Montenegro's ruling Democratic Party of Socialists is poised for victory in an early parliamentary election on Sunday (14 October), according to opinion polls.
The political comeback of Milo Djukanovic, the founder of the DPS, who has dominated Montenegrin politics for two decades, is raising concerns in the European Union about the government's determination to reform.
A victory on Sunday would make the DPS the only party in the western Balkans to have remained in power without interruption since the break-up of the communist bloc two decades ago, much of it with Djukanovic as president or prime minister. Djukanovic handed over to Igor Lukšic, a young reformer, in December 2010, and it is not entirely clear what prompted his political comeback.
EU officials and diplomats, who welcomed Lukšic's appointment, are torn over political conditions in Montenegro. On the one hand, they feel that – thanks to his pragmatism and pro-EU attitude, and authority within the DPS – Djukanovic can deliver on his promises. On the other hand, they are concerned by persistent reports about organised crime and high-level corruption in the country – corruption which some say goes to the very top.
Sweden, quietly backed by France and the Netherlands, earlier this year sought to delay a decision by the member states to open accession talks, but was not prepared to block the move, and the talks were launched at the end of June. Membership negotiations are in their early ‘screening' stage, in which the two sides compare EU and national law to identify the main areas where Montenegro needs to reform.
Štefan Füle, the European commissioner for enlargement and neighbourhood policy, has said that he sees no obstacle to launching the next phase of membership negotiations in policy areas where the screening process shows a high level of convergence, possibly even before the end of the year. While highlighting issues of rule of law, an independent judiciary, corruption and organised crime, the European Commission's progress report on Montenegro released yesterday (10 October) was largely positive.