Sharyl Cross, Distinguished Professor, and Global Policy Scholar at the Kennan Institute Woodrow Wilson, stated at the 2BS Forum that the support to medical staff and all those on the first line of defense was crucial in order to overcome the crisis, which was exactly what the USA had provided. She reflected on the politicizing of the pandemic, as in the case of masks. The reason for this lies in communication problems, which should not happen. Even though this pandemic is not a traditional security threat, just last week it took more lives than on September 11.

Cross also reflected on the global power relations during the pandemic and concluded that the conflict between Russia and the USA was noticeable.

Marcin Kaczmarski, lecturer in Security Studies at the School of Social and Political Sciences of the University of Glasgow, said at the 2BS panel discussion that a small extent to which COVID-19 had changed the geopolitical competition in the world almost represented a paradox. According to him, the status quo is still in force.

During this pandemic, we witnessed the competition between China, Russia, and the USA, Kaczmarskisaid. He added that the powers were competing on who would handle the crisis better. When it comes to China, Kaczmarski said that the attempt to change the narrative on the pandemic in that country was visible. He emphasized that China presented itself as a country that successfully combatted the pandemic.

Mark Schapiro, Foreign Policy Advisor at the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, also took part in this panel. He said that the main goal of the USA during the pandemic was not to let the health crisis turn into a national security threat. He added that the discipline in informing was crucial in the combat against the pandemic.

The pandemic has been one of the fields that the global leaders were competing in, Schapiro said. However, he also emphasized that the competition between the countries did not imply conflict or animosity.

When it comes to the USA as a global leader, the USA is building this position on the basis of the civil-military partnership.

Schapiro also responded to the observation of Professor Kaczmarski on the global players’ competition during the pandemic. He stated that the power competition did not have to turn into confrontation, or, that it did not imply animosity.

Finally, he said that this represented an international problem that the international response was needed for.

Tatyana Shakleina, Professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, said that a better world could not be built upon the aggressive agenda. According to her, in order to make changes to the agenda, the world must focus more on problems such as global warming, environmental pollution, and migration. She added that those were the common problems that may unite us. A better world cannot be built, if we do not make changes to our current agenda, Shakleina said.

Minister of Defense of the Government of Montenegro Olivera Injac stated that the NATO alliance was facing numerous security challenges, but that the most important thing was to preserve unity, solidarity, and coherency.

At the panel entitled #NATO2030: Adapting to the New Security Challenges and New Frontiers, Injac emphasized that in challenging times such as this year, NATO should demonstrate that it was strong enough to adapt to these challenges.

Through history, the Alliance proved that it could adapt to all the challenges. However, right now we should not only adapt but also anticipate the challenges and dangers; we should bear in mind both the things that could be predicted and those that could not, Injac said.

As a special value of the Western military alliance, Injac emphasized both its defense power and the values that the Alliance was cultivating and promoting, and which were improving the society and democracy, giving national politics of the countries the credibility.

Mijo Krešić, Deputy Minister of Defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that NATO acted as a stabilizing factor in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The current times are challenging and we should respond to them, but due to the lack of consensus in B&H, our efforts to access NATO are very slow, he said, expressing the regret that a high number of B&H citizens was not aware of the benefits that NATO membership provides. If we become a NATO member state, we will generate significant progress in our country, he said.

Andrew Michta, Dean of the College of International and Security Studies at George Marshall Center, warned to the complexity of relations on the global scene. Instead of the Cold War world division on two powers, when China was just a small regional player, today’s power ratio is completely different. While Russia is investing in its nuclear capacities wanting to revive the post-war division, it was not until recently and in a short time that China made an unimaginable step forward, and started its domination on the global scene using the values of liberal democracy, said Michta.

The crucial issue for the NATO Allies is how to respond to a challenge of such scope and it seems to me that the key point is how to rebuild the combat power of the Alliance, he said.

Reminding on the great Chinese investment in the armed forces, especially the navy, and its presence on the Pacific, Michta emphasized Europe’s need to invest in the neglected military power. However, he fiercely opposed the creation of a special EU army, considering that it would only weaken the combat power of the allies since it would lead to defense fragmentation.

NATO is the most valuable thing that the allies have and they need to reach consensus on the way they perceive not only Russia but China as well, Michta said.

He reminded that NATO Alliance provided the longest period of peace and prosperity with its existence, not only as a military power but also by promoting the values it was cultivating, which were leading to the prosperity of a society.

