by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the joint press conference with the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Milo Đjukanović
Thank you so much Prime Minister Milo Đjukanović for your warm welcome, and we have met many times before, over a long period, actually over many years. We have met in New York, in Brussels, in Munich and in many other places. But this is the first time we meet in Montenegro, in Podgorica.
But I am here for two reasons.
I’m here to express my and NATO's strong support for your path towards Euro-Atlantic integration.
In addition, I am here to discuss the progress you are making on the reforms which are necessary to obtain an invitation for joining NATO as a full member. And I would like to start by underlining how much we value the contributions of Montenegro to international security and to regional cooperation.
You are providing troops to our mission in Afghanistan and you are also providing troops and financial support to the Afghan Security Forces. These are concrete contributions and we welcome and thank you for that.
Montenegro has clearly demonstrated your commitment to our common values, your commitment to reforms and your commitment to join the Alliance.
We just discussed Montenegro’s progress and what more needs to be done on your path towards membership.
Last year, as you stated Prime Minister, NATO Allies decided to open a period of intensified and focused talks with Montenegro.
And our Foreign Ministers will assess progress in December.
They will decide whether enough progress has been made to invite Montenegro to join the Alliance.
And we reconfirm that we are ready to make a decision by the end of the year at our foreign ministerial meeting in December.
So we are in a crucial phase.
It is important that Montenegro does what needs to be done.
That it demonstrates that it is ready to become a valuable member of the Alliance.
So we count on Montenegro to continue to strengthen the rule of law.
And we encourage you to further build public support for membership.
Joining the Euro-Atlantic family is a win-win for Montenegro and for NATO.
Nations that have joined the Alliance have strengthened their democracy, improved their security and made the lives of their citizens safer.
And in addition, they have made NATO stronger.
Enlargement has been a historic success. Bringing stability and security to Europe.
So Mr. Prime Minister, integration is not an easy path. It demands real and strong commitment. And it demands real change. But it can be done. And Montenegro is making real progress.
I’m looking forward to working with you in the months ahead in this crucial period both for Montenegro and for NATO.
And I will end by saying that this is the first time that I visit Montenegro and Podgorica as Secretary General of NATO and this is the first time that I meet you here, but it is not my first visit to Montenegro. As a child, I grew up in Belgrade and I visited Montenegro several times and I have very good memories from my visit here in the sixties and the seventies. But things have changed and I think it’s an expression of how much it has changed that we are now discussing whether Montenegro is ready to join the Alliance, to join NATO.