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Montenegro’s EU negotiation strategy: Balancing regional dynamics and priorities

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The Center for Economic and European Studies (CEES) has emphasized the importance of Montenegro prioritizing its administrative capacities towards fulfilling obligations in EU negotiations over regional initiatives such as the Western Balkans Growth Plan.

CEES pointed out this need in light of the government’s activities aimed at obtaining Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) funding and closing as many negotiation chapters as possible with the EU.

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While acknowledging the positive aspects of the European Commission’s (EC) initiative and the recent political agreement between the European Council and the European Parliament regarding the Western Balkans Growth Plan, CEES raised questions about its individual benefits, especially considering the varying dynamics of EU accession negotiations among Western Balkan countries.

Particularly, CEES questioned the effectiveness of this plan for Montenegro, which leads in EU integration, having already opened and actively working on closing all negotiation chapters.

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The Growth Plan aims to accelerate Montenegro’s access to the EU single market through regional integration efforts, facilitating a joint regional market.

Under this plan, countries are required to submit proposals for their reform agendas, which will be integrated into the regional Growth Plan. This will be a precondition for accessing funds from the Reform and Growth Instrument, through which the EU has earmarked six billion EUR for the Western Balkans.

CEES cautioned that Montenegro must ensure the full alignment of its proposed action plan for the joint regional market with the Stabilization and Association Agreement and the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). Otherwise, Montenegro might incur new regional obligations that could impede its progress in bilateral relations with the EU.

This caution is also emphasized in the EC Communication on the Growth Plan for the six Western Balkan countries, released last November. The document stresses the importance of regional economic integration as a precondition for EU accession and warns that partners not fully committed to the regional market or hindering the action plan’s implementation may not benefit from the Growth Plan’s integration opportunities.

CEES further questioned the necessity for Montenegro’s “complete commitment to the Western Balkans joint market” and its implications, given Montenegro’s advanced stage in EU accession negotiations compared to other regional counterparts.

In conclusion, CEES underscored the need for Montenegro to carefully navigate its regional integration efforts to maintain its independent EU path and prevent any slowdowns in its European aspirations.

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