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Popa: The potential exists, utilise it and seize the moment

“The geopolitical changes following Russia’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine have opened a unique opportunity for Montenegro. Expansion is at the top of the European Commission’s agenda,” said the EU Ambassador to Montenegro Oana Cristina Popa during a press conference held at Europe House on the topic of the adoption of the European Commission’s Annual 2023 Report on Montenegro.

She also commented on the new Growth Plan presented by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, emphasising its potential to double Montenegro’s economy within a decade. The prerequisite for obtaining these funds, as Popa stated, is not only commitment but also the implementation of all necessary reforms.

Reflecting on the European Commission’s Report this year on Montenegro, the Ambassador highlighted the urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the electoral legislation, voting and candidacy rights, transparency, dispute resolution mechanisms, and the supervision of financing and media campaign activities.

The report mentions political tensions and polarisation and the failure to build a consensus on key issues of national interest. This has affected the proper functioning of all institutions, slowing down the decision-making process and the implementation of reforms.

There has been no progress in judicial reforms. The judicial system continues to grapple with a deep institutional crisis, resulting in weak leadership and management, a lack of strategic vision, and poor planning, which affects the country’s ability to deliver justice.

“Montenegro has not sufficiently improved its legislative and strategic framework for the prevention and fight against corruption,” Popa said.

She added that there is still some progress to be done since several cases of high-level corruption are currently under investigation.

Regarding the fight against organised crime, the Ambassador noted that the EU welcomes the vigorous actions by of the Special Prosecutor’s Office in several high-profile cases, which appear to indicate a deep infiltration of corruption and organised crime into state structures, including the highest levels of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies.

The Ambassador welcomed some of the progress in areas such as: Intellectual Property Rights, Science and Research, Transport Policy, Foreign, Security, and Defence Policy.

She called on all political actors to use this report and its recommendations as a clear roadmap for future action.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the potential exists, utilise it and seize the moment. Your children and grandchildren will thank you for it. As a first step, we need to see the swift appointment of a Chief Negotiator and a fully functioning negotiating structure with working groups for all chapters, which can stimulate all the necessary reforms and legislative plans,” concluded Popa.