EU in Accession Talks With Tiny Montenegro
By SLOBODAN LEKIC Associated Press
BRUSSELS June 29, 2012 (AP)
The EU formally opened accession talks Friday with
tiny Montenegro, a move meant to reassure other countries that the 27-nation
bloc remains open for enlargement despite its deep economic crisis.
Despite the continent's debt woes, EU membership remains the goal of all Balkan
nations that have not yet joined. Croatia has just completed negotiations and is
slated to become the 28th member next year. Other western Balkans states —
Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia and Serbia — are all in various stages of the
accession process. Turkey and Iceland are also candidates.
"Even though we have an internal crisis to deal with, (this shows) that the
western Balkans have chosen the European way," said Denmark's Minister of
European Affairs Nicolai Wammen, who heads the union's rotating presidency.
Snce a nation is approved for talks, it must successfully enact EU rules and
legislation on 35 topics before it can be cleared for membership. Most topics
deal with economic issues but others cover human rights, the independence of the
judiciary and anti-corruption measures.
The EU has been suffering from "enlargement fatigue" after accepting 10 new
members in 2004 and two more in 2007. It was criticized for allowing Romania and
Bulgaria to join in 2007 despite delays in reforming their judicial systems and
combating corruption and organized crime.
In light of that, it is adopting a novel approach with Montenegro, focusing
immediately on justice and human rights issues to give the country more time to
implement judicial reforms.
Membership talks usually last about five years, but in the case of Montenegro —
which is roughly the size of Connecticut — may go faster because of its small
size. The Adriatic nation of 625,000 people is also considered a leading
candidate to join the North Atlantic treaty Organization.
During World War I, Montenegro fought with the Allies, but in 1919 it became the
only Allied country to disappear off the map when it was forcibly incorporated
into a kingdom that would later be renamed Yugoslavia. That nation broke apart
amid the wars of the early 1990s but for a time Montenegro remained united with
Serbia and Montenegro split peacefully in 2006 after Montenegro held a
referendum on independence.