The 13th 2BS FORUM, one of the leading politico-security conferences in Southeast Europe, organized by the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, will take place on October 5-7, 2023.
The forum will mark thirteen years of its efforts to influence, change and shape new and tactical thinking and provide answers for regional and global burning challenges.

The 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.

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

In case you have missed some of last year Forum discussions, find a recap of things that took place below:

2BS Forum Summary
2BS Forum Gallery
Livestreaming Recap

Please make sure to monitor our official website and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to keep up with our announcements and developments. In case you have any additional questions, do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected].

2BS Forum Team

The 12th 2BS FORUM, one of the leading politico-security conferences in Southeast Europe, organized by the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, will take place on October 6-8, 2022.
The forum will mark twelve years of its efforts to influence, change and shape new and tactical thinking and provide answers for regional and global burning challenges.

The 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.

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

In case you have missed some of last year Forum discussions, find a recap of things that took place below:

Sessions Recap
2BS Forum Gallery
Livestreaming Recap

Please make sure to monitor our official website and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to keep up with our announcements and developments. In case you have any additional questions, do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected].

2BS Forum Team

Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro and coordinator of security services, Dritan Abazovic, said that the attempt to bring down the whole security system after the event in Cetinje on September 5 was, for him, the red line that cannot be crossed.

The red line occurred after the events in Cetinje, there were no casualties there, we managed to successfully terminate one risky operation, sending a good message to Montenegro and the region, and after the risky weekend someone tried to bring down the whole security system, he said adding that it was not important whether this was done for the internal or some external reasons. To agree to this would mean that the whole country could be brought down in a similar situation, said Abazovic on the 2BS Forum, organized by the Atlantic Council of Montenegro.

I see it as an aggressive attempt and we need to send a message to the people that they can count on us, he was explicit, adding that a political agenda not aligned with the state interests of Montenegro does not have the support of his party.

He said that if there was room for criticizing the people from the security sector, he would be the first one to criticize them and would not support them. I do not think that the police are functioning flawlessly, but they showed some good results, Abazovic said, adding that if someone thinks that the police could be used as a whip or for someone’s own interests, they cannot count on that.

Deputy Prime Minister repeated that when the Agreement had been signed after the August 2020 parliamentary election, he did everything to protect Montenegro, its foreign policy, adding that he was sure it went successfully. When asked if he would support the Democratic Front entering the Government, Abazovic said that the mentioned Agreement represented a good foundation and each deviation from it meant a decline in support for his party.

I would never sign something that I do not truly support, he added, emphasizing that his party will never give up on the Euro-Atlantic path of Montenegro and will not choose seats over principles.

The Agreement is an expression of our politics and anyone who wants to sign it or follow it is welcome to do so, this Agreement is a victory of the pro-European course of Montenegro and I can say that I am not someone who signs something I do not believe in.

Asked if more could have been done concerning the promotion of Euro-Atlantic values, Abazovic listed the successes that were accomplished by cutting off transit routes of cigarettes and cocaine but also pointed out that the judiciary is the one minimizing the accomplished results.

Reflecting on the Government crisis, Abazovic said that the situation was complex and that personally, he did not like the fact the everyone was focused on departments and their number while a few mentioned the Government program.

He pointed out the need to accomplish wider political consensus, necessary for breaking the stalemate in relation to the issues in the judiciary, especially having in mind that Montenegro does not have the Constitutional Court since yesterday.
With a little bit of luck and wisdom, we may find the best solutions, Deputy Prime Minister concluded.

Disinformation is a part of a much larger ecosystem of the negative Russian influence and active measures that encompass a lot of different tools, including strategic corruption, that create a network of influences, organized crime that is an instrument of state administration for Russia, use of proxies and Trojan horses as well as the cyber-attacks, said Brian Whitmore, Nonresident Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council at this year’s 2BS Forum.
Whitmore said on the panel about the influence of disinformation that societies with a high level of corruption, lack of public trust and polarization, are vulnerable to the threat of disinformation. He mentioned Finland and Estonia as an example of the countries where hybrid threats are not significantly influential, adding that these are the countries with a low level of corruption and divisions within society.
Whitmore states that a solution for this problem would be cooperation within the transatlantic community. We should raise the level of media literacy, civic education, increase resilience just as the Scandinavian and Baltic countries have done, he added.
Executive Director of the Media Association of South-East Europe Vuk Maras thinks that the first step in a fight against disinformation should be to strengthen the capacity of the media to be more responsible towards the readers, and then, to be more specific and professional. This is what our societies are missing.
Maras thinks that it is necessary to redefine the notion of media literacy and find an adequate solution how to reach young people. He adds that the Montenegrin authorities, as well as the Ministry in charge, must be included in this process. We cannot expect our allies and partners to solve this issue, he added.
It is really difficult to stop disinformation in Montenegro since we are under the permanent influence not only of the countries with neoliberal tendencies but also our neighborhood that we share the languages with, Maras thinks.
According to his words, we in Montenegro are again facing the fact that the Government is one of the biggest generators of fake news, constantly being launched in the public. We expected that they would do completely different things – help us and cooperate with media outlets, Maras concluded.

Russia is a global power and represents a huge threat for the West. It also seems that the West is not ready to confront this threat, said Ivana Stradner from the American Enterprise Institute while taking part in the 2BS Forum panel dedicated to the new international order and Russia’s role in it.