Jamie Shea, Professor of Strategy and Security at the University of Exeter, said that the problem of the military alliance was that it was waiting for the problems to emerge and then responded to them. NATO needs to anticipate the problems in order to respond to them more efficiently.

Our enemies do not want to beat us in combat, they are threatening to our lifestyle, they are present in all fields, undermining our trust in democratic values and exposing us to everyday pressures, especially through numerous pieces of disinformation that they are launching. Sometimes, these pressures are different. Look at what China is doing to Australia, Taiwan, what kind of pressure it is exerting, and in what ways it succeeds in doing so, Shea stated.

He believes that democratic governments need to train their citizens to recognize these threats in order to fight them successfully. All citizens need to unite in the defensive front since it is a threat to our lifestyle, he concluded.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro Đorđe Radulović said that the foreign policy priorities of Montenegro would not be changed.

We remain dedicated to the EU membership, we want to remain credible NATO partner, the August elections will not change anything even though there are such fears, he stated.

I want you to know that there will be no changes in that respect. We remain dedicated to such goals, as well as to the strengthening of the good neighborly relations, said Radulović at the panel entitled Charting a Way Forward in a Post-Pandemic World.

He said that Montenegro would continue to follow the same policy as the EU and that he would do anything to intensify the until recently stalled integration processes.

Radulović emphasized that while protecting its priorities, Montenegro did not want to create enemies elsewhere.

We are not the enemies of Russia, but it should be noted that our priority is common security and defense policy proclaimed by the EU, Radulović concluded.

EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues Miroslav Lajčak believes that Western Balkan countries should continue cultivating their orientation towards the EU. I know that the negotiations have been stopped, but we are here, do not be discouraged, he stated.

The example of North Macedonia showed that there were no obstacles to achieve something if there was a will, and I am sure about the positive future of the Western Balkans, Lajčak said, adding that the Balkans have been known for producing more history than it can digest.

Please, one can learn from the past, but one should not allow it to crowd out the present and to blur the vision. Remain oriented towards the EU, he requested.

He emphasized that the EU aid to the Western Balkan countries at the time of the pandemic testified to the Union’s devotion to the region.

Of course, candidate countries must prove themselves; they must show that they are qualified to join the club they want, Lajčak said.

Asked to comment on the new methodology of the accession process to the EU, Andreja Metalko Zgombić, State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia, said that the methodology gave a new impulse in the accession process as counties were to be encouraged to speed up their internal reforms and that the possibility of rewarding those who had been doing their work meticulously could be nothing but encouraging.

She called upon to lower down the nationalistic tensions and expand the political dialogue.

We support Montenegro wholeheartedly, she said.

Visiting Professor at London School of Economics James Ker-Lindzi said that we lived in a world full of challenges. The post-COVID-19 world brings us new challenges. We know how to respond to many of them, but to some of them, we cannot. I thank that it is all about political will, i.e., to know where the challenges are, Ker-Lindzi said.

Observing the conflict in Belgrade-Pristina relations, it was proved that everything arranged previously stops when it comes to implementation. Reminding on different opinions of the EU and the USA when it comes to resolving the issue, he hopes for their attitudes to become similar after the transfer of power in Washington. He added that the EU must be more ambitious if it wanted to resolve the issue.

Ker-Lindzi emphasized that it was especially disappointing when some countries found the obstacle to continue the EU accession path, not in real problems but the irrational, historical ones. 

Is the issue of who Gotse Delchev was more important than the economic or overall progress of the country, he asked alluding to the recent conflict between North Macedonia and Bulgaria. We added that the time had come to remove such issues from the agenda and that people in the Western Balkans thought rationally, he concluded.

President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor expressed his disappointment that the enlargement policy was not the top priority of the European Union.

I really regret that Brussels is currently burdened by other issues – starting from the health crisis, Brexit, and others – therefore, the Western Balkan countries’ membership in the Union is not its priority. 

By participating at the 10th 2BS Forum, a jubilee, Pahor said that Brussels made a wise decision to enhance negotiations with the candidate countries from the region straight away.

Of course, all candidate countries must do their job; there are many tasks to fulfill on the agenda, but Brussels should have a more constructive approach. He stated that what happened to the Republic of North Macedonia was somehow discouraging for the Western Balkan countries.

That country fulfilled everything that it was asked for; they did everything that should have been done and the European Union stalled, he said emphasizing that that was the big mistake that would be difficult to correct. My task is to remind my colleagues that this issue should not be overlooked. He said that it would be good for the European Union to see the WB countries as a block and as such, they should join the EU.

