It is of utmost importance that Europe keeps up with the enlargement policy, thus contributing to stability of the continent, said Montenegrin president Milo Djukanovic.

A two-day forum, gathering leaders and top leaders from the region, Europe and the USA, is organized by the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, with its focus on stability, security and future prosperity of the Western Balkans, in the context of the process in Europe and globally.

Speaking at the panel discussion of “Steering the helm of Europe amidst high tides and strong winds change”, Djukanovic said that everything said in the previous forum can be applied today as well.

“We are at the beginning of a new phase where ambitions of former global players are coming to life, and new global actors are also emerging, which must be inspiration for all”, said he.

Djukanovic remarked that, following recently held European Parliament elections, Europe continues living in a state of strategic confusion, caused by the crises, which hinders it to respond to the issue of Europe’s enlargement.

“EP elections ended better than expected. Radical and right-winged currents did not pick on power, and we can note that Europe remains on its political strategic course”, said Djukanovic.

He believes that it is of utmost importance that Europe keeps up with the enlargement policy, since it will contribute to stability of the continent.

Speaking about Euro-Atlantic partnership, he said that policy of full responsibility towards the alliance must be continued.

“The question if we would defend European values or let the Balkans to some third parties has been reflected in the Balkans currently”, Djukanovic said.

According to him, concerning the region, the issues transferred from the time of former Yugoslavia must be resolved.

The Montenegrin president said that Montenegro will continue strengthening partnerships in the region and beyond.

President of Slovenia Borut Pahor stated that the enlargement process will not be the main topic in the new European Commission’s agenda.

He argues that it must become clear to every EU member state that EU’s enlargement to the Western Balkans is a geopolitical issue, which is quite complex.

“Based on my experiences, I would say that it would be better if Brussels would observe the region as a whole, and we need a slightly different attitude of everyone in the region for that”, said Pahor, adding that it is the only possible path.

Defense Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina Marina Pendes, asked if she was disappointed that the EC recommended opening the talks with Albania and North Macedonia, but not with BiH, responded that she is a bit disappointed, but also optimistic that this country will also soon find a solution.

German Defense Minister Thomas Silberhorn said that speed of progressing towards the EU depends on the countries, and not on the EC.

He added that there was reserve with some EU member states, in regard to enlargement, but that EP elections sent a clear message.

The Western Balkans will have strong support from Germany and countries aspiring to become the EU members should do their homework, is one of the messages conveyed during the “Western Balkans – gremlins of the past and fairy tales of the future” panel discussion conducted within the scope of To Be Secure (2BS) Forum, which is held in Budva.

While the State Secretary of German Ministry of Defence, Thomas Silberhorn, promises strong support from the German government to the countries of the Western Balkans, the State Secretary for Security Policy of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Péter Sztáray, believes that Balkan countries need a concrete reward for the results they achieved. 

“Balkan countries need to receive concrete rewards for the results they achieved, as there have been good results in the past. I hope that some tangible steps will be taken in June. Each country made progress in certain areas”, Sztáray stated during the panel discussion “Western Balkans –  gremlins of the past and fairytales of the future ” which took place within the framework of To Be Secure (2BS) Forum held in Budva.

Sztáray said he is very pleased that Montenegro is a member of NATO, and expressed hope that the last chapter in the negotiations with the EU would soon be opened.

“I encourage all the countries in the region to do their homework,” said Sztáray.

Former Montenegrin Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Igor Lukšić, said that the only disappointment is the EU’s lack of appetite for enlargement.

“When we opened the negotiations in June 2012, I was often asked when Montenegro could become a member. At that time, my answer was – in 2020 or 2021. Now, it’s 2020 and there are still no signs. If we read the European Commission report, there seems to be a lot more to do in terms of homeworks, “Lukšić said.

It is very important, stated Lukšić, that we make sure that there is enough economic dynamics in the region.

“I think the EU is a significant natural partner of all countries. If we provide economic dynamics in the region, it will ensure a greater degree of social mobility, which will further lead to a stronger rule of law, ” stated Lukšić.

Partnership with the EU, as he said, should remain strong, and it is important that we work together with all the countries of the region.

“Let’s break this vicious cycle that is repeating in the region,” Lukšić said.

