Co-operation and communication among Horizontal Facility partners, all beneficiaries and civil society is a crucial element in supporting Montenegro in further aligning with European standards. Through successful implementation of the Joint EU-Council of Europe Programme “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey”, citizens have received tangible benefits. This was a key conclusion of the third Beneficiary Steering Committee Meeting of the Joint Programme that concluded in Podgorica today taking stock of the results of the programme over the past three years.
Ivan Ivanisevic, Director General for Multilateral Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed gratitude to the Council of Europe Programme Office in Podgorica and to the Delegation of the EU for supporting Montenegro in strengthening of institutional capacities in key areas. „We are committed to respecting the values and principles on which the Council of Europe and the European Union are based. As a Council of Europe member state and on its path towards EU membership, Montenegro is strongly committed to further respect and strengthen democratic institutions, transparency, the rule of law and human rights”, he concluded.
“The parthership between the Council of Europe and the European Union has proven to be key to support in the national reform of the judiciary since the beginning of this process“, said Pilar Morales, Head of the Programming Department, Office of the Directorate General of Programmes of the Council of Europe. “Thanks to the Horizontal Facility’s embedded flexibility, we were able to quickly respond to the newly identified needs on the ground: over 2018 and 2019 we have been engaged in supporting the reform of the institutions in charge of anti-money laundering, while Montenegro made good use of the Expertise Coordination Mechanism, for example in the legislation on life partnership of same sex persons”, she added.
Audrone Urbonaviciute, Deputy Head of Co-operation of the Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro underlined that “the European Union and the Council of Europe work hand-in-hand to ensure that the rule of law and human rights are upheld in practice and we are happy to see good co-operation from Montenegrin authorities”. As she said, “over the past 3 years, our joint programme has delivered results important for the Montenegrin citizens, such as improved prison systems and better rights of inmates, more tolerant school environments and more effective anti-corruption laws and measures. We are in the final stage of negotiation of the second phase of this programme where we would like to see more commitment and concrete results in the field.”
All achievements of Horizontal Facility projects lead towards faster justice for citizens and judgments of high quality, based on European standards and the case-law of the Strasbourg Court. The quality of judicial decisions in Montenegro has been improved and the Constitutional Court issued two important judgments in 2017 and 2018, while for the first time 13 judges were promoted under the new transparent system of promoting judges and prosecutors based on a professional performance assessment.
Progress has been made in Montenegro towards preventing conflicts of interest by ensuring that Parliament, the judiciary and the police have ethical guidelines and can apply them, as also recognised by the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body, Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). Additionally, the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption applied a newly developed methodology during the local elections in 2018, which helped detect irregularities in electoral campaign funding.
Representatives of the beneficiary institutions directly involved in the implementation of this programme, such as the Constitutional and the Supreme Court, the Supreme State Prosecution, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, of Justice and of Education, the Police Administration, the Anti-Corruption Agency and the University of Montenegro, took part in the event.The three-year Horizontal Facility programme runs from May 2016 to May 2019; it aims to assist authorities in the South-East Europe in achieving greater compliance with European standards in the following key areas: ensuring justice, fighting economic crime, as well as combating discrimination and protecting rights of vulnerable groups. In Montenegro, EUR 4.22 million have been allocated for six projects, covering all the key areas of the Horizontal Facility.