Montenegro to Join the EU?
The last week has seen mixed results for European Integration in Southeast Europe. On December 17, in an event that basically missed the media, Montenegro was officially granted candidate country status. This means that it now joins Croatia, Iceland, Macedonia, and Turkey as countries negotiating to join the EU. While this is a major step forward for Montenegro’s trip towards the EU, the country still has a long ways to go. Now it must tackle the acquis or the approximately 80,000 pages of EU regulations and directives that Montenegro must now negotiate with the EU and adopt.
Unlike the other four countries that are also candidates, Montenegro does have a few things going for it that might make it easier for the country to join the EU. First of all, it is small. Despite being slightly poorer than Bulgaria, its accession in to the EU would cause less concern to Western European than other candidates like Turkey. Since Montenegro only has a population of about a half a million people, it would not appear to either pose as a large net recipient of the EU budget or be a source of a large number of immigrants.
Secondly, the country probably has the best neighborly relations in the Western Balkans. It currently does not border any EU member states. This has caused problems for Croatia, Turkey, and Macedonia, since all EU members must approve a country’s accession into the EU. This will probably change as Croatia is likely to become the 28th member of the EU in 2011, but the two appear to be course to resolving any outstanding territorial issues due to the break-up of Yugoslavia.
Finally, the country wants to join the EU. A clear majority of citizens are in favor of EU accession. While this might follow the trend of decreasing as a country must make the tough decisions to join, it also means that it might be easier for the government to make the critical reforms necessary to join the EU. After all, doubt has grown over the wisdom of joining the EU in Iceland and Turkey recently, stalling their accession processes.
Of course, Montenegro will still have to resolve many issues before joining—ranging from corruption to the environment—but at least it is not completely un uphill climb.