On the other hand, Damon Wilson, the Executive Vice President of the Atlantic Council, believes that the region needs to wake up.

“We can not just discover that the progress in the area of rule of law has been made,” Wilson stated.

While speaking about Serbia-Kosovo relations, he stated that the exchange of territories is not the main point. The aim was to reach a common agreement between the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia.

“Drawing boundaries is not the point. We want to support the process, but we have no preconditions, ” Wilson said.

On the other hand, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Defence of Germany, Thomas Silberhorn estimates that NATO and EU integration model is such that it establishes a partnership that allows everyone to erase the boundaries between ethnic groups.

When it comes to the potential exchange of territories between Serbia and Kosovo, he thinks that something like that could open the Pandora’s box. 

Minister of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Marina Pendeš, said that countries that are not members of the EU are facing the migration issues. 

She highlighted that she was slightly disappointed with the European Commission’s attitude when it comes to BiH’s EU integration process, but that she remains optimistic.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina is a part of Europe. The values ​​that we have in common with the EU are the values ​​that are respected in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well, ” she said.

NATO Alliance is much stronger owing to Montenegro’s contribution, said US Ambassador Judy Rising Reinke at the opening of the To Be Secure Forum in Budva.

A two-day forum, gathering leaders and top officials from the region, Europe and the USA, is organized by the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, and its focus will be on stability, security and future prosperity of the Western Balkans, in the context of the process in Europe and globally.

She reiterated that Montenegro last week celebrated 13 years of its independence, and that in those 13 years “this small nation has achieved great progress”.

Reinke said that NATO Alliance is much stronger owing to Montenegro’s contribution, and added that it is now more important than ever to have friends who can watch our back.

The US Ambassador said that Montenegro is one of the Euro Atlantic community leaders.

The ruling in the Failed Coup case, she sees as a victory of the rule of law in Montenegro, and speaking about Russia, she remarked that the USA are ready to meet on the common grounds with that country.

Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said that NATO has been paying special attention in the past to the Western Balkans region.

According to him, the historical positive epilogue of the negotiations between Skopje and Athens opened the path towards NATO and EU membership for North Macedonia, which will contribute to achieving the vision of “Europe, whole and free and at peace”.

He said that Montenegro, as the youngest NATO member, actively advocates and promotes open door policy, through bilateral support to BiH and North Macedonia, and within regional initiatives and mechanisms of cooperation.

Markovic argues that the recently published European Commission’s support on Montenegro gave a realistic overview of the status of progress and the need for further results.

“We will look at all the recommendations with due attention, as we have always done. That is why we are where we are, as a NATO member and the leader on the EU path”, said Markovic.

He claims that it is important to send a clear message that there are no alternatives and that NATO and the EU stand together with the WB countries on that path. “Every lack of clearly expressed commitment leaves space for third countries that are showing interest for the region to use vulnerability of the states and the system and threaten to their integration path”, Markovic concluded.

Atlantic Council president Savo Kentera said that NATO “paved the way for many countries towards the EU”.

“We in the Balkans know the best what it means to be safe. We are very aware of the unpredictability of the today’s world”, said Kentera.

He said that spreading fake news and disinformation are just some of the examples of the successful campaign Russia runs against the democratic world.

“No one can scare Montenegro and derail it off the EU integration path. I believe we will be creative enough to fight everyone who does not mean well to the country and the region”, said he.

It is extremely important to send a clear message from all addresses that there are no alternatives and that NATO and the EU stand together with the countries of the Western Balkans, since any absence of clearly committed commitment leaves room for third countries that show interest in this region to use the vulnerabilities of the states and the system and threaten their integration path, Prime Minister Duško Marković said.

At the opening of the 9th To Be Secure (2BS) Forum in Budva, he said that Montenegro, as the still youngest member of the Alliance, actively represents and promotes open door policy.

Marković said that in the year when NATO marks 70 years of its existence, the Alliance has a full agenda of facing new and old challenges, with a changed geopolitical situation.

He reminded that the Alliance paid special attention to the Western Balkans region in the past period.

“The historically positive epilogue of negotiations between Skopje and Athens to resolve the name dispute has opened the way for Northern Macedonia to join NATO and the EU, which will surely contribute to the realization of the vision of ‘Europe free, complete and in peace’. We are confident that the member states of the Alliance will ratify the Accession Protocol as soon as possible and that Northern Macedonia will soon become its 30th member, Marković said, adding that it is very important that Bosnia and Herzegovina is invited to deliver its first Annual National Program for NATO.

