Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Montenegro and Iceland next candidates for EU membership?

In the middle of December 2008, towards the end of the French Presidency, the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, presented Montenegro’s formal application to join the EU. Enlargement Commissioner, Olli Rehn, who was in attendance said that the move marked ‘the country’s important engagement to common European values and fundamentals.’

The country declared independence from Serbia in 2006, and signed a Stabilisation and Accession Agreement in 2007. The formal application was the next step on the road towards EU membership, and the intention was to present it during the Slovenian presidency, at the beginning of the year. This plan was shelved when Brussels indicated it was too early, but current presidency holder the Czech Republic, is supportive of the move.

Montenegro has made ‘important progress’ according to Commissioner Rehn, but ‘much more work is needed, including on the rule of law and institution building.’ Progress reports adopted in December criticise the country’s slow reform and suggest accession will not take place in the near future.

Whereas all Western Balkan countries are potential candidate countries and most expect them to become EU members in the future, other countries have shown an interest in joining the union following the situation caused by the current financial crisis.

Iceland, a country that has always prided its status outside the EU, has indicated that it is considering applying for membership. The financial crisis has hit the economy hard, and Prime Minister Geir Haarde has set up a commission to consider the option of EU membership. If it decided to join, Iceland’s accession process would be relatively fast, as it is already a member of the European Economic Area, and is already fairly integrated with other EU countries.

A report on Civil Society in Montenegro, written by Masa Lekic, a recent intern in TRIALOG’s Brussels office, is going through the final editing process. It will be available on the TRIALOG website http://www.trialog.or.at/ soon.

Sources and links:
Balkan Insight: Montenegro Applies for EU Membership http://balkaninsight.com/en/main/news/15567/
BBC: Iceland ‘could apply to EU soon’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7778195.stm
EUObserver: Montenegro Files EU Membership Application http://euobserver.com/15/27301
EurActiv: Montenegro files EU Membership Bid with France

Information provided by Rebecca Steel, TRIALOG

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