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EUobserver.com: Commission expected to give green light to Montenegro EU candidacy

Published date: 20.10.2010 16:55 | Author: Bureau

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http://waz.euobserver.com/887/31080

Commission expected to give green light to Montenegro EU candidacy 

ZELJKO PANTELIC AND AUGUSTIN PALOKAJ

Today  09:46 CET

The European Commission is expected to give a positive opinion on Montenegro's application for EU membership, which would open the way to granting it official candidate status.

But, according to EU sources, the report on Albania may be too ambiguous to be considered 'positive'.

EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Füle has clearly indicated in contacts with representatives of the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament that the so-called 'avis' for Montenegro will be positive but will not suggest a date for the start of accession negotiations.

"Montenegro did a good job in the last year but we are still far away from a position to start to negotiate about EU membership. We will need at least another year, and one more progress report, to see whether it is possible to open negotiations with Podgorica," Mr Füle was quoted as saying in one recent meeting.

The European Commission's view is that Montenegro still needs, among other things, to improve its rule of law, administrative capacity and record in fighting organised crime and corruption to be eligible to start membership talks.

Even with a positive avis, which will be published together with the next batch of progress reports on the Western Balkan countries, Turkey and Iceland in November, Montenegro would only be given official candidate status in March 2011.

"It is technically impossible to grant candidate status to Montenegro in December in the European Council, because of the procedure in some EU member countries, especially in the German parliament, which takes some weeks. Montenegro will become a candidate during the Hungarian presidency (in the first half of 2011)," an EU Council official told WAZ.EUobserver.

Long delays risk becoming the norm for countries in the West Balkans; Macedonia became an EU candidate back in December 2005 but is still awaiting a date for the start of accession talks.

With respect to Albania, an EU diplomat, using his words with particular care, said: "the avis will probably not be negative – which does not mean that is fully positive."

The main problem with Albania concerns the shortcomings of its democratically-elected institutions. The opposition socialist party has boycotted the new parliament for several months and is still not fully taking part in parliamentary work.

A lack of real political dialogue in the country makes it hard for the European Commission to come out with a clear-cut positive opinion, and the commission could suggest making Albania a candidate only after it has fulfilled a number of conditions.

"It will be evident from the avis that there is a difference between Montenegro and Albania in their compliance with EU criteria, and that Montenegro is better prepared," said an EU source.