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Thank you very much Mr Prime Minister [of Montenegro, Duško Marković]. First of all, thank you for having welcomed me and my delegation once again in your beautiful country and in particular at this beautiful seaside [Tivat]. It is also with pleasure that I would like to thank you for the good exchanges we had today and for your participation yesterday in Skopje in an informal meeting of all the Prime Ministers of the region, which I particularly appreciated.
I would like to start maybe from here, if you allow me: to recognise and thank you for the excellent regional role that Montenegro is playing under your leadership. It is, indeed, a remarkable and wise attitude that you are showing, encouraging and accompanying also other countries in the region. I always think that you can be the best sponsors of each other and you can be supporting each other in this common approach towards the European Union.
We know very well in Brussels and inside the European Union that this is Europe and the process towards membership of the European Union is not only open, but it is in the interest of the European Union and not only in the interest of the countries aiming to join. So I would like to thank you for that. I think that even recently you have shown wisdom and a sense of statesmanship in facilitating the ratification of the Border Demarcation Agreement with Kosovo. That is also good news and welcome news that we have seen in the last weeks.
Coming to Montenegro: We had extremely good exchanges today on the state of play of our negotiations. While I was bringing news, good news, in both Tirana and Skopje with some historic steps, for you it is no news that the doors of the European Union are open for you and that negotiations are going well. The path for the accession is clearly set out in the Strategy for the Western Balkans that we issued as European Commission in February and the report that we have just adopted on Tuesday this week.
When it comes to Montenegro specifically, we see some very encouraging progress that is noted in detail in the report, in particular on public administration reform and on economic issues. And I know how much of relevance these issues have for the citizens, because they have clearly a direct impact on their life.
We look forward to progress in other areas, where, as you have seen, we see either a slower pace for reforms and results or some shortcomings. And I am very reassured by your determination, expressed both in our meetings and here publicly, on addressing these point and these issues, where we see the need for further work and further progress, such as a rule of law reforms, media freedom, issues that the report highlights and issues on which the Prime Minister [Duško Marković] has expressed all his willingness and determination to work further on.
Let me add two last points, if I can. One is that I would like to reiterate here a message that, if I am not wrong, I brought also last year when I visited you in Podgorica around this time when I had the privilege and the honour to address your Parliament: we believe that it would be extremely important, if the political debate with all political forces could return to the democratic institutions of this country, to Parliament. And we believe that a solution to the current parliamentary boycott can be found and should be found, in particular through constructive dialogue involving all political actors. We have had the opportunity with the Prime Minister [Duško Marković] to discuss this and it is important for me to highlight how much of a meaning and how much attention we pay to this.
I would also like to commend the extremely reliable role you play when it comes to Foreign and Security Policy. I want to recognise here the work of the Foreign Minister [of Montenegro, Srđan Darmanović]. Montenegro is one hundred percent aligned with our Foreign and Security Policy positions and deserves credit for this. This shows that we are really on the same page, both in our analysis and in our activities, in particular diplomatic activities. And in these turbulent times our capacity to act together in the region and on the global scene is extremely important.
So I am looking forward to continue working together and I am also looking forward to meeting again at the Sofia Summit that we will have in May under the Bulgarian Presidency - as you know, this is a Member State that is holding the Presidency of the Union now and that is extremely committed to a very successful EU policy on the Western Balkans, but also to a very successful Enlargement Policy that, as the Commission, we are consistently trying to move forward.
Thank you very much Mr. Prime Minister [Duško Marković].
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I154256
Questions & Answers
Q: Could you comment on the fact that we are most probably going to lose our Minister of European Affairs [of Montenegro, Aleksandar Pejović]. What can this mean for the further process of European integration, especially bearing in mind that the European Union invested a lot of funds to provide for the capacities of this Ministry?
On the first part of the question, as I said, we discussed with the Prime Minister [of Montenegro, Duško Marković], as we always do, steps to be taken and work to be continued to be done to address the areas where progress is less relevant or less visible or still has to come.
As I said, these areas are clear, this analysis is a very open and transparent - you can read it in a very detailed manner. I am reassured by the commitment that the Prime Minister has expressed today to address these areas that the report highlights.
When it comes to the Minister of European Affairs [of Montenegro, Aleksandar Pejović], let me say that every country has different models of organising the negotiating team.
For us, what is essential is that there is an all of the government approach to negotiations, that there is political will, dedication, that there is the right political impulse from the highest level to act with determination on the process of transforming the country and the society, in order to be ready to join the European Union and that, again, different systems have worked and are working.
The important thing is, I would say, that the competencies are there, that the political will is there and that the work continues to be carried out in a professional, dedicated and coordinated manner, across the different areas of competence of government.
Q. When it comes to the European integration of Montenegro, how do you seethe assessment coming from the Prime Minister [of Montenegro, Duško Marković] that some NGOs requested the activation of the balance clause, pointed out some shortcomings, are denunciated as primitive, as smug? How do you comment the fact that the newly elected President of Montenegro [Filip Vujanović] said that media writing about some businesses of his family are fascist medias?
As you know, for the European Union, not only media freedom, but also the work of NGOs and civil society is extremely important. So much that our reports themselves are also based on inputs and conversations we have with representatives of the civil society.
So for us, it is extremely important, not only that the environment and the conditions in which NGOs, civil society and obviously media work, is open, free and respectful.
But also, we involved those very same actors in the assessment of the progress on negotiations. So, for us this is vital.
On the request in itself, to activate the clause, let me repeat here what our Head of Delegation expressed already yesterday. This is a clause that can be activated in case of no progress or even backtracking which is definitely not the case for our negotiations with Montenegro.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I154257