Russia’s strategic goal is to establish itself as a global power and terminate the US domination, it perceives NATO as its enemy and wants to challenge the collective security but also to disrupt the European unity, Stradner said.

She thinks that Russia became this dangerous due to the European weakness and lack of Europe’s will to challenge Russian efforts.

Stradner particularly emphasized Russia’s success in the usage of information. Nuclear weapon is a strategic weapon of Russia, but it is as important as the information and we should start thinking about information and cyber security in the same manner as Russia, she said, adding that the cyber security for the majority of Western countries is just a technical issue, while Russia sees them as an indispensable tool for a successful development and victory of their doctrine.

Russia is investing in technologies but it is investing more in the content having psychological influence, Stradner said. She thinks that the rise of tensions in the Western Balkan region suits Russia and that Russia also covers critical sectors of this area such as the energy and military potentials of some countries, but is also uses the tactics tried somewhere else, making a parallel between the use of the Serbian Orthodox Church in this area and Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

According to Dmitry Suslov, Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies, Russia is trying to consolidate itself as a global power aiming at influencing the creation of a new, polycentric international order.

Western domination era is over, Russia thinks that the setting is favorable for it to promote itself as an independent, great power, and it can confirm this in many fields – from the field of military to its role as energy power, Suslov said.

However, he is pointing out that the main trump in Russia’s favor is a global trend, i.e. the world evolution towards polycentrism. The era of the US and Germany is over and they are turning towards consolidation of traditional partners, but we have a huge number of countries outside the Western world striving for independence and sovereignty and they perceive Russia as a partner and huge global power, playing the significant role in all parts of the world.

That’s what the West refuses to see, and the Russia sees the West as a minority part of the world.
According to him, Russia used the slowdown in the process of the EU enlargement in order to apply the same polycentric approach in the Balkans.

Russia wants the Western Balkans to be polycentric and not dominated by the West, this is why the rise of Turkish and Chinese influence in this area suits her, since it creates polycentrism, Suslov said.

The biggest security challenge for the countries relating to China is the Chinese coupling of economic and security issues, said Ian Johnson, Senior Fellow from the Council on Foreign Relations.
On the panel about China and Chinese influence, he emphasized that China became the second most important economy in the world and is successfully developing its economic ties, accompanied by the political influence.
Speaking about the current security threat that China represents, he said that the European countries did not express huge concerns about China, as it is the case with Russia.
The Chinese strategy is to promote its interests through infrastructure projects and lending, and China is not always pushing it, said Johnson, adding that it happens often that the countries need money or that the state leaders think that they need money. He thinks that China is knocking on an open door and that there is a lack of support and money coming from the Western countries.
Philippe le Core, Senior Research Fellow from the Harvard Kennedy School, thinks that the US power is still strong, while the spreading of the Chinese soft power so far turned out to be unsuccessful. He adds that this leaves room for the US to make a coalition in Asia and Europe.
The US and the EU are creating alternative strategies in the fields of technology and infrastructure that need to confront China. When it comes to technology, Trump’s administration was pretty aggressive concerning the issue of 5G network and installing the Chinese technology in Europe. However, he added that the issue whether Europe and the US would be able to confront China with such strategies and ideas remains open.
Reid Standish, correspondent of the Radio Free Europe for China says that NATO has been taking stronger stance towards China in the previous period. He added that China did not represent a direct military threat to NATO but is definitely a new challenge.
Particular challenge for transatlantic community is the increasingly growing partnership between China and Russia, Standish said. He stated that the solutions for this issue are limited, adding that there is always a difference between what NATO should do and can do.
Also, Standish compared the US approach and the EU approach towards China. According to him, the US is clearly confronting China while the EU, despite being aware of the negative Chinese influence in Europe and the world, sees it as a necessary economic power.
Dimitar Bechev, non-resident Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council, commented on the Chinese influence on the Western Balkans. He emphasized that the current situation in the Western Balkan countries leaves room for stronger cooperation with the countries not belonging to the EU or West.
China is knocking on an open door in this region. It is exploiting the economic situation, corruption and lack of transparency in these countries and that’s the reason why it is particularly successful in this region, Bechev said.

America has returned to the global scene as a liberal democracy dedicated to the rule of law, liberal democratic values, human rights, but it has also returned as a team player, said Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Speaking at a panel on America’s role in the new geopolitical division at the 2bs forum, Kupchan said that America’s return largely depends on whether Biden will succeed in repairing the American political system.

Biden shows America’s readiness to participate in events outside its borders, however, if Biden fails in his plans, we can very easily return to Trump’s America First foreign policy, Kupcan said.

He also pointed out that Biden really cares about stability and democracy in Europe, as well as in the Western Balkans, but he also emphasized that the President of the United States will now have to be especially focused on internal affairs because the United States is going through a great political crisis.

When it comes to the situation in the Western Balkans, Kupchan believes that more participation, more diplomatic efforts can be expected to improve the situation in the Western Balkans and bring the region closer to the EU, adding that our economic partners should do a lot, because of internal issues the US will be preoccupied with.

Kupchan also referred to the agreement between Australia and the United States. This and similar agreements that the United States concludes with certain countries are an indicator of growing concern for China. He added that the United States is trying to find ways to distance Moscow from Beijing because Moscow is actually the only real partner of Beijing.

Milica Pejanovic Djurisic from the Atlantic Council of Montenegro said that when it comes to the position of America after Biden’s victory, his speech during the UN General Debate from September last year is very indicative, where he clearly said that America is returning as a partner. Instead of America first, we now have international cooperation, she added.