President of the Republic of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski said that he would not dare to project the future of the Western Balkan countries in the next 10 years, but that he would love to witness a positive scenario that might happen.

That positive scenario would imply the negotiations with North Macedonia be resumed straight away, the negotiations with Montenegro and Serbia accelerated, the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue speeded up with the mediation of Brussels, and finally, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s frozen conflict to be resolved, Pendarovski said.

For everything that the candidate countries should do and everything that is needed to be fulfilled, there must be a will of Brussels, he said, warning that it is very discouraging for the citizens to see a country such as North Macedonia that did everything it had been asked for have its negotiations postponed. We have a problem to explain to the citizens what is going on.

He said that besides the fact that the new methodology envisages that the negotiating countries cannot be blocked out due to bilateral disputes, North Macedonia has been blocked not because of some current issue, but some historical heritage.

The Agreement signed among the leaders of the winning coalitions is a conformation that the foreign and political course of the country will not be changed, the President of the Parliament Aleksa Bečić said and emphasized that Montenegro would be a responsible NATO partner committed to fulfilling the obligations from the European agenda. 

At the To Be Secure Forum held in Podgorica, Bečić said that last couple of months and results in the parliamentary elections were historic events for Montenegro.

By signing the Agreement, Bečić stated that the leaders of the winning coalitions confirmed clearly that they did not intend to change the foreign and political path of Montenegro.

That Agreement is a confirmation of the path Montenegro should take. We will be responsible NATO partner and we will continue to fulfill all the obligations from the European agenda. We intend to strengthen the civic character of Montenegro, Bečić said.

He said that Montenegro is a small but extremely important NATO member.

Bečić believes that Montenegro’s participation in peacekeeping missions was very significant and that the largest engagement of the Montenegrin Army was taking part in the mission in Afghanistan.

According to him, Montenegro excels in the promotion of the open door policy.

Reconciliation of the region is a precondition to faster Western Balkan integration in the European Union, and there is no alternative to it, Bečić said.

He assessed that the changes in the Montenegrin government in future would go at an easier pace.

Asked to comment on the mini-Schengen initiative, Bečić said that the initiative would be welcoming if it was about strengthening of the regional and European path of Montenegro and other countries.

But if it is a possible substitution for the accession of the Western Balkan countries in the family of contemporary European people, then it is debatable and it requires analysis from many angles, Bečić said.

He reminded that Montenegro is the leader in the number of opened of negotiating Chapters but, as he said, there had been closing at a slow pace.

The annual report presented to us by our European partners was understood as a friendly message that stagnation is not an option anymore and that we must accelerate the accession process, Bečić highlighted.   

He assess that a comprehensive reform of the electoral legislation and unblocking of the blocked judiciary were two main challenges.

Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazović said that Prime Minister would met next Tuesday with the Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg, and clearly confirm once again the foreign and political orientation of Montenegro.

He emphasized that the Agreement of the three coalitions’ leaders should be fully adhered to.

We stand bravely and decisively by it. For a short period of time, we succeeded in gaining the significant international support, Abazović said.

He appealed to all that they needed to accept the Western concept in the public discourse and engagement, if they wanted Montenegro to become part of the European world.

We need to change the public discourse if we want to continue further. I think that the discourse was wrong in Montenegro before, Abazović said.

While commenting on the mini-Schengen initiative, he said that he was the proponent of the idea that Montenegro did not need any substitutions.

All that Montenegro wants is the EU membership, Abazović said.

He added that the regional cooperation must remain one of the fundamental principles.

Without regional cooperation, we cannot have domestic stability. I would support any initiative of the regional cooperation a priori, of course while respecting some standards that would not threaten the economy, Abazović said.

While commenting on a document published with Kosovo marked with an asterisk, he said that it a technical mistake.

I am sorry for what happened. We remain committed to the attitude that there are no any changes regarding the issue. I hope that such mistakes would not made again, Abazović said.

He stated that the Government decided to combat the corruption and to initiate stronger fight against organized crime, and that each and every MP must be responsible for what they had been and was doing. 

This is the best way to end the transition in Montenegro. The best option was the Government liberated from politicians and leaders. I cheer for Montenegro to obtain open lists, Abazović concluded.

Montenegro can do well only if follows the European path, President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović assessed, adding that there was no recipe reading that one heated nationalism should be responded by another.

Taking part at the To Be Secure Forum held in Podgorica, he said that Montenegro should heal the divisions and that the divided societies were handicapped from the beginning.

