Montenegro’s Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic is optimistic about his country’s chances of receiving an invitation to join NATO in Wales at the September 2014 NATO summit. He praised US support for Montenegro’s ambition during his speech at the Atlantic Council on April 8.
Djukanovic said that his country is in an “encouraging place,” and noted that it has “fulfilled all realistic expectations” required thus far in order to be accepted as a full NATO member state. He pointed to progress made on the seven negotiating chapters that have been opened, including the chapters with the most complex requirements.
Montenegro has made progress in the consolidation of public finances after the economic downturn in 2008, and has committed to serious infrastructure and tourism projects. These indicators have led to 3 percent growth in Montenegro’s economy, despite a difficult economic climate.
Arriving at the Atlantic Council directly after talks with Vice President Joe Biden, Djukanovic’s optimism was tempered at times by a healthy display of caution. “We have not taken the easy path,” he warned.
Indeed, Djukanovic emphasized three areas in which Montenegro still faces significant challenges: solidification of the rule of law, reform of the security and defense sectors, and public education on the benefits of NATO membership.
Djukanovic stressed the importance of viewing Montenegro in the context of a wider strategic environment. The key issues at stake for Montenegro intertwine with concerns throughout the Western Balkans and beyond. Similarly, challenges faced by Montenegro’s neighbors—Bosnia-Herzegovina’s governance struggles, Macedonia’s name recognition issue, and the turbulent relationship between Serbia and Kosovo—have profound effects on the overall security and stability of the entire region.
More than anything else, Djukanovic views his role in his country as an advocate and a creator of change. He applauded the encouragement he has received from both the United States and Europe in his country’s endeavor to join NATO, but underlined the need for a concerted effort to finish the integration process started in the Balkans.
Despite a well-warranted preoccupation with the events in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, Djukanovic reminded his American counterparts that addressing instability in the Balkans is a similarly pressing issue. NATO membership for Montenegro would be a positive step towards tackling the challenges at hand.
Ultimately, he highlighted, the new generation of citizens in Montenegro have “the right to make their choice.”