She said that we knew about America, which is active in military operations, but that we are now in a new era where we need to cooperate in the field of democracy strengthening.

Pejanovic-Djurisic believes that the NATO alliance should not be underestimated. The withdrawal from Afghanistan was not well coordinated, which led to the creation of a wrong image of the strength of the entire alliance, she added.

Pejanovic-Djurisic pointed out that changes in the American approach towards China and Russia are expected. The relationship with Russia is an issue that will be redefined, while the relationship with China is an issue that has yet to be defined, she added.

When it comes to what is expected from the Summit for Democracy, Biden and his team will probably present a new strategy for international cooperation with an emphasis on strengthening democracy in other countries, Pejanovic-Djurisic pointed out.

She added that America is there to help strengthen our security system, but also to aid in our EU process.

If you want to be a superpower, you need at least three things, a strong economy, a strong army, and strong diplomacy, said the Minister of Defense of Slovenia Matej Tonin at the 2BS Forum.

The topic of the panel was NATO and the new security agenda.

Tonin emphasized that the EU wants to be a superpower, but currently has solely a strong economy. That is why there are gaps that China and Russia use to expand their influence, he added.

Slovenian Minister of Defense believes the EU should do more for the region. We hosted the EU-Western Balkans Summit and we want the EU to be more involved in the Western Balkans, and to send a clear time frame when it would be appropriate for all countries to join the EU, Tonin said. He added that although this time they failed to determine a time frame, 30 billion euros were put aside.

The ability to adapt is a key reason why NATO has been the most successful in the past 30 years, said Bruno Lete, German Marshall Fund.

He emphasized that Europeans are quite worried about the security of their own defense. NATO will present a strategic concept in Madrid next year, but the EU is also preparing its strategic compass, Lete said. What is encouraging is the new momentum that exists on both sides of the Atlantic for cooperation and solution-finding.

When it comes to the NATO 2030 strategy, there are three pillars that we have to think about, power, technology, politics, Lete pointed out. He believes that we need to develop credible strategies for dealing with opponents, adding that Russia is a threat that we understand, while we still do not fully understand China.

Valbona Zeneli from the George Marshall Center said that the decisions that NATO is about to make will shape democracies in our societies. There is a group of scientists, and I am part of that group, that asked NATO to add another task in addition to the three basic pillars of the strategy, and that should be the task of resilience, she said.

Zeneli added that the resilience of our societies has been called into question internally and externally. NATO should not only look at democratic resilience within NATO countries but should share resilience and bring it up in the Balkans, she said, adding that NATO must adopt a new dynamic and comprehensive approach when it comes to resilience in countries that are not NATO members yet or in the countries of Eastern Partnership.

In her opinion, it is crucial to renew democracy as an ideology of choice, the basis of what NATO and member countries are doing. We need to defend the credibility of our value-based democracy and market economy, so these are important issues to pay attention to, she concluded.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the United States Gabriel Escobar said today that the current Montenegrin Government would have the U.S. support as long as it remained democratic and focused on its European future.

Participating at the 11th 2BS Forum, Escobar said that the only solution to the tensions in the Balkans is a European membership for all the countries of the region.

We have always believed that the key to stability of this region is its EU membership, he said. Even though he believes that the U.S. politics towards the region has not changed through any of the administrations and that they all have a goal to implement the rule of law, fight corruption, and develop democratic institutions, he announced, however, an increased presence and commitment of the Unites States to the region, including a clear focus of the President Biden himself.

Answering to the question on how the United States can help the Balkan countries to achieve stability, he said that the United States had a big package in the region that was aimed at helping countries make the gains.

We use every opportunity at the high level to encourage our European partners to accelerate the Balkans’ integration process, the region of tremendous potential. Commenting on Russia’s interference in the internal affairs of Montenegro, Escobar said that the United States would respond diplomatically and politically in working to isolate those forces that really do not want a sovereign and democratic Montenegro.

He makes a distinction between pro-Russian and pro-Serbian forces. Pro-Serbian forces in Montenegro should recognize that Montenegro needs to be democratic, independent, sovereign, and West-focused, and remain part of NATO, Escobar said, adding that for those parties that are working to undermine those aspect of Montenegro, which has been a success over the last 25 years, the United States have a lot of ways to respond, some of those are sanctions, political isolation, and engagement with those who have the capacity to isolate such parties in Montenegro as well.

He confirmed that at the latest NATO Summit, though unofficially, there were concerns that it was dangerous to share all information with the new Government in Podgorica, adding that the concerns are real and that they should be taken very seriously by the Montenegrin people. NATO has a mechanism on which he can share or withhold information, but every government should be aware that this is something that weakens the government and the country.

Escobar agrees that the current situation in the Balkans is a lot similar to that of the 90s when ethnic tensions were sprouted and when there were lots of people who wanted to create political opportunities for themselves through these tensions. When you look at all of the positive things that have happened in the Balkans from the Dayton through last month, everything in that period and everything positive and everything dynamic is happened through European and American partnership, he said.

Therefore, we say to our European partners to accelerate the integration process; that is the reason way the Balkans have always been a big part of our agenda with Europe when we speak to them, Escobar said. He is convinced that Europe would understand the enormous potential of the Balkans and that three years from now, this region would become more prosperous.

