UPDATE - Montenegro ready to move to final stage of EU integration: Belgian foreign minister

UPDATE - Montenegro ready to move to final stage of EU integration: Belgian foreign minister

Montenegro reached important milestone, ‘progress now allows Montenegro to proceed with the provisional closer of the remaining chapters,’ says Hadja Lahbib

ADDS REMARKS FROM VON DER LEYEN, JOSEP BORRELL

By Talha Ozturk

BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) - Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said Wednesday that Montenegro is ready to move to the final stage of EU integration.

"The Montenegrin government has adopted key laws and reforms, the strategic necessity to meet to entering benchmarks of chapters 23 and 24," Lahbib said after the 16th accession conference with Montenegro.

She said the EU recognized Montenegro's achievements.

"The country has reached an important milestone by meeting the rule of law entering benchmarks. This progress now allows Montenegro to proceed with the provisional closer of the remaining chapters," she added.

Oliver Varhelyi, the EU commissioner responsible for enlargement and neighborhood, described it as a historic moment.

"Today, we have witnessed Montenegro moving forward finally on its journey towards its EU membership. We will open the final phase of our negotiations with Montenegro. This is the final phase of accession negotiations meaning that accession is immediate," said Varhelyi.

Montenegro's Prime Minister Milojko Spajic said his country has waited the full 11 years for the result.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she had a very good meeting with Spajic.

''The IGC's (Intergovernmental Conference) endorsement of the rule of law benchmarks is a significant milestone on Montenegro's EU journey. Keep up the momentum,'' she said.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that Tuesday is a crucial day for Montenegro's EU accession process.

''We value Montenegro's full alignment with the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy,'' said Borrell.

After declaring independence in 2006, Montenegro made its official membership application to the EU in December 2008 and received "candidate country" status in December 2010.

Montenegro started accession negotiations on June 29, 2012, and is expected to become the next member of the EU.

The country, which signed the first official document with NATO (Partnership for Peace Framework Document) on Dec. 14, 2006, received the status of NATO's 29th member on June 5, 2017.


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