Right of establishment and freedom to provide services) and Chapter 24 (Justice, freedom and security), with special emphasis on migration, as well as an overview of civil society in the country. The JCC meeting to be held in Montenegro in 2019 will discuss Chapter 27 (Environment) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The JCC is made up of twelve members, six from each side, representing the EESC and Montenegrin civil society. It is being co-chaired during its current term (2018–2020) by Lidija Pavić-Rogošić, Croatian member of the EESC and director of ODRAZ-Sustainable Community Development, and Pavle D. Radovanović, secretary general of Montenegro's Chamber of Economy.

Background information:

  • 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). The JCC's mandate comes from Decision No 1/2011 of the EU – Montenegro Stabilisation and Association Council of 20 June 2011, amending Decision No 1/2010 adopting the rules of procedure of the Stabilisation and Association Council. The Civil Society JCC 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 Civil Society Joint Consultative Committee comprises members from each side. The JCC allows civil society organisations from both sides to monitor Montenegro's path towards the EU and to adopt recommendations directed at the government of Montenegro and the EU institutions.