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CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY 22.06.2010
Mr. Secretary General,
Honourable Members of Parliamentary Assembly,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am greatly honoured to address this distinguished Chamber as Prime Minister of Montenegro, the youngest member state of the Council of Europe, but the state with a long history and tradition. I thank the President of the Parliamentary Assembly Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu for this prestigious invitation. I take this opportunity to offer my congratulations on his assuming this important office at a time of formidable challenges for Europe and the whole world. This is also a time of radical reform of the oldest political pan-European organization in order to ensure that against the backdrop of new European and world architecture it can reaffirm its role and continue its key contribution in promoting fundamental European values – in particular human rights and the rule of law. I am particularly grateful to President Çavuşoğlu that Montenegro was among the first countries he visited during his recent tour of the region. We see this as an important recognition for the Montenegro’s efforts and the achievements in building the functional democracy. Also, in promoting European values in our region.
I pay tribute to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland for his extraordinary effort and dynamic activities he has been pursuing with success towards strengthening and upgrading the role of the Council of Europe, as well as enhancing its partnership and synergy with the EU. Likewise with the OSCE and the UN. We see this as an unavoidable framework for enhancing the security and safety across the continent by strengthening the rule of law, human rights and freedoms.
I am particularly pleased that my visit to Strasbourg takes place in the year of the 60th Anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights. Also at a time of Macedonian chairmanship of the CoE Committee of Ministers. This, too, confirms a general progress made by all our countries and the whole Western Balkans towards our shared European and Atlantic goals.
Montenegro has restored her statehood four years ago in a referendum held to the highest democratic standard. At that point Montenegro proved able to successfully promote European democratic standards in the region and continued to do so in the post-referendum period, too. We are pleased that the partnership with the Council of Europe, established in that process, especially through the engagement of the Venice Commission, has been continued and enhanced. Montenegro is today seen as an example of success of the European policy in Southeast Europe, a country of good news, an unavoidable factor of regional stability. These are just some assessments made by highest European officials. Our political stability has been strengthened in the wake of the recent local elections. We have strengthened the interethnic harmony and inter-religious and multi-cultural dialogue. We have intensified systemic reforms, making possible harmonious functioning and division between the legislative, executive and judiciary powers and an increasing role of local self-governments.
We are committed to building a civic society to the European standard. We are intensifying efforts to strengthen institutions and the rule of law, which is a precondition for more visible results in fighting corruption and organized crime. Also for more efficient enforcement of the legislation adopted.
We have preserved macro-economic stability even against the backdrop of the economic and financial crisis. Last year we had a very good tourist season. We also remained the leader in the region and among the leading countries in Europe in foreign direct investment per capita. Around 80% of FDIs came from the EU member states. This positive trend has continued throughout the first part of this year, too. We have completed preparations to start implementation of large-scale projects in the fields of infrastructure, energy and tourism, which will give an additional momentum to the economic development of the country. I take this opportunity to thank the Council of Europe Development Bank for its financial support to social welfare projects in Montenegro.
Within our capabilities we are an active member of the global coalition contributing to seeking response to the present day global challenges.
We have made a dynamic progress on the path of European and Atlantic integration. As of last December our citizens enjoy a visa-free travel to the Schengen zone countries. After establishing the first contractual relationship with the EU two and a half years ago Montenegro is today a potential candidate country. It is likely that by the end of this year it will make a further step forward – get a candidate status and a green light to start accession negotiations with the EU. We have submitted credible and timely answers to the EC Questionnaire. The Stabilization and Association Agreement, after its ratification in the 27 EU member states, has come into force on 1 May. A few days ago a constituent session of the EU-Montenegro Stabilization and Association Council was held in Luxembourg. The messages of the recent high-level EU-West Balkan meeting in Sarajevo have reaffirmed the commitment of Brussels to the enlargement policy and full integration of the region in the EU. They represent a significant encouragement for Montenegro and all our neighbours. It is true that political elites in the states of the region should pursue reform primarily in the interest of their citizens. However, a positive response of the EU promoting progress of states in accordance with their performance is helping us to work better, harder and faster. That is why we believe that it is vital to keep the momentum of the process. We expect fair conditions and objective evaluation of the progress of each country individually.
