RAD talks with Slaven Radunovic, Chairman of the Committee for European Integration in the Assembly of Montenegro

Dear Slaven, what could be described as the greatest achievement of the Committee for European Integration (over which you are currently presiding) in 2013?

The Committee for European Integration monitors and evaluates the course of Montenegro’s negotiations with the EU, providing opinions on Government’s negotiating positions, as well as the work of the negotiating team. Mission of the Committee for European Integration is to make the negotiating process as close to the citizens of Montenegro as it is possible, and to act in their best interest. Our key achievement of 2013 is Committee’s conclusion that the Assembly of Montenegro should adopt a document that will define the relationship between the Government and the Parliament in the accession negotiations, thus specifying the role of the Committee (to which the Assembly has already transferred nearly all of its powers in the process).

After a long and constructive discussion, a Resolution was adopted on the way, the quality and the dynamic of the integration process of Montenegro to the European Union. Epilogue to the discussions, which were led at the Committee meetings and vote in plenary, is an agreement that all final opinions on negotiating positions will be presented by our committee.

As a major activity of the Committee which we introduced last year, I would single out public hearings, organized before the meetings at which negotiating positions are considered. They bring together representatives of all social structures, and have the effect of suggestions and proposals for intervention on the proposed draft negotiating position. This is our contribution to the wider public involvement in this important process.

Do you feel that the public recognizes the role that the Assembly has in the European integration process of Montenegro?

I think it is recognized. We have done a lot to provide the Parliament – as an institution in which representatives of the citizens of Montenegro are seated – well-deserved place in the integration process of the country. Of course, the Government is the one doing the negotiating, but it is chosen and supervised by the Assembly, with which comes a great responsibility.

Starting from the fact that the process of wholly integrating one country into the European Union is long and dynamic, and that it is made out of reforming various segments of society, with adoption and implementation of European standards and values as its final aim, and that the integration process implies the involvement and full contribution of all structures of society, as well as participants in the reform process, the Committee, as I already mentioned, introduced the practice of organizing public debates that bring together all interested structures of society in order to provide suggestions and commentaries to negotiations chapters without revealing the details contained in the draft negotiating positions. We are also present in social networks: on Twitter - @EUOdborCG and on Facebook - Odbor za evropske integracije Skupstine Crne Gore.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your work? 

The biggest challenge are, of course, short deadlines provided for the analysis of negotiating positions, especially if we take into account the conditions of using those documents, since they are marked as confidential. Access to documents is granted to MPs, which have signed the statement of confidentiality of data; at the same time, from the parliamentary staff only the Committee’s secretary can attend the meetings. On several occasions, as Chairman, I have tried to lift the mark of secrecy from parts of negotiating positions that do not necessarily have to be kept secret. This would undoubtedly gain access to quality and a more comprehensive analysis.

Where and how – objectively – can other actors help, and above all, civil society?

The point of public debate about which I spoke, among other things, is the inclusion of civil society in the process of negotiations. Within their field of expertise they can provide suggestions and thus greatly contribute to the integration process. Also, civil sector presents an important source of information and advice representing various interests and views of citizens (ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities and others), or specific issues (environmental protection, education, gender equality, etc.) Finally, its importance lies in the fact that the overall flexibility of relations between citizens and civil society opens up the possibility for improving policies and common resolution of contentious issues.

Since you're not someone who was “born into politics” - How to improve the image of politics and politicians?

As someone who comes from the world of business, I have learned that measurable results come only from serious, hard work, patience and innovation. In this way I approach my current profession. Meaning – seriousness, responsibility, sound assessment of one’s relations, capabilities and capacities – let that be my formula for a better image of politicians. Given that politicians’ work is always directed towards winning the trust of citizens, the trust that was gained must be justified.