Montenegro is not far from the date of accession to the European Union (EU), said the rapporteur of the European Parliament for Montenegro, Vladimir Bilcik, adding that Montenegrin politicians should show that they are ready to endure reforms.
It will not be a problem for Montenegro to enter the Union if it does everything it needs to do. That country has opened many chapters, but now it needs to close them, Bilcik said at a 2BS forum on a panel dedicated to the Western Balkans.
He said there was not enough fundamental progress, which was needed to close the chapter.
This is a concern that we share and what we will talk about in Strasbourg, during the discussion on the enlargement package, Bilcik said.
He stated that the most important thing is for Montenegro to show that its institutions are functioning, adding that the Union is to be of help.
However, there must be a clear sentiment, it is important for the desire for integration to be at the core of everything, said Bilcik. He said that, in the Union, integration is treated as a marathon. Reforms are part of a marathon where you have to run well. That is why Montenegrin politicians need to show that they are ready to endure reforms. This refers to the government and the opposition, but also the entire society, stated Bilcik.
He stated that it should raise awareness on the fact that the reforms will be difficult to implement, as well as that the issues regarding the reforms must not be the subject of disagreements and conflicts. As a great sympathizer of Montenegro, I would like to see things move in the right direction. We are ready to help in every possible way, said Bilcik.
He said that no country is closer to integration than Montenegro and that this should be reflected in all public discussions.
Bilik assessed that the future is in the hands of Montenegrin politicians, but also of the European Union.
“Uvijek pomno pratimo situaciju na Zapadnom Balkanu. Mi smo i dalje glavni strateški partner investitor i ne želimo da budemo skrajnuti od drugih zemalja, tu naročito mislim na Rusiju”, naveo je Bilčik.
We are always closely monitoring the situation in the Western Balkans. We are still the main strategic partner investor and we do not want to be excluded from other countries, I think especially of Russia, stated Bilcik.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro, Djordje Radulovic, stated that, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, all the countries of the Eastern bloc declared their pro-Western orientation.
Most countries in the Western Balkans have done the same. We are moving towards European integration, not because I want it, but because the whole society wants it , said Radulovic.
He stated that the course of Montenegro does not change, regardless of the change of government.
I don’t think that the Balkans is a gunpowder keg, nor that Montenegro is a fuse on that keg. The foreign policy of this country has remained the same. We are still a reliable and credible NATO partner , Radulovic pointed out.
He said that the current government is fighting against corruption and organized crime, which, as he assessed, are as dangerous for stability and security as radicalization.
He stated that he knows that there are no shortcuts on the path towards the European Union, adding that Europeans should focus on deeds, not words.
Europeans need to be more assertive when it comes to our path to the Union. After 30 years, we have changed the government and normally a little delay is expected, before we move in the right direction , concluded Radulovic.
The Minister of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Selmo Cikotic, also spoke at the panel. He pointed out that the fact is that some ideologies and policies fight for territories in the Balkans, but that we must also admit that our countries are losing young people.
Cikotic stated that greater responsibility of state leaders is necessary, especially towards citizens and the state. According to him, the citizens of the Western Balkans are losing confidence in state leaders, which is evident.
The Minister of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina said that the tendencies for certain neighboring countries to take away a part of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina represents a formula that is repeated throughout history, and which has never been true.
Cikotic believes that the idea of the Serbian world or Greater Serbia is a call for a new crisis, destabilization, and a new migration of people from this area.

The Government will work on everything that was assessed as negative in the report and will try to eliminate the shortcomings to the satisfaction of all citizens, said the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Zdravko Krivokapic.

The most important elements are in Chapters 23 and 24, and you state that the best results were recorded in Chapter 24, Krivokapic said on the 2bs forum. However, the Prime Minister pointed out that it is wrong to attribute all the success to only one person when it comes to this chapter, and not to the entire Government. I think that it is a wrong approach to state and single out the names of individuals, because then it seems that someone is trying to present this Government as dysfunctional.

Krivkapic said that he did not agree with the thesis, which is often mentioned in various reports, that the church is the focus of the work of this Government.

That is by no means not true. We are only pointing to our legacy, and that legacy was related to bad legislation that aimed to endanger the property of the church, Krivokapic said.

According to Krivokapic, someone has consciously raised the issue of the church in the last 10 months, so it has become an instrument in the hands of the media. The government is working with citizens to show them that the rule of law and the fight against organized crime and corruption are the focus of our European path, he added.

The Prime Minister also referred to the work of the previous Government, which, according to him, did not touch on key areas such as the judiciary and captured institutions.

I want Montenegro to be strong through strong institutions that will be independent, impartial, and oriented towards its citizens, investors, and all those interested. Montenegro is the state of all its citizens, Krivokapić pointed out.

He added that regardless of the coalition he heads, he wants Montenegro to be guided by democracy and democratic principles.

Answering questions about the security sector, Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic pointed out that we now have a very qualified person at the head of this sector, and he has just returned from one of the most respected countries in Europe. It is crucial that this Government is pro-European and pro-NATO oriented, and that we have no other way, he added.

Krivokapic also commented on a possible government reconstruction. He believes that it is not a matter of reconstruction, but improvement of this Government. This Government is a successful Government, which confirms our work, and thanks to the visionary approach that Montenegro should be Europe now and here, Krivokapić said. He believes that it is necessary to strengthen the civil characteristic of this state.

In the end, Krivokapic concluded that we need to stop talking about great political differences and unite.

