Montenegro and the European Union (EU) established formal relations through the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) in July 2001. At the 2003 Thessaloniki Summit the European perspective of the Western Balkans countries was confirmed, and in July of the same year the Enhanced Permanent Dialogue was established as a regular consultation mechanism between Montenegro and the EU.
Following the referendum and the declaration of independence of Montenegro in the Parliament, the EU Council stated that it will continue developing its relations with Montenegro as an independent and sovereign country. EU member-States bilateral recognitions followed shortly afterwards.
On 15 December 2008 Montenegro submitted a request for EU membership. The Council requested the Commission on 23 April 2009 to prepare an opinion on Montenegro's request. Shortly after, on 22 July 2009, Montenegro received the European Commission Questionnaire, which contained questions from all the areas of the EU acquis communautaire, on the basis of which the Commission drafted an opinion and proposed to the Council to grant Montenegro the status of EU candidate.
European Commission Questionnaire
On 22 July 2009, the EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn presented the Questionnaire containing 2178 questions on 368 pages to Montenegro's Prime Minister Milo Đukanović.
On 9 December 2009, Prime Minister Đukanović presented the responses to the Questionnaire to Commissioner Rehn. The responses were given in 12 volumes containing 4.433 pages.
On 1 March 2010, the EU Commission's DG Enlargement submitted to the Ministry of European Integration a new set of 673 additional questions following the Questionnaire responses. Montenegrin administration successfully responded to the additional questions and submitted them to the Commission within the deadline, on 12 April 2010.
On 30 November 2009, the Council of Ministers of the European Union decided to lift visas for Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. This decision entered into force on 19 December 2009, thus introducing visa-free travel to 25 European Union countries making up the Schengen Zone, as well as three non-EU countries (Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland). This was the final outcome of a process launched in May 2008. In order for the visa regime to be removed, it was necessary to meet the key requirements in the rule of law, travel document issuance, and border safety areas.
This decision is of historic importance for Montenegrin citizens, as it enabled them to travel freely to the EU after almost two decades.
In accordance with the EU Council recommendations, Montenegro continued meeting the commitments in the area of visa liberalisation, such as capacity development in the area of legal implementation (including protection of personal data), finding solutions to the issues of displaced persons, and establishing an anti-discrimination legal framework.
Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA)
On 15 October 2007, Montenegro signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) in Luxembourg, thus establishing a legal foundation for relations with the EU. On the basis of the SAA, Montenegro has successfully developed institutional political dialogue with the EU, which is being undertaken through a joint structure for monitoring the implementation of commitments.
Following the ratification in all EU member-States, the SAA entered into force on 1 May 2010. The ratification process took two years and seven months, and in the meantime the Interim Agreement was in force, which was associated with trade and trade-related issues within the Commission remits.
The SAA is an international agreement between the signatory State and the EU which sets up a legal framework for cooperation and gradual alignment with European standards. The SAA's entry into force marked a new phase of integration, which made it formally binding on Montenegro to align its legislation with the EU acquis, as well as to align positions and policies in all areas of cooperation. The quality of SAA's implementation was one of the criteria for receiving the Commission's positive opinion as well as for receiving candidate status, launching negotiations, and the pace of the EU accession process.
The institutional framework of cooperation between Montenegro and the EU is comprised of the following bodies:
1. Stabilisation and Association Council, which monitors the SAA implementation,
2. Stabilisation and Association Committee, which aids the Council,
3. Seven Sub-committees,
4. Parliamentary Committee for Stabilisation and Association.
European Commission's Opinion
On 9 November 2010, the Commission published an Opinion in which it recommended to the Council to grant Montenegro candidate status.
The Opinion stated that the Commission is of the opinion that accession negotiations should be launched with Montenegro as soon as the required level of alignment with membership criteria is reached, and especially with the Copenhagen political criteria, which require institutional stability and the rule of law. Montenegro is encouraged to continue with its constructive role in regional cooperation and development of bilateral relations with its neighbours, as well as strengthen the administrative capacities.
Following the positive Opinion, on 17 December 2010 the European Council decided to grant Montenegro EU candidate status.
National Programme for Integration (NPI) 2008–2012
By signing the SAA, Montenegro committed to aligning its legislation with the EU acquis (art. 72 of the SAA). In order to start the preparations for new challenges and tasks as soon as possible, especially state administration preparations, the activities towards developing the programme were initiated well before the signing of the SAA. Namely, at the 21 June 2007 Cabinet meeting, the Government has decided to draft a National Programme for Integration (NPI) 2008–2012. The NPI is a national plan for alignment with the EU acquis, and a basis for reform-oriented activities and drafting of the Government work programmes.
Programme of Accession of Montenegro to the EU 2014-2018 (PPCG)
Programme of Accession of Montenegro to the EU 2014-2018 (PPCG) is a comprehensive strategic document which gives an overview of the current state of play in the country and defines the framework and pace of reforms that are needed for Montenegro's further alignment with the EU's legal system.
PPCG is an efficient model of data collection, reporting, and planning, which ensures quicker, and more concrete monitoring, coordination, and consideration of the state of play of the activities of all the participants in the negotiating process.
The document is a table containing 33 negotiating chapters and the following sections: introduction, strategic framework, legislative framework, and administrative capacities, with an overview of the current status and future measures/activities plan for harmonisation with the EU acquis, and the financial section related to the cost assessment for the implementation of all the measures/activities.
The Government adopted the Programme of Accession on 26 December 2013.