Reforms in strengthening of the commercial sector of Montnegro and preparations for EU membership
In the year in which we celebrate the decade of restored independence and only four years after the formal opening of negotiations, Montenegro may be satisfied with the excellent result achieved in integration to the Union. So far, in ten Intergovernmental Conferences, we have opened negotiations in twenty-two chapters, of which two are provisionally closed. Apart from this, investing the hard work and achieving the good results, we have become internally ready for opening of several chapters during this year. However, this is only one side to our success. Much greater accomplishment is represented through changes and the visible progress made in all social areas.
This result was not made without an invested effort. It is supported by the responsible, dedicated and professional work of all institutions and individuals engaged in the negotiating structure. Even more than that it is encouraged by the entire society that supports and directly or indirectly assists the implementation of reforms and movement towards a higher, European quality of life. Therefore, according to the latest public survey, the European integration process and the membership of Montenegro in the EU is still supported by almost two thirds of the population. This data is a confirmation that we are on the right way and another motive to keep the same pace and the same enthusiasm towards the membership.
AlthoughtheaccessiontalkswiththeEUcommenced on 29 June 2012, it is important to be reminded that the preparations for negotiations began even before its official opening. Thus, as early as in February 2012 we adopted the Decision establishing the structure for negotiations on accession of Montenegro to the European Union which formed the six bodies: College for Negotiations, State Delegation, Negotiating Group, Chief Negotiator’s Office, Secretariat of the Negotiating Group and thirty-three working groups for preparation and conduct of negotiations. The last four years were characterised by the extremely intensive activity of the negotiating structure. Thirteen sessions of the College for negotiations were held, as well as five sessions of the Rule of law Council, fifteen meetings of the Negotiating Group and over 2000 coordinative meetings in subgroups.
It is important to recall that Montenegro is also the first country under the enlargement which included apart from the state administration, the Parliament, academic and business communities, also the non- governmental organisations in the negotiating structure itself thus confirming that European integration is the project of the entire society and showing openness and readiness for cooperation. Today, Montenegrin negotiating structure includes 1,368 members of whom 327 are representatives of the civil sector. The biggest working group for Chapter 18 – Statistics has 101 members, and the smallest for Chapter 21 Trans- European networks has 12 members. Also, more than 55 per cent of the makeup are women.
Over the last four years, we have significantly improved our legislative framework in all areas. I would like to remind people that in the rule of law area only we have adopted more than 50 reform laws and thus significantly improved the situation in judiciary, human rights, fight against corruption and organised crime. Apart from drafting and implementation of the Action Plans for Chapters 23 and 24, 2014-2018 Programme of Accession of Montenegro to the EU, we have adopted a number of important strategies, action plans, we have formed the new and reinforced the existing institutions and initiated the achievement of results in practice. Apart from the work on fulfilling the conditions for opening of chapters, the process provided for the enhancement of knowledge and skills, building of capacities and developing the expertise we previously have not had.
However, the significance that the work on chapters has for the lives of citizens is more important for us than numbers.
For example, further alignment with the European legislation in the area of the free movement of goods (Chapter 1) will lead to better quality and the guaranteed safety of products, as well as a bigger choice when purchasing the products and more favourable prices. Continuing the work under the chapter Right of establishment and freedom to provide services (Chapter 3) will enable the automatic recognition of the gained qualifications and education documents and thus the national enterprises and legal persons to provide service throughout the EU, freely and without discrimination. In the area of Public procurement (Chapter 5), we will reinforce the competition and reduce the abuses in the market which will positively influence the better allocation of resources, greater savings and thus higher standards and economic growth. We are preparing for the transfer to the electronic public procurement in line with the newest European standard. By adopting the new Law on Companies and the Law on accountingandauditintheforthcoming period, we will completely regulate the area of Commercial Law (Chapter6) in accordance with the standards enjoyed by European companies, which is important for enterprises in Montenegro. This will be beneficial for two reasons, our firms will have more opportunities for business operations abroad and the foreign investors, from the EU and the third countries, will function in a familiar environment. Further alignment with the acquis in the area of Intellectual property (Chapter 7) will allow for a company or its products to be different in the market and represent its own quality and moreover to enjoy the protection of right of what has been protected as intellectual property.
In Chapter 8 which pertains to competition, we will continue with the measures aimed at ensuring equal rights for all participants in the common market, in such a manner as to keep their quality as the only and determining factor. Concretely, this means the prohibition of the abuse of the agreement made to the disadvantage of the competition or the consumer, but also the strengthening of administrative structures for the control of the state aid. This is one of the most important chapters and is extremely important for us to be well prepared for its opening in the near future.
Under Chapter 20 that deals with entrepreneurship and industrial policy, thereformsweimplementwillenablethe creation of the new working positions and strengthening the competition of industry. Soon we will adopt the strategy of industrial competition for Montenegro which was prepared in cooperation with the European partners and in this manner we already share the same goals and commitments with the EU member states. Chapter 30 that deals with economic relations abroad is a chapter that we should close among the first and it will increase the chances of Montenegrin entrepreneurs for export and save time and costs of business operations. By reducing the existing trade barriers, our state will become an even more attractive destination for direct investment inflow which will provide for opening of working positions and increase the GDP. Also, Montenegro will become a part of the internal market which will facilitate the export of domestic products to the market of more than 500 million consumers.
Many of these chapters are opened or are nearly opened, but in most of them we have already made significant steps towards closure. This holistic approach enable for the overall reforms we undertake in the area of economy to further strengthen our commercial sector and prepare us to participate on an equal footing in the market in which the barriers are abolished for the free movement of goods, workforce and capital.