Full membership of NATO is a key priority for Montenegro. From the perspective of the Government of Montenegro, integration in NATO is in the first place the guarantee of lasting stability of the region. Democratically and economically developed Western Balkans, firmly integrated in the EU and NATO is equally in the best interest of the region and of the EU (and even beyond – of the Mediterranean). This is the formula for a lasting stabilization of the Western Balkans and an enduring contribution to European and global security.
Montenegro has over a very short time made notable results towards NATO. In December 2009 Montenegro joined the Membership Action Plan, the ante-chamber of NATO. Last week at the North-Atlantic Council meeting in Brussels we have finalized the two-year cycle of IPAP, the Individual Partnership Action Plan. We are working hard to develop the Annual National Programme and this autumn our first annual cycle under the MAP will get under way. As of March 2010 the first contingent of the Montenegrin Army, within the Hungarian contingent, is taking part in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan in the German-led Regional Command North.
These and other results are largely due to an extraordinary cooperation and partnership with the Council of Europe, which has been present in Montenegro throughout the last decade, its presence starting much before Montenegro became an independent and internationally recognized state. Montenegro became a full member of the EU on 11 May 2007. In all the structures of the Montenegrin society this act is viewed as one giving strong momentum to democratic and overall development of Montenegro, as well as achievement of our strategic goals. We unequivocally base our policy on the principles and values of the Council of Europe and we advocate a constructive dialogue and cooperation with all the member states of this organization conducive to promoting democracy, the rule of law and economic stability and development.
We believe that our results to date confirm firm determination and readiness of the Government to efficiently implement the commitments resulting from the Council of Europe membership. To this end the Government adopted the 2008-2010 Action Plan for Cooperation in the Post-Accession Period. The Action Plan reflects a coherent approach to cooperation with the Council of Europe and defines activities and responsibilities of competent departments and institutions. 73 conventions have been ratified to date. Only one mandatory convention is yet to be signed and three CoE conventions to be ratified. We are pleased to hear assessments of relevant representatives of the Council of Europe that Montenegro is leading in terms of speed of fulfilment of undertaken commitments. However, just as in the case of EU and NATO integration, the position of the Government is that quality is more important than speed, the membership of the Council of the Europe was not the goal in itself, but above all a mechanism of transformation of the whole society in order to achieve as early as possible the living standard for 21st century European citizen.
Concrete support of the Council of Europe, the reports and recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly and of expert committees have been of great importance for further development of a democratic, civic and reform-oriented society in Montenegro. Cooperation of Montenegro with the Council of Europe covers many areas, including: support to the parliamentary institutions, bringing the electoral legislation in line with the Constitution, build-up of the local-self government, programmes related to and reforms of the judiciary, education and the media, development of a reliable and functioning penitentiary system based on respect of fundamental human rights and standards, development of a reliable and efficient police service, strengthening fight against all forms of crime and corruption, promoting equality, tolerance and peace - equal rights and treatment for the RAE population, access to documents for Roma and other displaced persons, preservation of cultural and natural heritage...
Cooperation with the Venice Commission, whose expert opinions have significantly contributed to the quality of legislation in Montenegro, has a special importance in further advancement of the democratic standards achieved to date in the Montenegrin society. In 2009 Council of Europe provided expert opinions on eight laws. The most recent example is drafting of the new electoral legislation, which will, inter alia, improve representation of minority peoples in the Parliament.
Respect and promotion of human rights and of the rule of law is our enduring obligation. Cooperation with the Commissioner for Human Rights plays an important part in this process and his report provides important guidelines towards furthering activities in the field of protection of human rights and freedoms.
Cooperation with the European Court for Human Rights is of great importance, too, as Montenegro views the Court as the pinnacle of legal protection for the citizens of Europe. Through our state agent, the case law and practice of this Court have become more easily accessible to our judiciary. We strongly support reform of the European Court for Human Rights and we welcome introduction of case screening methods aimed at improving efficiency in line with the Interlaken Declaration. This can best be achieved by building a stable legal framework and strengthening independent judiciary at national levels. In this process the expertise and an intensive support of the Council of Europe are indispensable.