Đukanović believes that the growing potential advocating for the European future is still present both in Montenegro and in the Western Balkans.

The recipe for Montenegro is not to respond to one heated nationalism with another. Montenegro can do well only if continues its European path, Đukanović said.

He thinks that it is time to redefine European platform for Montenegro as the most important one for the state’s politics.

Đukanović said that he was pleased that the new government announced it would continue the same foreign and political path.

According to him, Montenegro is today the leader among other aspirant countries for the European Union integration.

Montenegro must proceed with the economic development and serious reforms in order to increase the tempo of further accession, Đukanović said.

He added that regardless of the change of the government, that remained strategic priorities of Montenegro.

Đukanović assess that NATO is essentially needed to the world and that the tones heard after the U.S. presidential election were encouraging for all citizens in Europe and in the Balkans.

I would like to see Europe being consolidated more quickly. I do not criticize but we have experienced five years of serious showering down of the process. The Western Balkans need an incentive, Đukanović believes.

He added that the new European Commission sent excellent messages and that those were very significant encouragements.

Unfortunately, the year of 2020 does not end in that spirit. Intergovernmental conferences for North Macedonia and Albania, and Kosovo visa liberalization failed to be addressed, Đukanović stated.  

He emphasized that he hoped that the EU realized that without Western Balkans integration there would not be stability in Europe.

Asked whether he thinks that Russia gave up on Montenegro, or it was still present, or maybe its focus in on the other regional countries, Đukanović said that Europe must finally learn that the Western Balkans was the zone of its primary responsibility.

If the EU is not in the Western Balkans, it is logical that there will be more of China and Russia, Đukanović stated.

He believes that the geopolitical map has been changed and that now it is important for the chance not to be used others in the absence of Europe. 

What does it look like – we have seen in Montenegro in 2016 and 2020. This year we had a sophisticated fight, Đukanović said.

He said that the Serbian Orthodox Church was tasked with developing the Serbian national identity in the regional countries.

That means threatening the state’s sovereignty and its civic and secular character. Everything you have been witnessing in Montenegro, you will also witness at any electoral process in Europe and the USA, Đukanović stated.

He assessed that Russia was attacking the unique/united Europe and that Montenegro had been only one target in a row.

I believe that the Euro-Atlantic area is a place of serious politics. Those who were doubtful about small Montenegro being needed to NATO remained disappointed. Montenegro has become a trustworthy partner. Nowadays, NATO is under the attack, Đukanović stated.

He believes that the new government must develop a really good and reliable organization in order not to jeopardize the partner’s trust.

The US Ambassador to Montenegro, Judy Rising Reinke expressed her hope that Montenegro would remain strongly committed to NATO Alliance and values that it is promoting. Speaking at the 10th 2BS Forum, Reinke emphasized her hope that the new government would build the integrated and secure Montenegro, that it would remain strongly committed to NATO Alliance and values that it is promoting.

To remain on this path, Montenegro needs a fight against organized crime and corruption, independent judiciary, as she explained. H.E. Reinke said that she was very pleased that the new government announced zero tolerance rate to corruption.

Those are the enemies of the society, she said, adding that security depends on the way of fighting the threats that the society is facing. As a particular danger, Reinke pointed out to omnipresence of disinformation and fake news, appealing that this danger be taken very seriously, since it is the way to prevent the chaos caused by such pieces of information from happening. Reminding to the whole range of partnership projects that Montenegro and US implemented together, she said that the partnership of two countries is based on the common values and that Montenegro confirmed itself as a reliable US and NATO ally since its independence. US Ambassador particularly emphasized the role that the Army of Montenegro had in the common peace missions, especially the one in Afghanistan in which 30% of Montenegrin military personnel took part.

The last significant project that we implemented together was a training against cyber terrorism, significantly great danger, threatening to all of us. This kind of engagement demonstrates that there are no small and big allies in NATO, there are just equal members that are striving together to confront everything that undermines the common values, Reinke said.

Reinke particularly warned to dangers coming from Russia and China, their armament and strengthening of their oppressive regimes which, as she emphasizes, are threatening to the common safety.

China is investing everywhere, including in Montenegro, in great infrastructural projects and it is a matter of politics whether we would allow them to do so, she said.

Facing a complex danger, we need to actively cooperate and stand together, US Ambassador said.

Reinke particularly thanked to the Atlantic Council of Montenegro which for more than a decade has been promoting and fiercely advocating that the Euro-Atlantic values become accepted in Montenegro.

