Thursday, July 23, 2009

Montenegro makes next step on European path: Commissioner

(PODGORICA) - Montenegro on Wednesday made another important step towards its membership in the European Union, the bloc's enlargement commissioner said after handing in a questionnaire to the Balkans country's officials.

"The questionnaire is an important part of becoming a member of the EU," Olli Rehn said at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and most top officials.

"It will aid the European Commission to prepare an objective and fair assessment of Montenegro's readiness to assume all the relevant obligations of EU membership," he said.

Montenegro in December submitted an official application for EU membership, hoping to obtain candidate status next year and open accession talks by 2011.

The tiny former Yugoslav republic with 650,000 inhabitants in 2007 signed a trade agreement with the EU, a first formal step on a long path towards full membership.

The Stabilisation and Association Agreement was signed only a year after Montenegro separated from Serbia and proclaimed independence.

"Today's handing over of the questionnaire is a yet another milestone on (Montenegro's) European path," Rehn said.

"I think that Montenegro is in fact a very good example of a small country succeeding in European integration," he added.

Djukanovic promised that Montenegro would prepare valid answers to more than 2,000 questions related to its readiness to reach European standards.

Rehn came to Podgorica from Belgrade where he reaffirmed Brussels' commitment to Serbia's eventual EU membership.

The EU enlargement chief was to continue his Western Balkans tour on Thursday by visiting Macedonia and Bosnia.