When it comes to the Western Balkan region, NATO policy, including the open-door policy, helps strengthen the stability and cooperation in the Western Balkans, said NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the 11th 2BS Forum.

In the introduction, he thanked the Atlantic Council of Montenegro and congratulated for 15 years of committed work on the strengthening of democracy, security, and stability in Montenegro and the region. Deputy Secretary General particularly emphasized that NATO will continue to support the Euro-Atlantic integration of the region.

According to him, Montenegro is a prominent ally and he commended the presence of the Montenegrin mission in Afghanistan and the peace-support mission in Kosovo. As he stated, this contributes to the stability of the Western Balkans, region of a strategic importance to NATO.

For long-term peace and stability in the region, constant efforts and guidance are needed. All countries respectively have a role in preserving democracy and the rule of law, together with a good neighboring relation, said Geoană.

Progress in all these fields is a key for the complete integration of this important part of Europe in the Euro-Atlantic family. The region can count on NATO’s support to its Euro-Atlantic aspirations and path towards more secure and prosperous future for all, he added.

Speaking about the NATO mission in Kosovo, NATO Deputy Secretary General emphasized that stability is the key of the mission and that he supported the European Union dialogue, aiming at the normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations. Stability has been the key of our Kosovo mission for twenty years, he said, emphasizing the great cooperation that NATO has with the EU when it comes to Kosovo.

He reflected on the Russian and Chinese actions. A lot of challenges are ahead of us, strategic competition is rising, Russia is increasingly repressive internally and externally, Russian military hybrid activities are destabilizing our societies and institutions and weakening our democratic systems and trust of our citizens on the way forward.

China is using economic and military power to control its people, other countries, world resources, and infrastructure, also in our region. Beijing is investing in the ports, railway infrastructure and has a strong media presence in the Western Balkans.

To sum up, Geoană said that the cooperation between allies sharing our values such as democracy, freedom, rule of law, human rights is crucial. The closer we cooperate, the chances to succeed in protecting the democratic lifestyle from those who want to hurt us are bigger, stated NATO Deputy Secretary General.

President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic assessed that Russia’s goal was not to jeopardize primarily Montenegro, but the Western values and to undermine the West itself, while Montenegro was just a fertile ground for that.

While participating at the 11th 2BS Forum, he said that the comments about Montenegrin politics having gotten Russia through the front door in the Western Balkans and Montenegro being the sole culprit of its today’s situation were false.

While reminding that only two big Russian investments have been made in Montenegro, with only one being a success, the Montenegrin President said that Montenegro had its state politics, which had not been influenced by Russia.

He believes that the current situation in the Western Balkans has largely been contributed by Brussels’s reluctance to continue with the European integration process and messages that have been blurring the European perspective of the Balkan countries.

Brussels blamed us for not carrying out enough reforms, while we blamed them for slowing down the integration process; therefore, today, we have a situation where stability and not the European perspective is on our agenda. I have always emphasized that there is a big and quality equal sign between stability and the European integration process, he said, adding that we testify that as soon as the European relations are weakened, the third countries interfere with their own plans.

Djukanovic pointed out that the presence of the third countries opened the door to growing nationalism to the point that nowadays we speak about the creation of nationalistic greater state constructs, nationally and religiously homogenous, which should be created at the expenses of North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Claiming that he has never asked for the regional counties to become the EU member states before the criteria were met, he said that he asked for the integration processes not to be halted since the Balkan countries cannot ensure stability themselves.

Answering the question about him being responsible for the current position of the Serbian President, Djukanovic said that such claims had come from former Serbian President Boris Tadic who, having lost the elections, tried to pass the responsibility to Montenegro.

What happened there is that the impotent nationalism of Boris Tadic is being replaced with aggressive nationalism of Aleksandar Vucic, and together, they have been resting upon the politics that is based on the need allegedly to protect Serbs in the region and their rights, the Montenegrin President said highlighting that the goal of such politics is to undermine the regional stability.

Referring to the recently held Non-Aligned Summit in Belgrade, Djukanovic ironically commented that the most important thing we found out was that Russia supports Serbia.

While commenting on the internal affairs in Montenegro, Djukanovic said that the current state of affairs was not long-term and that the elections were the only right way to come out of it.

This Government is not functional and, having in mind the coalitional character of its constituents, it cannot be functional, and none reshuffle can ameliorate the situation, the Montenegrin President estimated, noting that smaller partners always realize that they have been swallowed by the larger ones.

He believes that the post-election reality brought important knowledge about the Serbian Orthodox Church being an instrument of the Greater Serbia politics, serving to destabilize the neighboring countries and that the pre-election processions were not a movement against allegedly infringed religious rights.

Djukanovic reminded that the pro-European majority in Montenegro was dominant and that it should consolidate. His Democratic Party of Socialists is rising the rating level and according to him, the decision made at the Congress to open the door for a whole new generation of young politicians proved to be right. He said that he was not afraid of divisions in society and that he believed that he was still able to contribute to the creation of better politics in Montenegro.

The United States is fully aware that there are external influences that are trying actively to destabilize and disrupt Montenegro’s democratic progress and derail it from its Euro-Atlantic future, the United States Ambassador to Montenegro Judy Rising Reinke said the opening of the 11th 2BS Forum organized by the Atlantic Council of Montenegro.