President of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro Dr. Savo Kentera stated today that Montenegro and the Balkans needed to remain in the sphere of interest of the West and that China or Russia must not be allowed to take over the Balkans.

Opening the 10th 2BS Forum in Podgorica, a jubilee, Kentera stated that there was no and could not be a compromise about it.

Montenegro has always been and will be on the side of its partners and allies and it will never allow other countries to undermine our democracy, interfere with our internal affairs or rewrite our history, he said, adding that Montenegro counted on its true and real allies in this process.

After all, isn’t that what NATO stands for? Kentera demanded.

President of the Atlantic Council emphasized that the years ahead of us were a key to the future of the region.

When I say this, I think not only of Montenegro but Serbia in particular, which is one of the most important countries in the region, and which we need as a strong ally on the side of NATO. It may seem either difficult to reach or not possible in the foreseeable future, but they have to know that once they decide to join NATO, they will have our full support on the way, he said.

Summing up a year behind us marked by coronavirus pandemic, Kentera stated that the health crisis had deepened or initiated the social, political, and economic crisis in many countries around us while giving rise to disinformation and conspiracy theories to the level that we all must think about possible consequences and the ways how to fight them successfully.

The forecasts indicate that the consequences will be long-term and will have a much greater impact on the economies and societies than the health crisis itself, he warned.

Explaining the way that disinformation flood affects the society, Kentera gave an example of Montenegro and the parliamentary election held in August which were followed by an unprecedented quantity of fake news and disinformation that had unfortunately originated in Serbia, with that country being a proxy for exerting Russian influence in Montenegro and the Balkans.

Reflecting on the Montenegrin election and its result, Kentera said that the citizens elected the new government as they wanted changes, more specifically, the changes for the better. At the same time, he reminded that nobody from the former opposition expected to see such a smooth transition of power, like the one that occurred in our country.

However, Montenegro showed its full democratic capacity. We showed to the rest of the world and to all those who thought that this country is ruled by a dictatorship that it is not the case, Kentera said. We showed to everyone that the changes are not a fairy tale but a possibility and a reality. We showed that Montenegro is a stable, democratic, sovereign country, which can serve as an example of how the peaceful transition of the government is possible after a thirty-year-long rule of one party.

Reminding that today was the 10th 2BS Forum, a jubilee, Kentera had a pleasure to remind to the fact that during a decade, the Forum had become a platform of influence where the burning challenges and issues were discussed, the solutions to the problems were found  in an authentic and inspiring way, and consequences that these solutions could have were considered.

From the first To Be Secure Forum ever organized of such kind in the wider Western Balkan region, we have been actively working on the promotion of West-oriented Montenegro – dedicated to the reforms, committed to its partners and Euro-Atlantic path.

Therefore, I can freely say that the To Be Secure Forum has contributed to Montenegro becoming a full-fledged NATO member in 2017, as well as influenced the strengthening of the security sector in Montenegro.

Tracing the path to the European Union has always been one of our main goals and we will continue more vigorously in that manner, Kentera concluded.

We would like to inform you that the registration process for the 2BS Forum online participation is officially open. We hope that you will join us on the 10th jubilee 2BS Forum. To register, CLICK HERE.

2BS FORUM – a flagship event of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, will return this year on December 11, 2020 under a new innovative format. This new flexible live-streaming format will enable you to participate at the 2BS Forum 2020 both on-site (access by invitation only) and online. At the same time, Forum will celebrate its 10th Anniversary and thus mark a decade of its efforts to influence, change and shape new and tactical thinking and provide answers for regional and global burning challenges.

The 10th 2BS Forum will highlight several wide-ranging themes that pose a challenge to current regional and global security frameworks and raise special concerns across the Euro-Atlantic community to re-analyze and reboot common goals and joint efforts to further strengthen and secure a sustainable and thriving future for the SEE region and the wider Europe.

The Forum will search for the best approaches to do so through several themes:

  • Western Balkans: Charting a Way Forward in a Post-Pandemic World
  • Geopolitics of COVID-19 and the Future of Global Leadership
  • #NATO2030: New Security Challenges and New Frontiers
  • US Foreign Policy after the 2020 Presidential Elections
  • Digital Diet of Truth and all the Tasty Disinformation Morsels
  • Looking Ahead: World, Europe and Western Balkans in 2030

Mark the date in your calendars and stay tuned for more information on the new format and how you can join us!