Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Milo Đjukanović

  • 25 Mar. 2014 -
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  • Last updated: 25 Mar. 2014 15:48

Prime Minister, it is a pleasure to see you again and to welcome you to NATO headquarters.

Montenegro is an important partner for the Alliance, and you are a strong candidate for membership.

Our meeting today with the North Atlantic Council reflects the importance we attach to taking our relationship forward. Today we discussed the progress you are making in your reform agenda and the growing cooperation between NATO and Montenegro.

I congratulate you on the good progress you have made so far in implementing reforms. And I thank you for your personal commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration. Continuing this hard work is the best way to bring Montenegro into NATO and the European Union.

You also show your commitment to the Alliance in practical terms. You have played a positive role in the Western Balkans and you contribute to international security. We are grateful for Montenegro’s contribution to our mission in Afghanistan. And for your pledge to help the Afghan security forces both financially and through the training mission we are planning after 2014. Your forces are working closely with Croatian and German troops, offering force protection to our trainers in Mazar-e-Sharif.

We know that Euro-Atlantic integration can be a challenging and long road. But it is worth it. And it is important to maintain the momentum of reforms – to deliver a strong track record of implementation.

We have identified the key challenges together, through your Membership Action Plan. Reinforcing the rule of law. Fighting corruption and organised crime. Finding the resources to modernise your armed forces, and explaining to your public the importance of Euro-Atlantic integration.

I encourage you to continue working on these challenges.

All Allies agree that enlargement should be merit based. And there is still work to be done for integration in the Euro-Atlantic community. But you have made great strides in moving closer to NATO.

Prime Minister, NATO’s commitment to the Western Balkans is strong. We see your future in the Euro-Atlantic family and we are determined to help you get there.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary General): Prime Minister.

(Simultaneous translation)

MILO DJUKANOVIC (Prime Minister of Montenegro): Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank the Secretary General of NATO for extremely good and continuous commitment to the partnership between NATO and Montenegro and to his commitment towards meeting our goals towards full integration into NATO.

Allow me to remind you that Montenegro is very resolute in its strides towards its European and Euro-Atlantic integration. And we are now at the forefront of integration process… processes in the Balkans.

I use the opportunity to exchange with Secretary General and his associates by reminding them of the progress that we’ve made in the last couple of months.

Mr. Secretary General and myself met at Munich Security Conference and this was the opportunity just to refresh what we have exchanged then. I reminded him about the analysis that the government made about Force ANP that we reported to the … that we reported the findings to NATO.

We had a track record of four priority areas, and I have informed the Secretary General that the progress was… is quite obvious in our four fields, in rule of law, in reform of defence sector, in reform of security sector, and I want to say that the result of all of that is greater support of public, that dynamically grows, grows at fast pace.

I want to inform you that the last March survey showsthat today’s… today’s support is 46 per cent, which is quite a growth of 15 per cent in your time, which testifies that we work hard and diligently on our reforms regarding… and relevant for our integration in NATO.

We have very good communication strategy now. We speak to all sectors of society about the merits and benefits we can expect from membership to NATO.

And I believe that the support of public will further grow in months to come. Montenegro delivers on its obligations and commitments and (inaudible) to stability, regional stability.

I want to remind you how great relations we have with everyone in the region. We are in a way advocates and champions of regional support. We work with ISAF mission and we will stay with ISAF mission after 2014 and they will stay in the missions, on both NATO missions.

We expect that the progress will be taken on board of NATO, that it will result with invitation to membership, and we hope it will be… it will happen in Wales.

We have aspiration and NATO attention is now focused unfortunately on some other issues. But still, we want at such meetings that we have today to use opportunity to remind allies that no matter how big problems come out, we should never relinquish the idea of enlarging security zone in Europe.

For us the western Balkans is a critically important region where security initiatives should take root and we should not bother to even remember what happened in recent history. That is why I believe that the key issue of the western Balkans, the issue of stability should be addressed by its integration.

