Statements by European officials with indicated deadlines for action regarding the election of four judges of the Constitutional Court clearly indicate how far Montenegro has moved away from the European agenda and how seriously decision-makers should take the messages of the European Union. This is supported by clear warnings and most explicit messages to date from the EU address, which should be the last warning to our political actors indicating that they are the ones obstructing the EU integration process and that they must finally act in the interests of the citizens of Montenegro, instead of narrowly partisan ones. Moreover, the unblocking of institutions is a national priority and decision-makers must see it as such, because Montenegro has many candidates with professional knowledge and moral qualifications for the Constitutional Court judges.
It is everyone’s responsibility that Montenegro quickly emerges from the crisis and fulfills the conditions for membership, and we call on the majority in the Parliament to initiate a dialogue on the process of electing the Constitutional Court judges, and the President to respect the position of the majority and give a mandate for the composition of the Government.
The first step in this direction must be the election of judges of the Constitutional Court, so that all disputed legal solutions can undergo the necessary verification. It was said that Montenegro should complete the composition of the Constitutional Court by the end of January at the latest, that is, choose the missing four judges. We must be aware that even the election of one judge does not mean unblocking of the Court. In these circumstances, bearing in mind the rigid rules for the election of judges of the Constitutional Court, and party competition for the “political court”, it is necessary to elect judges with authority who will be independent in their work, and Montenegro has many candidates who possess professional and moral qualifications for that position.
Montenegro has already been negotiating for twice as long as the countries that last joined the European Union (Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania) and we have still not managed to come close to meeting the temporary benchmarks in Chapters 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights) and 24 (justice, freedom and security), and thereby “unfreeze” negotiations in all other areas. It is clear that we have already lost precious time during these “marathon negotiations”. Following optimistic announcements of the Government that it would do everything to obtain the final benchmarks for Chapters 23 and 24 by the end of the year, due to the inability of the political elites to rise above their personal and party interests, Montenegro received a warning from the highest European officials that the EU could consider stopping the negotiations process as early as January or February.
In addition, the European Commission assessed this year, as well as in previous years, that limited progress has been achieved in Chapters 23 and 24. It is clear that it is necessary to first strengthen efforts in fulfilling those conditions. Although plenary sessions were held for working groups to prepare and conduct negotiations for Chapters 23 and 24, as well as a number of thematic sessions for working group 24, more intensive work of these groups would contribute to the accelerated implementation of the European agenda.
Milan Radović, CA program director