October 15, 2013

Brussels, President Vujanović – President of the European Commission
The President of Montenegro Filip Vujanović met today in Brussels with the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso.

The President Vujanović and the President of the European Commission held a press conference.
The President Vujanović thanked for the support offered to Montenegro by the European Commission on its European path and accomplishment of its strategic goal.

I would first of all like to point out three things – first, we are satisfied that we closed the screening and proved that Montenegro can fulfill the EU requirements and overcome the obstacles in this process. Of course, we worked in cooperation with the EU experts as well as with the EU member states’ experts and we expect to be further supported in this respect. Secondly, we are satisfied that we succeeded to open and temporarily close the chapters 25 and 26, which are related to science and research, culture and education. It is very important for our institutions and experts in these fields and it represents a new stimulus for them. And thirdly, I would like to express my pleasure over the fact that Montenegro met the requirements and it is now in the position to expect opening 23rd and 24th Chapter. It is very important for the future of our European integration. I express our clear readiness to continue in this direction. We discussed the economic issues and situation in the region at the meeting. We discussed KAP and readiness to find a solution for that problem as soon as possible. I expressed my expectation that we would quickly find a partner for KAP, which will bring about budget relief.
Once again, thank you for your support.

Barroso said that he was glad that he can welcome the President Vujanović there in the European Commission. His visit is a clear signal of the close relations between the EU and Montenegro. My message today is very clear – EU remains dedicated to the enlargement policy, particularly in the process of Montenegro’s accession to the European Union.

We will continue to support Montenegro in its efforts on the way to EU membership. Today we discussed the achievements in the accession process. I particularly praised adoption of the constitutional changes aimed at strengthening independence of judiciary and action plans in the field of rule of law.

As you know, EU enlargement, which is so important for our joint security and prosperity, is based on individual results of each state on the way to the EU membership.

Overall dynamics of Montenegrin negotiations will, therefore, significantly depend on the implementation of these key action plans. Montenegro takes steps to overcome the recent political challenges, for example, in terms of the Parliament’s proper work and relevant and efficient use of public funds.

These steps should be kept for the purpose of continuous progress. Today I reiterated something often emphasized by the EC, which is that media freedom must be guaranteed and threats and violation against journalists must be completely investigated.
At the meeting we also discussed the economic situation and I emphasized the need that Montenegro must take further steps to improve the business environment and reduce the unemployment.
In the context of the recent events, I especially reflected on the KAP issue, which has a key role in the economy of Montenegro. It is necessary to find a solution as soon as possible for this company in accordance with the obligations from the Stabilization and Association Agreement.

We also discussed the bilateral issues – Montenegro is a champion in terms of regional cooperation, what I really applaud, and we discussed it in detail. This is really a key for the region. Anyway, Montenegro also has certain unresolved issues with the neighbors, particularly in relation to borders.
I am satisfied with readiness of Montenegro to resolve these issues.

President Vujanović, finally, I would like to reiterate dedication of the EC to the enlargement policy and Montenegro’s accession. Your visit is timely. We will tomorrow publish the EC’s annual report on progress made by Montenegro in the past year and challenges that await it next year. I believe that you and other leaders in your state would continue to be strongly dedicated to European integration and achieve further progress on the European path.

Journalist’s question:
President Vujanović, on what grounds do you expect that Montenegro would open the negotiation chapters 23 and 24 in December?

Response of the President:
EC recommended opening these chapters on the grounds of the fact that Montenegro showed ability to resolve problems. In August, EC recommended opening negotiations for Chapters 23 and 24. In September Montenegro was required to submit negotiation positions and I hope that we will be in a position to open Chapters 23 and 24 in December.

Response of the President Barroso:
I would like to add that it was required from Montenegro to submit the negotiation positions for these chapters and define interim measures. These will be sent to the European Council for discussion and after that an inter-governmental conference will be open. We hope that the procedure will be completed in the way that we will open both chapters until the end of the year.
That is, as you know, a part of the approach to discuss all these issues already at the beginning of the process, not at the end as the practice was earlier.
We have a good opportunity now, but everything depends on you whether the chapters 23 and 24 will be open before the end of the year. That is our joint goal.

Journalist’s question:
President Vujanović, the conclusions that will be published in the EC’s annual report tomorrow are a great cause for concern, and these are related to freedom of expression and relation towards media. It could be heard from your party that certain attacks on journalists are fictional, that the affair “Audio- recording” was spun. Can you say that all the cases of attacks on journalists would be investigated completely i.e. that investigations of the Affair “Audio-recording” would have a result.

Response of the President Vujanović:
I am glad that you had an opportunity to look into the annual report before I saw it myself, which means that you have access to the information from the EC that I do not have. In addition, I am glad that, from what I heard from the President of the EC is that the annual report must be better than the previous. Therefore, we did screening for each chapter, opened and temporarily closed the two important chapters and fulfilled all the conditions for opening the chapters 23 and 24. You saw that the President Barroso stated that he expected that the two chapters would be open until the end of the year. Therefore, the facts themselves tell that the EC’s annual report must be better than the previous and must be positive.

We, of course, are not escaping from the fact that there are cases of attack on journalists which are still undiscovered. We are very concerned about that and the state undertakes all the possible measures to prevent such attacks in the future and we do our best to discover the perpetrators of such offences or violence. These attacks, unfortunately, occur in our region and we regret it. We are doing our best to provide for the media as good conditions as possible to performing their activities freely. That is why I am convinced that Montenegro would show its complete dedication to these investigations which represent our priority.

Response of the President Barroso:
As regards the progress report, it is still not approved and I cannot make any comments. It will be finally approved tomorrow.

We are against violence and threats against anyone, but violence and threats against journalists are a big problem. That is why the EC will pay special attention to this area in the screening in terms of the candidate states. That is the issue which we discuss with our partners.
Montenegro expressed readiness to resolve these problems, as the President Vujanović said.
Montenegro is ready to fully investigate the violence and threats towards journalists. Media freedom is our joint concern, it is the issue to which the biggest attention should be paid and if there is any problem it is necessary to treat it seriously and take adequate measures.
It is necessary to consolidate rule of law and fundamental rights in the EU accession process.
Even if a state is not aspiring to become an EU member state, it has to provide for rule of law, because of its citizens and economy.
As for the European agenda, we cooperate with Montenegrin authorities on identification and addressing the issues that may be problems.

The meeting was attended also by the European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle as well as the Head of Montenegro’s Mission to the EU Ivan Leković.

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