And that is why we are a champion, we are advocates of European… the Euro Atlantic values in the region and we are convinced that the results that we achieve will merit attention of NATO on us and that… that with commitments that NATO has will be reflected in assessment by merit and we hope that in the period by until summit will result in meriting invitation.

(End of translation)

MODERATOR:  Montenegro State Radio TV, please.

ALEXANDRA PAVICI:  I’m Alexandra Pavici, from Television of Montenegro. I have a question for Mr. Rasmussen.

Do you think that situation with Russia can have an impact on decision about NATO enlargement in Wales?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: No, the Russian behaviour will not have any impacts on our open-door policy. NATO’s door remains open. According to the NATO treaty, the Alliance may invite European democracies that fulfill the necessary criteria to join our Alliance. And the decision whether we are going to enlarge our Alliance is a decision made within the Alliance, without interference from third parties.

So basically it is an issue to be discussed between an applicant country and the Alliance.

So if an applicant country fulfilled the necessary criteria and 28 allies agree, then we can decide on enlargement. Neither Russia nor any other third party can have an impact on that.

Let me stress that we have not made any decision yet. We are now in the process of preparing our summit in Wales. We are consulting with aspirant countries and how we will address the open-door policy will be decided at a later stage.

MODERATOR:  Teri Schultz, NPR.

QUESTION:  Teri Schulz, with NPR and CBS News. A question for both of you.

Mr. Secretary General, we heard over the weekend from General Breedlove that there is a very, very sizeable and very, very ready force massing on Ukraine’s borders. I’m sure that wasn’t news to you, but it was news to the rest of us to some extent.

Has this increased NATO’s contingency planning for the allies that neighbour Ukraine or for Ukraine itself? Yesterday there was a high-level delegation of Ukrainians who told us afterwards that they had given you a pretty stark picture and said that NATO needs to do more to reassure the environment. So can you tell us if contingency planning is stepped up and what your expectations are for this force, whether you’re worried about the Transnistria question, whether they would go intoMoldova?

And, Mr. Prime Minister, you have good relations not just in your region but also of course with Moscow. Are you… what’s your assessment of President Putin’s behaviour? Are you concerned? Do you feel at all intimidated by what happened to Ukraine when it tried to integrate further with the west? Will it affect Montenegro’s decision-making at all?

Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: As you know, as a matter of principle we never comment on contingency planning. But I can assure you that we are very much concerned about the Russian military build-up along the borders of Ukraine.

We are as an alliance focused on providing effective deterrents and defence and all NATO allies can be assured of our determination to provide effective defence. So we are focused on reassurance of allies and we have all plans in place to provide effective defence of our allies. And furthermore, we’re also in the process of discussing with Ukraine how we can enhance our support for Ukraine.

(simultaneous translation)

MILO DJUKANOVIC: I know that many in international community find intriguing the long… centuries-long good relations between Montenegro and Russia from earlier times when Montenegro was independent country, but also when Montenegro was part of Yugoslavia.

We are resolutely committed to being a part of E.U. and NATO. Even if we wanted to hide it, we wouldn’t be able to. We are very determined. We informed all our partners about that, including Russia, and we are committed fully to that without no doubt.

What does it imply? It implies partnership relations. You know that our government declaration approved of council’s decision, the decision of UN Security Council that we are also in contact with NATO had an open statement about that. And I simply want to tell you Montenegro is a serious state that fully delivers on its partnership commitments.

Of course, as reasonable policies, we always advocate renewal of dialogue between NATO and Russia. We believe that it is the way to overcome the problems. We know it by our experience because we are the country that has been through sanctions, UN sanctions and the state that owing to wrong politics of Milosevic was bombed by NATO, we know that after that, you again have to have a dialogue. And that is why we are looking forward that the first step was made yesterday in Hague when the ministers of Foreign Affairs met.

Thank you.