With support from the ALDE Party, the Liberal Party of Montenegro (LPM) and Liberal Southeast European Network (LIBSEEN) organised a regional conference and roundtable discussion Towards a Liberal Approach to the EU Enlargement Policy from 27-28 February 2020.
The event gathered leaders from the region and ALDE Party in Podgorica, as well as Montenegrin politicians and civil society.
Roundtable speakers included ALDE Party President Hans Van Baalen, ALDE Party Vice-President Ilhan Kyuchyuk MEP, Liberal International Vice-President Emil Kirjas, Naša Stranka Presidency member Velida Repovac Nikšić and Liberal Party of Montenegro Leader Andrija Popović. LIBSEEN President Roman Jakič acted as moderator for the roundtable discussion. The Montenegrin Chief EU Negotiator appointed by the Government of Montenegro, Aleksandar Drljević, also participated as a keynote speaker.
Key messages inlcuded how the new methodology presented by the European Union will accelerate the process of enlargement, and secure an even more intense dialogue with the European Commission.
“The EU needs to uphold strict criteria for membership, and these should not block the enlargement process but rather improve it for the Western Balkans countries - this is what liberals stand for“, said Mr van Baalen.
Mr Kyuchyuk added “it is strategically right for Montenegro to be a respected member of NATO, but I would emphasize it is also a state that protects minority rights, has empowered the civic sector and respects human rights.“
Mr Jakič stated “Liberal cooperation within the Western Balkans region is of vital importance for the European future of the area. In this regard, LIBSEEN is a key stakeholder and interlocutor connecting the region’s liberal parties and national governments with their counterparts from other parts of Europe. As a result of our work, the Western Balkans region is today one of the top three priorities set by the European Commission.”
Mr Popović, LPM Party Leader, said “Montenegro demonstrated improvements in many areas, especially in those that involve a struggle with high-profile criminals, corruption and empowerment of the judiciary. Despite the rise of the right-wing politics and nationalistic parties, the country embraced a massive set of reforms.” He also confirmed that the LPM will continue to support such an agenda from the Government of Montenegro and that our friends in Brussels know to appreciate it.
On the occasion of the conference, a delegation from ALDE Party met with officials from Montenegro including Milo Đukanović, President of Montenegro and Ivan Brajović, President of the Parliament of Montenegro.
Meeting with President Đukanović was an opportunity for ALDE Party President Hans van Baalen to send a strong message that Montenegro has done significant work in justifying its role as a regional leader. He added that Montenegro and the Liberal Party of Montenegro will have the unwavering support of all liberals in Europe, the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission. President Đukanović welcomed the new, geopolitical approach of the new Brussels administration.
In discussion with Mr Brajović, it was emphasised that dialogue is essential for strengthening partnerships and exchanging experiences, that enlargement policy is the best EU policy and that support for such policy is expected from MEPs. As the only group that has brought together all actors and launched a dialogue on further enlargement, ALDE will have a reliable partner in both Montenegro and the region, LPM representatives said.
The LIBSEEN conference is one of the most significant international events to have taken place in Podgorica, Montenegro, gathering prominent leaders from ALDE, LIBSEEN, Liberal International and regional liberal parties. Before the official opening of the conference, LIBSEEN organised a Steering Committee meeting, during which statutory changes were adopted; new members from Serbia - Movement of Free Citizens and Nova stranka (eng. New Party) - have been accepted. Members of the Steering Committee also supported an initiative from young liberals to revitalise ISEEL, the Network of Young Liberals from the Balkans.