Joint press conference
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Milo Đjukanović
Hello Prime Minister Djukanovic,
Thank you so much for your great hospitality and on behalf of all the 28 ambassadors from all the 28 NATO Allied countries I’d like to thank you for your hospitality. For two days with a very interesting informative program and many good meetings. And it’s good for me to back in Montenegro. I visited Montenegro in June and now I’m back with the whole North Atlantic Council representing all the 28 Allied countries.
And we have just finished two days of excellent discussions. On Montenegro’s membership aspirations. On the progress you made. And on what more remains to be done.
NATO’s relationship with Montenegro is strong and deep. You are an important partner for the Alliance. And Montenegro is a strong aspirant for membership.
Montenegro is a champion of regional cooperation. We value your contributions to international security. This is important in light of the security challenges we face from many different directions.
And you are providing troops to our training missions in Afghanistan. And you provide financial support to the Afghan Security Forces.
In addition you offered to also contribute to our mission in Kosovo, the KFOR NATO operation. So you contribute already a lot to NATO missions, to NATO activities and I both commend you and thank you for doing so.
In less than two months, NATO Foreign Ministers will decide whether to invite Montenegro to join the Alliance.
So our visit here to Podgorica and Montenegro comes at a critical time. Montenegro has already introduced substantial reforms. You have made important progress in strengthening the rule of law. And I encourage you to further build public support for membership.
Full implementation of the reforms is key. We know that this is not an easy path. It demands strong commitment. But it can be done. And Montenegro is taking the right steps.
Joining the Euro-Atlantic family is a win-win. For Montenegro and for NATO.
Countries which joined the Alliance have been able to strengthen their democracy, boost their security and make their citizens safer.
This is important because security is important in itself but in addition of course stability, security is important for so much more, for instance for economic development and economic prosperity. Countries which have joined the Alliance have also made NATO stronger. Being in NATO means defending each other.
That is the basis for our Alliance. Security for all members, assured by all members. One for all and all for one.
Prime Minister, I commend you for what you have done and for what you have achieved so far, and I encourage you to continue on the path of reform.
So that Montenegro can move forward on your path towards Euro-Atlantic integration.
Q: Mr. Secretary General, [inaudible], Montenegro has [inaudible], can you tell us..[inaudible].
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO SECRETARY GENERAL): Montenegro is a very strong aspirant for membership and Montenegro has already made a lot of progress and just compared to what I saw in June I have seen progress taking place just since then. You have made progress when it comes to modernizing your armed forces, you have made progress when it comes to reforming your intelligence sector, not making it bigger but making it better. And you have also made progress in the area of rule of law, fighting corruption, fighting the misuse of public funds and we’ve also seen increased support in Montenegro for NATO membership. But the decision is going to be taken by foreign ministers in December and I will not pre-judge that decision. We are going to continue our assessments, the visit today has been an important part of the work we’re going to do towards the ministerial meeting in December and then we will decide on the question of inviting Montenegro to become a member of the Alliance. And my main message is that to continue on the path of reforms is important both because it is important in itself but also of course it moves Montenegro towards membership.
MILO DJUKANOVIC (Montenegro Prime Minister): [Speaking with Translator]. So she’s asking about whether we can feel more optimism than last time in the visit. Yes and the optimism is realistic and as our dear guest said Montenegro is today in a better shape. Every month Montenegro is in a better shape. It is continuously improving thanks to the serious reforms that we are implementing in Montenegro. And I agree a lot with the opinions that Mr. Stoltenberg gave here but particularly with what he said answering the last question. Everything that we are doing, we are not doing it because of the invitation or because we want to open new chapters in the negotiations with European Union, we are doing this because we want to improve the quality of life. This is what we are committed to, we managed to bring Montenegro in the last ten years from the position of one of the most underdeveloped countries in the region to the position of one of the most developed. But we are not happy with that, we want to reach the utopian level of development and we know what will take us there and that is continuation of the reforms by the invitation but also beyond. We have to do that and that’s why every month and every year we will improve and it will logically be registered by our partners and by our allies and that’s why I believe that their opinions and reviews about how much we are ready for, to join the most developed countries, will be better every time. And we think that our perspective in the NATO and EU is very foreseeable.
Q: General Secretary, US President Obama has announced today that US troops will remain in Afghanistan through the 2017, will the rest of the Alliance follow his decision? TRANSLATOR: So she’s asking about the troops in Afghanistan, whether the government will allocate a budget?
JENS STOLTENBERG: I’m being informed about that, that the President, the President of United States, President Obama is going to make an announcement later on today and I’m looking forward to the announcement by the President but I think it would be very wrong if I started to comment on an announcement by the President which is not yet made. So I think we have to wait to the announcement and then I will be more than willing to comment on the announcement. I’m looking forward to the announcement. I can add one thing and that is that I have commended Montenegro for its contribution to the NATO operation in Afghanistan. And this just shows how Montenegro has modernized, how Montenegro has developed and that Montenegro has been able to develop what we call interoperability, the ability to work together with modern forces of NATO in a challenging security environment as we have in Afghanistan and I have seen the Montenegrin troops, they are excellent, they are skilled, they are well trained. So it’s impressive to see the way Montenegro is contributing to difficult, demanding and important NATO operations in Afghanistan. So I thank once again for this important contribution.
MILO DJUKANOVIC (Speaking with Translator): The most rational thing would be now to say that I should not comment, this announced, announcement. But allow me to say just a few words. In our participation in the missions, particularly Afghanistan, I see serious advantages for our country and I see that there is a serious interest of the members of our army to participate in those missions where Montenegro participates. So there is no need for us to prove and explain how much new experience we have gained in participating in those missions and how much trust we have built in relations with the members of NATO and others when non-members participate in these missions. So our interest to cooperate in the region and in the global level will remain and be solid and as for your question related to the announcement of President Obama I think we should wait and hear what the further policy of the partners will be and I can say that we will remain there with everyone and we will even stronger try to contribute to the stability of the region and globally.
Q: [Speaking with Translator]. Question for the Prime Minister. You said that you met with, you informed Mr. Stoltenberg that public support is, hasn’t been increased and I would like to hear what is the percentage that you told him?
MILO DJUKANOVIC [Speaking with Translator]: Well he was informed of the percentage that the Montenegrin public was informed of, of course. We had in September two public opinion polls, one by Ipsos from Paris and their result is that if, so their result is the following. To the question of whether the respondents would participate in the referendum for NATO membership if organized, 70 % of the respondents said yes, and if the referendum took place now 52 % of the respondents would say yes and 46 would say no to NATO membership. That is the data that we gave to the Secretary General and members of NAC. And I also informed them that in addition to that poll there was another one that was not done at our orders but it was ordered by certain member states of NATO and that the results of that public opinion poll showed that 10 % of the respondents who would vote, so 10 % of respondents more would vote for than against the membership. So these are reliable polls, these are not something that we ordered and even if we ordered a poll like this I believe that you have learned from experience that we do not use polls to self-delude ourselves, to bring us in self-delusion. Whatever we did in the polls was confirmed later in the election processes or referendum, so just like then we are now faced, ready to face the truth. When we have minority support we face the truth and now we also are willing to face the truth, that may be now that majority of citizens want membership in NATO. Thank you.