How the candidate country negotiates with the EU for membership? Is there really something to negotiate about?
How many years the negotiation process could take?
Answers of IA’s research coordinator and member of the Working Group on Chapter 23, Jovana Marović:
Negotiations of the candidate country with the European Union for membership in this supranational community include a complete harmonization of national legislation with the acquis. So, there is no negotiation about whether certain EU rules have to be adopted and implemented. Each state is obliged to fully harmonize legislation with the acquis in order to become a member. However, certain rules may be subject of negotiation for the interim period (after EU) which is necessary for the state to adopt and implement specific legal regulations. Although the EU may grant transitional periods for certain regulations, these periods are very time-limited and must not affect the functioning of the EU internal market.
It also should be highlighted that the negotiations under chapter 23, Judiciary and Fundamental Rights, are particularly demanding. In this chapter the harmonization of legislation with the acquis is accompanied with additional conditions that are reflected in the concrete cases in the field of fight against corruption and human rights violations.
The European Commission will, on the basis of the previous progress reports of Montenegro and, primarily, the report of compliance of Montenegrin legislation with the acquis, submit Montenegro opening benchmarks for Chapters 23 and 24. Benchmarks will most likely involve the need to adopt action plans for judicial reform, the fight against corruption, etc. Completion of these obligations from the action plans depends on the set deadlines, and also real commitment to fulfill these obligations. The European Commission will closely monitor reforms even after the temporary closure of certain chapters. It is clear that, without full compliance of benchmarks chapters could not be opened or closed.
In practice, it is possible to accompaniment requirements, especially on the closing benchmark within a given chapter. Closing benchmarks are complicated set up. It also depends on the duration of negotiations and it can happen that, within this period, a regulation could change on EU level. (For example: One of the criteria for closure of chapter 23 in Croatia was the requirement to improve the efficiency of the judiciary. Closing benchmarks that were defined in 10 requirements first were supplemented with 22 additional conditions, and in the end the number of conditions reached number 80).
With the compliance of the criteria, chapter is closed temporarily, because there is no final closure until the all chapters are closed.
It is unthankful to talk about any deadlines and potential years of joining the EU, especially when one takes into account that the duration of the negotiations depends only on the tempo of the acquis and additional requirements adoption. In this direction, limited administrative capacities for the implementation of the acquis may represent the barrier, and, in particular, the lack of political will to implement reforms.
Although there are estimates that the process in Montenegro could be shorter than for example in Croatia, it should not be ignored the possibility that the lack of progress under Chapter 23, as well as a fundamental violation of human rights, can block the whole process of negotiations.
Montenegro is entering the most challenging phase of the accession process. Progress within this phase depends on the speed of the fulfillment of requirements that will be set by Brussels.
Research Coordinator in the Institute Alternative