STATEMENT OF MEMBERS OF THE MONTENEGRIN EXPERT GROUP
ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND MONETARY ISSUES
At the invitation of the EU High Representative Javier
Solana, experts of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Monetary issues
of Montenegro and Serbia/FRY took part in a seminar on the key principles
of the functioning of the EU in the fields of the common/internal market,
foreign trade, customs, taxes and monetary policy.
The High Representative Javier Solana did not participate
in the seminar, although such a possibility had been announced.
The Seminar was organized in continuation of the
three rounds of talks, which resulted in the well-known differences presented
to the general public through a joint report.
The discussions were constructive and focused on
the requirements and criteria for drawing closer to the EU. It has been
generally agreed that this is a long-term process, which will take some
ten years. The EU representatives have reiterated their well-known views
regarding the option that they believe ensures a faster and more efficient
way to integration in the EU.
The representatives of Montenegro put forward arguments
backing their view that federation with Serbia is not viable. Firstly,
the high costs, i.e., a minimum of 150 million Deutsche Mark a year, which
would amount to some 1.5 billion Marks in the period until a possible membership
in the EU. Such funds are not available either at the federal level, or
from the EU. These are the costs that the citizens of Montenegro would
pay in order to maintain the federation.
In relation to the discussion on the internal market,
data have been presented regarding the exchange of goods between Montenegro
and Serbia. Montenegro sells 10.6% of its exports to Serbia, while Serbia
sells only 4.6% of its exports to Montenegro. It is evident that both Montenegro
and Serbia sell their goods and make their earnings in other markets, which
confirms a need for wider regional integrations. This is also one of the
key requirements made by the EU.
The talks also addressed the issue of customs policy.
The EU representatives have insisted on a single customs policy. Following
the explanation that the average tariff rate in Montenegro is 3% and in
Serbia it is 10.5%, that Montenegro has no need to protect its economy
by high import duties, and the fact that Montenegro has its own Customs
Law, the EU representatives did not have any additional arguments.
The Montenegrin expert team expressed its disagreement
with regard to the reservations of the EU representatives relating to the
introduction of the Euro in Montenegro since returning to the dinar and
to a single monetary policy (which would create the possibility of printing
money), would be disastrous for the economy of Montenegro. This would annul
the effects of the economic and banking reforms and slow down the restructuring
of the economy, the growth of productivity and growth of investments.
It has also been emphasized that Montenegro has already
for five years been functioning as an autonomous and independent economic
system, that many institutions indispensable for development of a market
economy have already been formed, and that key economic laws have been
The representatives of the Montenegrin delegation
insisted on a faster and stronger regional integration, emphasizing that
this is the only way for a faster economic transition and preparation for
inclusion in the EU.
The Montenegrin expert group understands that it
is the interest of the EU to start talks with Montenegro and Serbia in
one package within the FRY. However, the expert group cannot accept such
an insistence by the EU representatives, because it is not possible to
ensure an equal position for Montenegro and protection of its strategic
development interests within a federation. The EU, which was established
as a union of independent states, can provide a good model for resolving
the relationship between Montenegro and Serbia.