She said that the Unites States encouraged all political leaders to do everything they could to unite around shared democratic values including multiculturalism and tolerance, as well as to support a unified, sovereign Montenegro in which all citizens of Montenegro have a home.

Rising Reinke said that she was concerned by the level of divisiveness visible in our society.

When I arrived in Montenegro in 2018, this country was a point of pride in the midst of the Western Balkans. Recent event, however, have stoke tensions, deepening societal divisions, she said, adding that the potential for these divisions to be further exacerbated does exist.

She illustrated that on the example of the United States’ questioning the utility of a national census at this time that focuses on divisive questions like national ethnicity; “certain political forces have been cynically promoting the undertaking hoping it would further drive a wedge between those who identify as Serb and those who identify as Montenegrin, and potentially further marginalizing those who embrace other protected identities.“

Montenegro’s tradition of multiculturalism has long been a stabilizing force in the Western Balkans, the Ambassador said. However, what she sees alarming is the seeming erosion of the celebration of diversity that is particularly visible and escalating political rhetoric.

Rising Reinke appealed to the politicians to stay focused on achieving progress in areas that speed the EU accession process, which would in turn bring prosperous future for the citizens of Montenegro. The United States remains very ready to support constructive dialogue that will lead Montenegro towards its Euro-Atlantic path, the U.S. Ambassador said.

That path means meeting the agenda that includes strengthening the rule of law, confronting trans-national organized crime, rooting out entrenched corruption, and the establishment of independent judiciary, she said. She commended some recent successes in the security sector and the high-profiled arrests of high-profile organized crime cases.

Referring to the position of NATO, she said that that Alliance faced nowadays threats that included some greater power efforts to weaken or even destroy the Alliance. Rising Reinke reminded that NATO remanded only as strong as each and every one of its members’ commitment to the Alliance.

It is essential that all of us, NATO members, do our parts to strengthen the Alliance, whether that means meeting financial obligations or sending military troops to participate at NATO missions that bolster regional cooperation. In that sense, she commended Montenegro as a credible Alliance’s ally.

In the end, the Ambassador said to the people of Montenegro to stay true to the vision of a secure, democratic, and multiethnic Montenegro, one that is destined to take its rightful place among the European democracies as a member of the European Union.

Montenegro cannot and must not allow Serbia, Russia, China one day, or any other country to govern our country, a NATO member state, said the President of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro Savo Kentera while opening the 11th 2BS Forum.
Kentera said that this is not only about us anymore, but the whole Alliance and protection of its interests, as well as protection of each NATO member state’s national interests.

He particularly emphasized that we must not allow Montenegro to become an example of causing instability, social divisions, and chaos through the spreading of fake news, intensive disinformation campaign and, generally speaking, malign influence implemented through political parties, individuals, NGO sector, or similar.
What is happening in Montenegro today may become a pattern tomorrow- any member state may be presented as a factor of instability and divisions within NATO. This is not and cannot be in the interest of anyone within the Alliance, he warned.
Pointing out to the fact that during the previous years a particular ambiance was created, resulted in deep divisions backed by a foreign factor, and led us to where we are now, Kentera emphasized that the only way to oppose such condition is to strengthen the institutions of the system.
We need to have the Government that would be capable to close all Chapters with the EU as soon as possible, that will work to make Montenegro the EU member in a couple of years, instead of receiving negative reports from the EU on the other hand. We need the Government that would be engaged in attracting foreign investors and not cause their outflow from Montenegro, the Government that will take care of its citizens and better quality of life instead of adopting or announcing populist measures that it knows are not realistic, Government that would never allow for those who prefer some other country to Montenegro to infiltrate into the security sector. And, the most important, the Government that would support Montenegrin NATO membership not only declaratively, but actively contribute to the strengthening of the Alliance and all its members, the President of the ACM emphasized.
At the same time, he emphasized that the future of our country and the region is only in our hands.
If we themselves do not do something to fight all the threats to the Western civilizational values, in that case, we cannot expect to move forward, he said, expressing the belief that we have enough strength, will, and wisdom to set Montenegro and the region back on the right path.
Reflecting on the whole path of Montenegro, from the independence to nowadays, Kentera said that progress is obvious in many areas. We became a NATO member and therefore, rose the security to the highest level, attracted many investors who saw Montenegro as an exceptional opportunity to invest their capital in the long term. We elevated the level of rule of law, adopting numerous laws in accordance with the EU directives, opened all the Chapters and closed the three of them.
However, there are some areas where a lot more could have been done, first of all, in the field of education, culture, strengthening of the institutions’ independence, Kentera said, adding that the consequences caused by the lack of attention to these areas are visible today.
Commenting on the situation in the region, the President of the ACM emphasized that today, we are in a more difficult situation than we were a couple of years ago. In that context, he mentioned the path that Serbia took – from the constructive factor of peace and stability in the region to the country that compromises the stability of the Western Balkans, due to the political decisions of its leaders.
Unfortunately, today we have a completely different picture. Instead of being the factor of stability in the region, Serbia seems to be returning to the 90s politics, but this time using sophisticated methods, covered by democracy and protection of Serbs in the region. We are witnessing the events in Kosovo and other countries in the region these days. However, the most prominent example of disruption of good neighborhood relations is reflected in the example of Montenegro, said Kentera.
He wondered if Serbia is pursuing such policy due to the election that it needs to gain or to cause instability in the region, or for the interests that Russia wants to achieve in the region while not exposing itself and its people, taught by the poor lessons< from the previous years?

