Montenegro Lobbies Hard For Start to EU Talks

As Montenegro waits to find out whether the European Council will approve a start to negotiations with the EU, its officials are intensifying their meetings with representatives of the EU and the member states.One week before the European Council meeting that is expected to decide the fate of Montenegro’s talks, Andrija Pejovic, Montenegro’s chief negotiator with the EU, visited Finland on Wednesday – one of many such diplomatic activities.At the meeting on June 28 and 29, Montenegro is looking for a unanimous vote to start talks with the EU on becoming the next country after Croatia in the region to join.

During his visit to Finland, Pejovic presented Montenegro’s most recent achievements in harmonizing and implementing its laws with the EU standards, emphasizing the country’s progress in all key priorities.

The same day, Prime Minister Igor Luksic, at the margins of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil, met with Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and Loran Fabius, French Foreign Minister.

While the Finns have assured Pejovic that they will vote to open talks, over the last few weeks local media reported that not all member states are equally supportive.

Sweden and France were cited as countries that are hesitating about endorsing the next stage of Montenegro’s EU accession, despite the positive recommendation of the European Commission.

Speculation about hold-ups heated up following the vague statements of Dirk Lange, head of the Unit for Croatia and Montenegro within the EU’s Enlargement Directorate.

Last week, he said that the European Council doesn’t necessarily have to follow European Commission recommendations.

Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic also said recently that “some countries are opposed to opening negotiations” with Podgorica.

The European Commission recommended opening talks with Montenegro last October.

Two months later, the European Council set June 2012 as a possible start date for negotiations, pending Montenegro’s progress in seven key priorities.

Those are reforms of parliament, public administration and the judiciary, progress in the fight against corruption and organized crime, media freedom and cooperation with civil society, implementation of anti-discrimination policies and the status of refugees.

In its latest report, on May 22, the European Commission assessed that Montenegro had made sufficient progress in all areas and reiterated its earlier recommendation.

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