Instead of tackling with the pervasive corruption, our state authorities are currently occupied by rearranging deadlines in an attempt to foresee how much time will be needed in the next year to meet the obligations of this year.
Evaluation and review of action plans for Chapters 23 and 24 are essential for the continuation of the negotiations, but activities in the prevention and repression of corruption must be intensified and compliant. These are two parallel and inseparable processes.
A new European Commission in early November, officially began its five-year term, and its appointment and presented work priorities, have already raised dust across Europe- in the member states of the Union, because the European citizens “tested” for the first time the opportunities to voice their influence on the election of the president of this body and in the Western Balkan because of the clear message that there is no joining while the composition of the Commission “measures” progress in reforms. Use of this latest, somewhat discouraging EU accession, but based on a realistic assessment of progress in the candidate countries, implies a number of conclusions on Montenegrin context.
Montenegro has not used the first positive wave in the negotiation process, which was granted by temporary closure of two chapters, the opening of an additional ten, including two of the most challenging ones, pertaining to the rule of law, the fight against corruption and organized crime. This “thanks” to what is the failing of 2014 abounded measures from the action plans for chapters 23 and 24, violation of deadlines, modifying activities and lack of commitment for implementation of certain measure. Therefore, instead of having to cope with pervasive corruption, our state authorities are being currently occupied by rearranging terms in an attempt to predict how much time they would still need in the next year to meet the obligations of this year. Moreover, those obligations are related solely to the improvement of legislation in this area. Therefore, in 2015, we should expect further preparation for the institutionalization of the Anti-Corruption Agency, the implementation of unrealized activities from Strategy to fight corruption and organized crime, which expires at the end of this year, networking and strengthening cooperation among existing bodies that lack the capacity and competence necessary for an impartial and independent work. All but not the prosecution of the cases, especially those at a high level, on which the European Commission insists in the reports on progress from year to year. Evaluation and review of action plans for Chapters 23 and 24 are essential for the continuation of the negotiations, but prevention and repression of corruption must be intensified and it must be compliant. These are two parallel and inseparable processes.
It seems that the 5-year period, during which there will be no joining, is the real test of seriousness of the institutions aimed at overcoming the current “semblance of reforms” and providing measurable results. Clearly, the prospect of integration remains the main driver of reforms in the fight against corruption, judicial reform, and promotion of human rights. Translated to interim benchmarks of the European Commission for the progress in the negotiations: Montenegro should establish an initial balance of the results achieved in an efficient and effective investigation, prosecution and convictions in cases of corruption. Montenegro needs to implement and assess the impact of measures taken to reduce corruption in sensitive areas and takes corrective action when necessary, including disciplinary and criminal measures in cases of identified irregularities. Montenegro should ensure adequate involvement of civil society in the development, implementation and monitoring of policies.
These days, the European officials are racing to send the message that Montenegro should not be discouraged by the announced dynamics of expansion. There is no reason for concern. Nothing motivates Montenegrin state authorities like long-term deadlines.
Jovana MAROVIĆ, PhD
Research Coordinator in Institute Alternative
Member of the working group for Chapter 23
Text originally published in the ”Forum” of daily Vijesti