The eleventh 2BS FORUM – one of the leading politico-security conferences in Southeast Europe, organized by the Atlantic Council of Montenegro is being held on Friday, October 15th. This year, the Atlantic Council of Montenegro celebrates 15 years of dedicated work on strengthening democracy, security, and stability in Montenegro and the region.

In order to support and advocate for these ideas, the Forum, as the leading conference of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro and the leading event in the SEE, gathers Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers, MPs, diplomats, representatives of international organizations, and the security experts from both sides of the Atlantic, who will discuss the regional and global trends and challenges.

You can follow the live stream of the conference here

The eleventh 2BS FORUM, one of the leading politico-security conferences in Southeast Europe, organized by the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, will take place on October 15, 2021.
This year, the Atlantic Council of Montenegro celebrates 15 years of dedicated work on strengthening democracy, security, and stability in Montenegro and the region. In order to support and advocate for these ideas, the Forum, as the leading conference of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro and the leading event in the SEE, gathers Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers, MPs, diplomats, representatives of international organizations, and the security experts from both sides of the Atlantic, who will discuss the regional and global trends and challenges.
Adapting to the conditions and complying with the COVID-19 preventive measures, the 2BS Forum will be organized this year again in a hybrid format, which implies the organization of the event with the most prominent participants present on-site, in accordance with the restrictions and measures for organizing indoor events. Along with this, it is planned that the speakers from abroad will join via online platforms. You would be able to follow the 2BS Forum live on our official channels.

Education is the only way for societies to fight disinformation in the long run, a dangerous phenomenon that causes serious damage to all countries – was concluded on the panel dedicated to the fight against disinformation, organized within the jubilee tenth 2BS Forum, held on December 11.

Milan Jovanović, from the Digital Forensic Center, believes that the existence of political will and understanding of key decision-makers about the negative implications of this phenomenon is crucial for the success of the fight against fake news in all societies. No fact-checking organization can deal with such a complex phenomenon on its own. The answer must be multi-sectoral, ie it must include the cooperation of fact-checking organizations, the media, but it must also be on the political agenda, he pointed out.

Recalling that disinformation has existed since the language itself, Jovanovic said that, thanks to technology, it has come to the fore and became an everyday topic. Since the 2016 US elections, which are considered a turning point in the global rise of this phenomenon, the use of technology has enabled states, non-state actors, and politicians to spread disinformation, interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, create public opinion, and benefit themselves, he said. He emphasized that technology in its core is not good nor bad, but what we make out of it.

As an example, Jovanovic said that during the last parliamentary elections in Montenegro, the entire country was exposed to an organized campaign and artillery of fake news, primarily from Serbia, to such an extent that the observer could not escape the impression that Montenegro was on the brink of civil war. It was similar when Montenegro was admitted to NATO.

Besides, the current pandemic has also strengthened conspiracy theories and generated many doubts and crooked lines, and the receptivity of these theories to ordinary citizens lies in the fact that they offer easy and uncomplicated answers to complex questions, such as the current pandemic, Jovanovic concluded.

Drawing a parallel between the 2016 U.S. election and this year, Nicholas Yap of the U.S. Atlantic Council said that during this campaign, fake news was much easier to detect and that the proactive approach of fact-checking organizations had a positive result. However, the producers of fake news have themselves changed their tactics, adapted the content, leaving the biggest platforms, and targeting the content to special groups, and they are still successful in that business. He pointed out that now some countries are even making pacts on how to hide hacker attacks or generate fake news, giving them a more authentic look. In that context, he mentioned Russia and Iran. As the only successful way to fight the fake news, he also mentioned education, but also the engagement of the whole society.

Jakub Janda, director of the European Values Think-Tank, pointed to the many similarities between how Russia and China use fake news. They have the same strategic goals in Europe, and that is to squeeze out the United States, to break transatlantic ties, and to achieve their dominant influence in Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans. Unlike aggressive Russia, which uses some countries as proxies, China has a quieter but persistent and firm approach, it buys political influence by finding politicians who, attracted by certain benefits, will promote its interest and spread the misinformation it wants.

Currently, the goals of the disinformation that China is spreading are to remove the blame from that country for the coronavirus pandemic, then to show China as a savior who helps by sharing equipment, and finally to present the United States as a selfish force that does not want to help. He said that China will punish countries in Europe that try to exclude its technology giants from the tender for setting up a 5G network, that it would punish those who have good relations with Taiwan, and that it would try to divert attention from its human rights violations. What worries him is that, unlike the US, Europe has no answer to that. It seems that Europe is not worried, so there is no reason for either China or Russia to change their behavior, concluded Janda.

The U.S. foreign policy will be different under the administration of the new President-elect Joe Biden from the one lead by Donald Tramp, assessed participants at the panel discussion dedicated to the U.S. foreign policy after the Presidential election, organized within the tenth 2BS Forum.

Ivana Stradner, fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, believes that Biden administration’s policy would be different from the one led by President Donald Trump. Contrary to Trump’s isolationism, Biden promises more cooperation starting from rejoining some important organizations and politics that Trump withdrew from, she said. However, she emphasizes that the approach needs to be strategically thought-out.

China is leading four agencies within the United Nations (UN) and some decisions it made within those bodies were very much biased and favorable for China. We cannot allow biased decisions to be made within the UN, Stradner said.