According to the Prime Minister, Montenegro promotes open door policy through bilateral support to Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia, as well as within the framework of regional initiatives and mechanisms of cooperation, such as the US-Adriatic Charter and the Adriatic Trilateral.

“We are ready to continue to help all the neighbors and aspirants with whom we want to share experiences and lessons learned from the accession process, Marković said.

The Prime Minister also said that the European Commission’s Report on Montenegro, which he has just described, “realistically examined the state of progress and the need for further results”.

“We are pleased to note the total work, in particular the government and its authorities, the robust growth of the economy or the results achieved in the fight against organized crime and corruption. We will keep all recommendations with care, as before, to see. That is precisely why we are in the position we occupy, as a member of NATO and the leading country on the path to membership in the Union, Marković said.

Montenegro, as he said, advocates for the greatest progress of all countries in the region. He emphasizes that the importance that NATO and the EU have for the Western Balkans “need not be explained in detail”.

“It is important to maintain support for democratic forces, especially considering that integration processes are the core and the main driver of democratic and reform processes. It is important to send a clear message from all addresses that there are no alternatives and that NATO and the EU stand together with the countries of the Western Balkans on this path. Every absence of clearly demonstrated commitment leaves space for third countries that show interest in this region to use the vulnerabilities of states and systems and endanger their integration path, “Markovic said.

Kentera: No one will scare Montenegro

Recalling that this year marked 70 years since the founding of the NATO alliance, the president of the Atlantic Counci of Montenegro, Savo Kentera, said that we must all be proud of that.

“NATO has offered a mechanism for channeling the power of its members to ensure the stability of the continent,” Kentera said, adding that NATO paved the way for the EU to many member states.

He assessed that we are all “well aware of how unpredictable the world is today and what challenges we are facing today.”

“The extremely aggressive reaction of Russia, beginning with the violent annexation of Crimea to undermining the democratic systems, where in our own example, right here in Montenegro, witnessed what this country is prepared to do to implement its interests, show that we are not even close to a long- which will be the foundation of stability for future generations, “Kentera said.

He believes that even after 70 years we can not say that all the challenges have been overcome and all the problems resolved.

“Unfortunately, in carrying out such intentions and actions, Russia finds its allies in individual political parties, sometimes individuals or very skilled in the parts of the civil sector, and very powerful weapons in their hands are represented by the media themselves. The spread of false news or misinformation, or the creation of very sophisticated narratives that influence public opinion in the way that fits this country, are just some of the examples of a very successful campaign, or I will dare to say the war that Russia is leading against the entire democratic world, he stressed.

According to him, no one will be able to scare, nor turn from its path to the society of the most developed democracies of the world.

“We successfully overcome the first step on this path by joining NATO, and I believe that we will soon see the results of hard work, which will manifest itself in EU membership. We have determination, courage never missed us, and I believe that we will be imaginative enough to deal with all who do not think well of this country, region or any of our honest and true allies! Russia or any other country, which is not a true friend of Montenegro, and who is jealously looking at our successes, trying to constantly bring in chaos and undermine our democratic systems, must know that it will never succeed in that, “Kentera said.

Keeping the dialogue, as he said, does not mean lowering the level of defense. On the contrary, our defense, in his words, must now be stronger than ever.

“Not because someone wants a conflict, but that the same conflict will be prevented and secured lasting peace. There are many different and unpredictable challenges ahead of us. This means that we must be prepared for all the threats that can come from any direction. And in order to be ready, we have to invest in our defense systems, “he said.

Throughout its existence, the To Be Secure (2BS) Forum has proved to be an outstanding and important South-East European framework for affiliating the Montenegrin, regional and international eminent leaders and distinguished representatives. 

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2BS FORUM 2019, a flagship event of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro is a leading International Forum in SEE. Once again on May 30 – June 1, 2019 2BS Forum will be platform of impact, helping to promote new and tactical thinking, and provide answers for regional and global burning challenges.

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Read all about last year’s sessions, key messages, speakers and figures in our 2BS Forum Summary.

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