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Montenegro still to pursue EU candidate bid in 2008

  Montenegro hopes to clinch a compromise deal with the European Union’s current presidency chairman France and apply for EU candidate status by the end of the year, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said on Monday.


Montenegro had considered postponing its EU candidate application until the next year when the Czech Republic takes over the EU rotating presidency from France. The Czech Republic has pledged to speed up the integration of Western Balkan countries into the 25-member bloc. “We are trying to agree on a compromise in talks with France and achieve what Montenegro has planned - to apply for a candidate status by the end of the year,” Djukanovic told reporters during a visit to neighboring Bosnia.

Djukanovic said he was against deadlines and favored working on reforms required by the EU to strengthen the Adriatic state’s weak institutions and fight corruption. But he said he was obliged to pursue goals set by the country’s policy-makers before he took office in February and to try to convince EU officials that Montenegro was stable enough to proceed on its path towards the EU integration.

“We are pleased that we have not heard our partners say Montenegro is not ready for the application,” Djukanovic said. “I believe that we shall succeed to achieve our plan through the final talks and apply by the end of 2008.” Djukanovic spoke during his first official visit to Bosnia since Montenegro ended its union with Serbia in 2006. The country has already delayed its EU application from June to December this year.

Freed from the wartime baggage of its neighbor, the state of 650,000 people signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU in 2007, the first rung on the ladder towards eventual membership of the bloc. “We have got full satisfaction after declaring independence: we have strengthened stability and came closer to our European goals,” Djukanovic said. “Montenegro has achieved social, political and macro-economic stability.” He said Montenegro was preparing an economic plan for 2009 to offset the impact of the global economic crisis and added that he hoped that economic difficulties would not stop joint development projects by Bosnia and Montenegro.

Djukanovic’s ministers have signed several agreements on cooperation with Bosnia, which its paramilitary troops fought during the Bosnian 1992-95 war. The two countries also discussed road and rail infrastructure projects that would ease travel between the two tourist destinations. (Reuters)