Montenegro

Protection of competition and state aid control are crucial for the EU path

Competition policy has one of the most important places in the EU accession process, because its effective implementation contributes to the improvement of the economy, development and growth of companies, enhanced investment in research and development of new products, attracting new investment and increasing production and exports,  this was one of the key conclusions of the participants in the international conference entitled “Negotiations in the field of competition policy and state aid: lessons learned and future challenges”.

The conference also concluded that effective protection of competition is one of the key measures of progress in economic reforms – a determinant of the quality of the overall economic environment established in the country, which includes the quality of the implemented regulatory reforms – whereby modern economic system is assessed – represents a functioning market economy.

Minister of Economy, Ms Dragica Sekulić, reminded that Chapter 8 was opened on 30 June  this year, and that this was the most complex chapter in the EU accession process.

“It is very important that all companies have the same starting points, that there are no privileged ones and that the same rules apply to all companies, private or state-owned. Only in that way is it possible to create a healthy investment framework and a healthy economy, ” Ms Sekulić said.

President of the Montenegrin Pan-European Union, Professor Gordana Đurović, assessed that the negotiating Chapter 8 – competition policy – was recognized as very sensitive and one of the most important “economic” chapters in the negotiations on accession to the Union.

“The sensitivity of competition policy also stems from the conflict between two basic concepts – the concept of preserving companies of national importance, especially in a crisis that has the characteristics of “force majeure”, such as the one in 2009 and 2020, and the loss of the determinant “national” when it comes to about a market of 450 million inhabitants, where it is necessary to encourage market mechanisms and fair competition, “Ms Đurović said.

She explained that it was not possible to expect the country to fully take over and implement all the acquis in this area at the very beginning of the negotiation process, but she also pointed out that this did not mean that the implementation of competition policy and state aid could be delayed any further, even after achieving full membership.

Ms Đurović emphasized that the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic had forced European countries to temporarily repeal state aid rules for companies of national interest, where the main reason was the depth of the crisis and the phenomenon of locking the world’s economies, especially the tourism and travel sectors.

Chief negotiator and head of the Office for European Integration, Mr Aleksandar Drljević, emphasized that in 2013 Montenegro “received five initial measures under this chapter, while for all other chapters it received a total of 17 initial measures, which clearly shows the scope of the requirements Montenegro had to meet”.

“I would like to emphasize the importance of implementing policy in the areas covered by this chapter, especially for the improvement of the economy, development and growth of companies, improvement of investment in research and development of new products, attracting new investment, increasing production and exports, which is why it is considered one of the most demanding negotiation chapters which is always the last chapter to be opened and closed “, Mr Drljević pointed out.

He reminded that Montenegro was facing a demanding period of intensifying the dynamics of the entire negotiation process, especially in the area of the rule of law, and that only a proactive inter-institutional approach could contribute to the achievement of a common goal.

The Dean of the Faculty of Economics, University of Montenegro, Professor Nikola Milović, said that the competition policy, in relation to what Montenegro created when it started the accession process, had to go through certain phases.

“These phases are very visible, and in these phases one can see the remarkable progress that has been made in that area. It is not a coincidence that the EU has eventually opened the Chapter concerning competition policy, and it is no coincidence that Chapter 8 is so important for the EU itself”,  Professor Milović states.

He pointed out that competition policy could not be subject of negotiations, stating that there were clearly defined rules that had to be respected.

Exchanging views and experiences, the panelists agreed that in the coming period the greatest attention would be paid to strengthening administrative capacities of the competent institutions for competition policy and state aid control, in order to ensure an appropriate balance of results and fully provide equal and fair conditions to all participants on national markets.

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