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Post-Referendum Montenegro and the EU
With the resolution of the status issue in 2006, the relationship between the EU and Montenegro took up a distinct course, in which the EU’s conditionality mechanisms have proven to be the major driver of domestic political and institutional change. In fact, the stipulation of reciprocal mechanisms between Montenegro and the EU has revealed the power of both the EU’s conditionality and of broader forces in operation in the Western Balkans under the aegis of Europeanization. From the perspective of the aspiring members, the process of Europeanization primarily refers to the socialization into Europe through ‘processes of (a) construction (b) diffusion and (c) institutionalization of formal and informal rules, procedures, policy paradigms, styles, “ways of doing things” and shared beliefs and norms which are first defined and consolidated in the making of EU decisions and then incorporated in the logic of domestic discourse, identities, political structures and public policies’.
The EU and Montenegro, 2000-2006
Since 1999, most of the stabilization initiatives in the Western Balkans have been realized under the aegis of the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP), aimed at assisting the Western Balkan countries in meeting the criteria of EU membership. The conditionality of European integration envisaged in SAP introduced a paradigm for domestic institutional reform, through its pressure on the post-Yugoslav countries. The SAP envisaged the political, financial, logistical and professional assistance through trade liberalization, financial assistance and the signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAA). Hence, the export of European values through the conditionality of the EU accession process has largely been perceived as an impetus for internal institutional reform in the countries of the Western Balkans.
The EU and Montenegro, 1997-2000
The aftermath of the conflict period in the Balkans brought about a shift in the EU’s approach to the common foreign policy, which increasingly became the ‘silent disciplining power on the “near abroad”’. Still, unlike the hard military power and coercive mechanisms ensuring compliance often used by the US throughout the 1990s, European foreign policy primarily involved the export of EU norms and values as a means of stabilizing the fragile Western Balkan region. This process was initiated immediately after the signature of the Dayton-Paris Agreement ending the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but did not gain momentum until the post-Nice period. The contextualization of the EU’s approach to the region was of particular significance in Montenegro, which, after 1997, embarked on a distinct political course marked not only by domestic political polarization but also by detachment from the FRY institutions.
This text looks at the transformation of the role of the European Union (EU) in Montenegro. It argues that the changing political context in the region induced shifts in the EU’s approach to the smallest of the post-Yugoslav states. In supporting this argument, the chapter first looks at the EU’s approach to Montenegro in the first years after the disintegration of Yugoslavia, when Montenegro was a constituent state of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and when the ruling Montenegrin elites were associated with Slobodan Milošević. The text further argues that the first significant relational shift between Montenegro and the EU occurred in 1997, when the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) split in two. The fact that the DPS faction, who remained in power in Montenegro, opposed the regime in Belgrade induced a more favourable approach from the EU towards the republic.