Sub-areas covered in the chapter 19 are as followed: 1) Labor Law, 2) Health and safety at work, 3) Social dialogue, 4) Employment policy, 5) European Social Fund, 6) Social inclusion and protection, 7) Anti-discrimination, 8) Equal Opportunities in employment and work and 9) Equality between men and women in employment and social policy.
When was the chapter opened?
The chapter 19 Social policy and employment was opened on 13 December 2016 at the Intergovernmental Conference in Brussels. Negotiations in this chapter are ongoing.
Montenegro had one opening benchmark related to development of an action plan for the gradual transposition of the acquis and for building up the necessary capacity to implement and enforce the acquis in all areas covered by the Social Policy and Employment chapter. The benchmark was met by adoption of the Action plan for the gradual transposition of the acquis and for building up the necessary capacity to implement and enforce the acquis in all areas covered by the Chapter 19 – Social Policy and Employment.
Montenegro is working intensively to meet European standards and to create conditions for the closure of this chapter, by meeting the closing benchmarks:
1) Montenegro amends the labour law and the law on safety and health at work in order to align its legislation in the fields of labour Council of the EU law and health and safety at work with the acquis, and demonstrates that adequate administrative structures and enforcement capacity will be in place by the time of accession to implement correctly the acquis on labour law and health and safety at work, particularly through strengthening of the labour inspection system.
2) Montenegro amends the laws on non-discrimination and equality between women and men in employment and social policy in order to align its legislation in these fields with the acquis, and demonstrates that adequate administrative structures, particularly the required equality body, the Ombudsman, administrative and enforcement capacities will be in place by the time of accession.
3) Montenegro strengthens administrative capacities to ensure effective implementation and effective enforcement of all legislation and policy frameworks in the areas of employment and social policies, including planning and operational capacities, to ensure the effective dialogue between social partner organizations as well as to ensure future management of the ESF (European Social Fund).
Within the first closing benchmark, but also within the Chapter 19, the main focus was on drafting the Labor Law as the most important legal act which regulates social policy and employment issues. The Labor Law was adopted on 23 December 2019 (the Official Gazette of Montenegro, No. 74/19). This legal act has been aligned with the 14 EU Directives, as well as with the legal acts of the International Labor Organization. Work on this regulation, in intensive communication with the European Commission, lasted three years. The main goals of the law are directed to strengthening of the instruments of institutions dealing with protection of the employees’ rights, increase of flexibility in the labor market, more efficient suppression of the gray economy, additional humanization of work processes and treatment of transitional scars.
Furthermore, in June 2018, the Amendments to the Law on protection and health at work (The Official Gazette of Montenegro, No. 34/14 and 44/18) which has been aligned with the Council Directive 89/391 and Directive of the European Parliament and Council 92/57. During 2019, important bylaws in the area of safety and health at work have been adopted.
When it comes to the second closing benchmark, Montenegro has made significant efforts to implement international standards in meeting the anti-discrimination policies. With the adoption of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination, an important step was taken in dealing with the problem of discrimination. The Amendments of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination was adopted in June 2017 (The Official Gazette of Montenegro, No. 42/17). In cooperation with the European Commission and with the aim to fully comply with the new Labor Law, Montenegro works on new Amendments to the law on Prohibition of Discrimination.
Amendments to the Law on Gender Equality („The Official Gazette of Montenegro“, No. 35/15), aligned with the acquis, international agreements and other documents adopted by the UN, EU and the Council of Europe, was adopted on June, 11, 2015. The Action plan for achievement gender equality in Montenegro (2017-2021), as an important document for the implementation of the gender equality policy in Montenegro, was adopted in March 2017. Furthermore, Montenegro has developed a Gender Equality Index for the first time and it was presented on 29 January 2020 in Podgorica.
When it comes to the rights of the members of LGBTI population, the Strategy for improving the quality of life of the LGBTI persons in Montenegro 2019-2023 with the Action Plan for 2019, were adopted 2019. The Law on the Same-Sex Life Partnership was adopted on 1 July 2020.
The third closing benchmark implies to the investment of important and long-term efforts in order to adequately implement the acquis and preparation of Montenegro for the EU membership. Therefore, this benchmark requires special focus of all of the actors in the negotiating process, as well as the financial and qualitative preparations for fulfillment of this benchmark. In that regard, Montenegro continuously acts and uses possibilities of the Ipa funds. The Operational Program „Human Resource Development“ 2007-2013 was implemented with focus on promotion of sustainable development of the human resources by modernization and development of the education system, trainings and researches in Montenegro with a special focus on the employment of youth. The aim of the actual Sectoral Operational Program for Employment and Social Policies 2015-2017 (SOPEES) is, among other, strengthening of the administrative capacities in the sector of employment, education and social policies.
What are the activities in the coming period?
The focus of activities in the forthcoming period will be placed on further alignment of Montenegrin legislation with the EU acquis. Montenegro will give priority to strengthening competitiveness and social cohesion, in particular in the area of skills development at the educational level in order to create business opportunities for young people. Furthermore, Montenegro will continue to promote inclusion and active labor market measures aiming at better and easier access to the social services.
Institutions/organizations participating in the negotiation group?
The negotiator for Chapter 19 and the Head of the Working group are from the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, while the contact person for Working Group 19 is appointed from the European Integration Office.
Members of the Working Group 19 are representatives of the following institutions and organizations: the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, Parliament of Montenegro, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Transport and Maritime Affairs, Ministry for Human and Minority Rights, Agency for Peaceful Settlement of Labor Disputes, Administration for Inspection Affairs, European Integration Office, Employment Agency, Statistical Office, Labor Fund, Social Council, Confederation of Trade Unions, Union of free trade unions, Union of Employers, Chamber of Commerce, non-governmental institutions Association for Democratic Prosperity– ZID, Juventas and Association of Youth with Disabilities of Montenegro.
What are the benefits for Montenegro of this chapter?
By joining the EU, Montenegro adopts the standards on which the EU policy in this area is based, which promotes modern labor relations and social dialogue between representatives of workers and employers. The goal is to protect workers, but also to increase competitiveness. Special emphasis is placed on corporate social responsibility, through inclusion of social and environmental issues in business strategies.
The most important benefits are related to the possibility of simpler employment on the European labor market, better employment prospects for all unemployed citizens, better access to the labor market for the younger population, as well as better mechanisms of protection at work. Moreover, all member states have access to significantly higher funds from the EU budget to finance project related to social policy and employment.