On the occasion of 60 years after the signing of Treaty of Rome, 25 March 1957, when the foundations for the establishment of EU were laid symbolically, and which is nowadays marked in various manners throughout the EU, the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) assesses that it is a good opportunity to reflect on the performances as well as on the future of EU, and within that framework, on the position of Western Balkans and Montenegro which aspires to membership in the EU.
Objectives that have gathered the founding states of EU – peace, prosperity and democracy – are equally important today as they were 60 years ago, which renders the EU as an equally important factor on the international scene today. Reason for celebration should be sought in the fact that EU has done an unparalled job in the protection of fundamental values and support throughout the world to those who needed its support, whether in case of humanitarian assistance or responses to needs of countless other groups which fight for the establishment of system of values, which guarantee dignified life to citizens.
EU is gravely shaken by the lasting and multiplying crisis, further encumbered by populism, Euro-scepticism and Brexit. It stands on one of the most critical crossroads in its history. However, no one in the EU denies that. The White book on the future of EU, which was presented by the president of European Commission Juncker, envisages five potential scenarios regarding the future of EU. These scenarios are within wide choice from “carrying on,” through “nothing but the single market,” “those who want more do more,” and “doing less more efficiently,” to “doing much more together.” Each of these scenarios have different supporters, and they will be thoroughly analyzed by the agreement on adequate response to the complexity of existing situation with the need to preserve and enhance democratic principles which make the pillars of EU, and thanks to which it became the club to which many seek their access.
All of the abovementioned indicates that we witness a process of evolution of Union, and that there is no certainty with regards to the structure which Montenegro will encounter, that is, when the moment for the final stage of accession negotiations comes. Nonetheless, the road to EU has already yielded progress in Western Balkans in the form of better regional cooperation. Key problems remain in the frameworks of internal reform processes, hindered by the political elites that do not want to give up on their monopolies of power, while the creation of society of democratic values requires precisely that.
It is clear that the perspective of further rapprochement of Montenegro to EU will greatly depend on the dynamics of solving the internal issues within the European Union. Still, this must not serve as an excuse for an obvious erosion of reforms in Montenegro. We cannot affect what is going on in the EU, but the success of reforms in Montenegro, or lack thereof, depends on the decision-makers in Montenegro, their commitment and responsibility, which are quite lacking at the moment. Based on their political decisions, political elites prove on daily basis that they are essentially not prepared to implement the necessary reforms in order to develop the society. Clear indicators are the state of public debt which exceeds the standards of EU, deep and long-lasting political crisis, accumulation of social and economic problems, initiation of broad-scale reforms without clear strategies, ever-visible fight for particular interests and more open neglect of public interest, and etc.
Hence, today’s day in Montenegro should not come as just a review of 60 years of EU, but as an analysis of what Montenegro can do better and differently so that it doesn’t lose the support of EU. That support is currently more of an encouragement than a commendation for the results that have been achieved, which are still hard to identify, while the times of “box-ticking of technical obligations” are passing. Finally, if EU wants to continue developing and strengthening, it should provide more effective support to the necessary political and other reforms in Montenegro, with more direct indication of problems which citizens face on a daily basis, which basically have an unequal treatment before the law and all other privileged.
Ana Nenezić, programme coordinator