Over the past period we have undertaken activities to strengthen independence and autonomy of the courts. We have developed the legislative framework and improved material and technical conditions for the work of judges. This has brought about an improved efficiency, as evidenced by a 76.19% reduction of backlog from previous years.
In strengthening independence and capacity of the judiciary, Montenegro finds very important the implementation of the PROSECO project assisting Prosecutors' Network in South-Eastern Europe, as well as the Council of Europe project on cyber crime and the project on Training of Judges and State Prosecutors.
Montenegro has achieved notable results in fighting corruption and preventing money laundering and financing of terrorism. According to the Compliance Report (adopted in December 2008), Montenegro had implemented 66.6% of GRECO recommendations (16 out of 24) from the report on the I and II evaluation round, while 8 recommendations had been partly implemented. In March 2009 the MONEYVAL report of the Council of Europe experts was adopted on the third round of detailed evaluation of Montenegro in regard of prevention of money laundering and financing of terrorism, which evaluates compliance with international standards in this field. 41 out of 49 recommendations were implemented (or 83.67%). The 2010 report has taken note of Montenegro's further progress.
As a matter of principle Montenegro supports all activities aimed at strengthening the convention system, protection of human rights and freedoms as the foundations of the rule of law, democracy and common European identity. Since our accession to the Council of Europe we have made much headway towards adopting appropriate legislation and its aligning with the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights. We have strengthened our institutional capacity meeting the obligations in regard of the conventions of the Council of Europe and have upgraded the level of our participation in the Council of Europe bodies. The first report of the Council of Europe rapporteurs on Montenegro's Honouring of Commitments and Obligations towards the Council of Europe, adopted last April at the Plenary Session of this Parliamentary Assembly, is a clear indicator of progress Montenegro has made over the three-year period of her membership and a proof of her commitment to the goals and values of the Council of Europe. It likewise clearly indicates that we must continue with still more determination the reform process in line with the recommendations of the Report.
By adopting the new Constitution we have demonstrated that we are a politically responsible society, determined to continue upgrading Montenegro’s legal, political, economic and security system to the European standard. By taking a proactive approach, showing responsibility in fulfilling commitments undertaken on accession to the Council of Europe and accepting European principles and best practice we are proving that our strategic long-term goal and interest is to be part of the community of progressive European states and peoples. Thus, we will best demonstrate our adherence to the goals and principles of the Council of Europe. Our vision of the future is to reaffirm our allegiance to the European cultural and civilization circle through a concrete advancement in adopting and promoting European values in the best interest of our citizens.
Honourable members of the Parliamentary Assembly,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Regional cooperation and strengthening good-neighbourliness is a key priority of our policy. We have no outstanding issues with our neighbours. We believe that for Montenegro, as well as for all the countries of the region, this is the best reference for further progress in integration processes.
This year Montenegro is chairing three important regional initiatives: The Adriatic-Ionian and Central European Initiatives, as well as the South-East European Cooperation Process. This is a great honour for Montenegro, but also a huge responsibility and an opportunity to distinguish ourselves even more actively as an unavoidable factor in reinforcing regional stability. We are happy to see our neighbours succeed; we contribute to and support the policy of reconciliation and dialogue, firmly convinced that the remaining regional problems can only be resolved by diplomatic and political means.
Promoting stability, tolerance and mutual respect, sustainable economic growth and the rule of law with more efficient institutions – this is the formula for success of any state, as well as a precondition of progress. Montenegro is determined to continue to contribute to peace, stability and prosperity of the region and of Europe. I am certain that the Council of Europe has taken note of this determination and that it will continue to strongly support Montenegro's democratic reforms and her European progress.
Distinguished Members of Parliamentary Assembly,
I am confident that our responsible approach to date and in future to our obligations under our European agenda, is our best reference for further progress in our European integration. Also on this path we can count on further strengthening of our partnership with the Council of Europe, as well as the contribution of our Mission in Strasbourg and the Delegation of our Parliament to the PACE.
Thank you for your attention!