BRUSSELS: Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on Thursday supported that European Union accession talks on Montenegro but raised concerns over corruption issues in the Balkan country.
The European Council previously granted Montenegro an EU candidate country status, which was welcomed by the Foreign Affairs Committee as well. MEPs said that accession talks may begin this year.
The Foreign Affairs Committee welcomed the general consensus on the integration of Montenegro to the EU and praised in particular the work done on finalizing Montenegro's legal and constitutional framework.
The draft resolution on Montenegro was approved by a large majority as 62 MEPs voted in favor with 3 against and 3 abstentions. However, they also voiced concerns, particularly about corruption, organized crime, discrimination and curbs on media freedom in the country.
"Corruption is still prevalent in many areas, especially in the construction, privatization and public procurements sector," the MEPs' draft resolution remarked.
The Parliament urged Montenegro's government to improve the track record of investigations and prosecutions, and to change the legislative framework for financing political parties and electoral campaigns.
In addition, the MEPs demanded more international cooperation to combat significant issues in the Balkan country such as organized crime, money laundering and smuggling.
The Committee also expressed concern in regards to women's treatment in Montenegro as they "continue to be under-represented in decision-making processes and in leading positions both in public administration and private businesses."
Finally, MEPs said they were especially troubled by reported cases of intimidation and violence against journalists and civil society activists, and called for these to be investigated and prosecuted.
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