by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the informal meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Montenegro
Minister, Mayor, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Let me start by reminding us all of the fact that one year ago in September 2014 the Heads of State and Government in NATO made a very important decision about Montenegro.
And at our summit in Wales we decided that we were going to establish focused and intensified talks with Montenegro.
The Heads of State and Government recognised the progress that this nation had made, in pursuing
reform, in contributing to international security, in promoting cooperation within the Western Balkans.
The result was an unprecedented decision by NATO. To launch a year of ‘Intensified and Focused Talks’ leading to a decision, due this December, on whether to invite Montenegro to join the North Atlantic Alliance.
This is why the Council is in Montenegro today. This working visit provides the opportunity for the representatives of the 28 democracies that make up NATO to see and hear for themselves.
And we will not only hear from the government. We will also hear from a number of Members of Parliament. Those who have doubts about NATO have also been invited.
As an Alliance of democracies, NATO is familiar with hearing different views and different opinions. Every one of our meetings offers such opportunities. This is one of our strengths, allowing us to reach better decisions, supported by all.
Every Ally has an equal voice.
NATO enhances security and stability and at the same time respects the differences among its members. The prosperity, success and freedom which our societies enjoy depend on security. Our security is too often taken for granted, but without security little else can be built.
In the few years since regaining its independence Montenegro has made great efforts, and has achieved a great deal.
In close cooperation with NATO, Montenegro has reformed its armed forces and its intelligence services. These organisations are not getting bigger. They are getting better. More professional and able to face the challenges of the 21st century.
During today’s meeting, the North Atlantic Council will hear in detail about the steps Montenegro is taking in the area of rule of law, and on the question of public understanding and support for NATO membership.
Within the rule of law, significant changes have been introduced. New laws have been adopted, structures have been reformed or created. It is now important for Montenegro to show that these new systems are performing. Delivering the results for which they were created. As an Alliance of democracies, NATO believes that it is important that citizens understand the Alliance, and the values on which it is built. The Council will hear about the latest situation, the topics of debate in Montenegrin society, and the questions that people are asking.
In this spirit of debate and discussion, I would also like to mention the recently adopted Parliamentary Declaration in support of Montenegro’s NATO membership. This was a very welcome step, and not only because a significant majority of MPs voted for the Declaration. But also because it shows Montenegro’s Parliament playing its role in the discussion on this vital important strategic question for Montenegro.
With that by way of opening, I will pause for a moment whilst the media leave the room, before we start the meeting.