She emphasized that Biden’s approach to Russia would be different. Contrary to Trump who was almost silent on Russia, I have reasons to believe that Biden will act differently, she said.

Stradner believes that Biden would return the United States to the head of the table, which would be a shift compared to Trump who started a trade war. Multilateral pressure will be something that the United States will use in future relationships with China, she added. Different politics is expected in the relations with Iran, with diplomacy playing a key role.

Steven Clemons, editor at large at The Hill – the most read U.S. political platform, said that Donald Trump rejected a great deal of heritage the Unites States were built upon.

Joe Biden is a huge advocate of transatlantic relations, but according to him, it is something that we only see on the surface. Clemons emphasizes that a large majority of Americans wonders why we make ties with Europe, if there are countries such as Poland and Hungary which are autocratic and which lead Europe in a different direction.  He added that the transatlantic relationships that were the product of inertia and that had been developed without a goal for such a long period had become chaotic. Clemons wonders if Biden will be able to devote to the foreign policy given the scope of internal challenges and divisions that the Unites States are facing. After Trump, all the relations should be redefined, and Clemons thinks that Biden will do everything to rebuild ties with many countries and to reduce the tensions.

Stefan Fröhlich, chairman at the Institute of Political Science at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, said that things we would see under Biden’s rule would be different from what Trump was doing. Especially, there would be no isolationism and insulting of his partners in Europe. However, those who think that we would develop the transatlantic relationship similar to that from the period of Obama are wrong. Times are different, as well as the international surroundings, added Fröhlich. He agreed with Clemons that Biden would find domestic agenda more relevant that the foreign one. Biden will have a different approach towards the foreign policy. Fröhlich added that he would reject Trump’s contempt for the cooperation with European partners, as that was the way to suppress Russian and Chinese expansion, as well as that he would rely more on diplomacy than on military. 

Ambassador Philip Reeker, U.S. State Department Official from the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, stated that the USA were committed to the full integration of the Western Balkans in the EU.

There is no better time than this to reaffirm this commitment, said Reeker who was one of the main speakers at the 2BS Forum and added that the Western Balkan countries were on the right path to accomplish that.

We have the reasons to be optimistic. We see how far Northern Macedonia has come, we recognize dedication to integration when it comes to people in this region and our collective interest is to strengthen these aspirations, Reeker said.

Our vision, the US vision is a stable region, peaceful and integrated in the EU, Reeker said, emphasizing that the strong Balkans implies more stable Europe.

The most important thing that I see is that the Western Balkan countries articulated these aspirations, they brought decisions themselves and we are just helping them to achieve it. We believe that the countries themselves are capable to solve the problems and debatable issues together, Reeker emphasized.

He gave a recognition to many countries in the region, such as Albania and Northern Macedonia, Croatia that presided the EU, showing that they were mature enough to assume the responsibility. As a great sign of encouragement that the things in the region are improving, Reeker mentioned the conciliatory tones which could be heard in Croatia from the Prime Minister Plenkovic and which also contribute to easing the national tensions and reconciliation. He commended the election in Mostar, which were encouraged by the USA and the EU.

The Freedom House report that characterized the situation in Serbia and Montenegro as a hybrid regime caused a certain level of concern, as he said. It is a serious step back in comparison to the situation before.

He expressed gratitude to new Prime Minister of Montenegro Zdravko Krivokapic who is ensuring us that the European and Euro-Atlantic future of Montenegro cannot be put into question. Our partner is the people of Montenegro and we have a continuity of good cooperation through a range of administrations.

Ambassador Reeker assessed that the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina must continue, that their potential was not exploited yet. He emphasized the efforts of the USA and EU that Bulgaria gave up on blocking the Northern Macedonia in the accession process and that Skopje could not be blocked, especially after the full commitment to the reforms. We are committed to the resolving of bilateral issues, out of the accession process.

Reeker said that newly elected US President Joe Biden perfectly knew the situation in the region, that he visited it, frequently hosted the local leaders and was familiar with the situation in the Western Balkans. I cannot tell what kind of moves the new administration will make, but I know that there is a continuity of all administrations regardless of their political spectrum when it comes to the fact that the Western Balkans needs to have European future.

He illustrated the claim that Europe as well perceived the Balkans as its part with the amount of aid that the EU and NATO directed towards the countries in the region during the Covid-19 pandemic. Not a single country would be able to provide it itself.

Reeker warned to the fact that particular countries such as Russia could accept the Euro-Atlantic future of the region.

Russia does not realize that this is a choice of the citizens, it is not imposed upon them. Unlike Russia, China is striving to buy the loyalty of the citizens, investing in the infrastructural projects, energetic systems and trying this way to open the doors to its influence, Reeker said.

As long as Moscow is opposing to the commitment of the citizens this strongly, the EU needs to make an effort and do all in its power to help democracy in the region be cemented.

Reeker had a message for the Western Balkans citizens that they should start making history instead of being burdened by it.

Our vision remains the same through different administrations, democratic countries of the Balkans, with responsible authorities that serve to its citizens, Reeker concluded.

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.

Atlantic Council of Montenegro has been closely monitoring the situation and developments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. After careful deliberation, we have decided to postpone the 10th edition of 2BS Forum.

The wellbeing, health, and safety of our participants, partners, and staff is our highest priority which is why we believe that the best way to move forward is to postpone the 2BS Forum.

The new dates will be defined in due course.

Please make sure to monitor our official website and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to keep up with our announcements and developments.

2BS Forum Team