Joint press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Prime Minister of Montenegro Milo Đukanović

  • 19 May. 2016 -
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  • Last updated: 20 May. 2016 14:02

(As delivered)

Dobar dan!

And welcome. And it’s great to see you here Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic. And congratulations because this is really an important day for Montenegro and for the Alliance.

Moments ago, NATO Foreign Ministers signed the Accession Protocol for Montenegro.

From now on, Montenegro will participate in all NATO meetings as an observer, or “Invitee”.

The ratification period will now begin.

Once all Allies have ratified the Protocol, Montenegro will be invited to accede to the Washington Treaty and become the 29th member of our Alliance.

Montenegro has already been contributing to NATO, EU, and UN operations;

Promoting regional cooperation in the Balkans;

And implementing major reforms.

Membership will give Montenegro the ability to help shape NATO policy.

It will bring more stability and security to the region, and therefore promoting prosperity.

And it will be a clear sign that NATO’s door remains open for partners that share and promote our values.

The road is not easy, and there is still work to do, but Montenegro is showing that it is possible. 

So I expect Montenegro to continue its reforms.

And I expect we will soon see twenty-nine Allied flags flying outside of NATO headquarters.

NATO membership will bring Montenegro into our unique family of nations - the most successful alliance in history.

So that was what we signed earlier today when we signed the Accession Protocol and for me it was really a great honour to participate in that signing ceremony and also a great honour to be able to give you the pen which was used by all 28 Allies to sign the Accession Protocol for Montenegro.

So once again, welcome to NATO headquarters, Prime Minister Djukanovic.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson): we'll start with the lady in the first row.

Q: Thank you, [inaudible] and I have a question for Mr. Stoltenberg. What are next steps that Montenegro should do after to signature today? Which are issues that Montenegro government should pay attention to, thank you?

Jens Stoltenberg (NATO Secretary General): I think its very important to remember that this is not the end of it this is the beginning. This is the beginning of a journey for Montenegro being member of the most successful alliance in history and that's good for Montenegro but it also requires that Montenegro continues to implement reforms both related to the rule of law, ready to fight against corruption and to continue to modernize the defensive situations of Montenegro. But I am, I'm very impressed by the dedication and the strong commitment of Montenegro to do exactly that. And that's also the reason why 28 allies have decided to invite them today also to then sign the accession protocol because we have seen such a strong commitment on Montenegro exactly to those core values of NATO. Then of course we look forward to work with Montenegro in the alliance and Montenegro has also then to when all the 28 allied countries have ratified the accession protocol then Montenegro has to deposit this protocol in Washington and then after that Montenegro will be a full member of the alliance.

Oana Lungescu: Mitatas (sic). Yeah, no fourth row.

Q: Thank you my name is [inaudible] Burn Mitatas News Agency. Mr. Secretary General how long do you expect the ratification process will take? Is it feasible to end it by the end of the year or its it could take longer, what's your estimation?

Jens Stoltenberg: You know its up to each and every Parliament in each and every allied nation, 28 NATO allied nations to decide and I think its not very wise if I sit here in Brussel, in Brussels and start to give advice to the different Parliaments. But last time it took around one year. So if that's some kind of model I think that that perhaps is also gives some kind of indications about how much time it may take this time. But its up to all the Parliaments to decide how much time they need to ratify the accession protocol.

Oana Lungescu: Slovakia Daily Pravda, second row.

Q: Thank you very much Slovakia Daily Pravda. Mr. Prime Minister as Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak will visit Montenegro tomorrow how would you assess the support of Slovakia during the accession process? And second question if I may as we are talking a lot about enhanced presence on the eastern flank and you are now on the table you are now sitting with 28 allies are you also planning to contribute somehow to this enhanced presence on the eastern flank and also that question for Mr. Secretary General are you going to ask Montenegro to do something on the eastern flank, thank you?

Milo Dukanovic (Montenegro Prime Minister): Speaking in Montenegrin.

Interpreter: First of all I would like to talk in a very assertive and affirmative manner about the relations between Slovakia and Montenegro and about their support and I mean these are not only the countries who share the same values and have the same goals they are much more. We are two friendly countries that cooperate very intensively more or less in all areas and we should not forget also that on behalf of European Union Slovakia gave two very prominent diplomats at a time in Montenegro organize their referendum of independence and advised democratic and European standards so we can say that in that sense Slovakia has significant credit and close for what happened in Montenegro in 2006 and they are to be given the credit for the manner in which it happened. We are very proud today that it is in that way that Montenegro managed to restore its independence and its statehood which is not in line with what is usually happening in the Balkans but I think its a very good foundation for the development of the new stage of relations between these two countries and I think that these relations are a good example for all other European Nations.

Q: Montenegro developed yeah

Interpreter: Montenegro is the country that makes decision in a very thoughtful manner I mean decisions to accede at international organizations and the questions [inaudible] to Montenegro about certain aspects of the joint external and foreign policy but we are the country that handles responsibly our decisions and the unions that we accede. Entering into the process of negotiations with the European Union it went without saying that we will share the responsibility for the decisions made and it is the same as when it comes to relations with NATO. I assume that you know that in fourteen cycles we have our presence in Afghanistan through various missions fighting from ISAF and going all the way to the resident support missions. And you know that we are present in other parts of the world as well regardless of the fact that we are a small country. This is how we see belonging to a union to an alliance, we want to be contributors and not only receive support. So there is no doubt that we will continue doing so in the future. What our obligations are is what we intend to fulfill and have a responsible attitude to it.

Jens Stoltenberg: As he just underlined Montenegro is already contributing a lot to different NATO operations and missions. Montenegro has been present in Afghanistan for many years. Montenegro contributes to our presence in Kosovo. Montenegro contributes to our efforts to help Ukraine with a trust fund, provide practical support for Ukraine and also we work very closely with Montenegro when it comes to fighting terrorism and dealing with the challenges related to returning foreign fighters. So we work with Montenegro in many different ways already and Montenegro contributes in many different ways already. I'm certain that Montenegro will contribute even more when they become full member and also because from as of today they will participate in our meetings so it will become even easier for me to ask for help from Montenegro and Ill ask them almost every day for something to do. So I'm looking forward to doing exactly that.

Oana Lungescu: Lady in the front row.

Q: Speaking in Montenegrin.

Interpreter: Question for Mr. Dukanovic. Mr. Dukanovic what is your opinion, how will this signing of this protocol reflect on the internal situation in Montenegro, on the eve of elections?

Milo Dukanovic: Speaking in Montenegrin.

Interpreter: I think we should note is that in addition and parallel with this agenda there are some other agenda, political agenda in Montenegro and one of those is the process that was completed late last night or early morning this morning when the Parliament adopted my proposals for accepting the members of the Opposition as members of the government that was not done because of pressure from any side but because we thought it was needed. We needed to include all other political irrelevant entities in Montenegro into the work of the Executive Branch of power. At least those who were not qualified for the Executive Branch of power according to the results of the election in 2012 so we want to reduce tensions, we want to integrate as much as we can those other political subjects or entities sorry, into making important decisions. That is why we believe that this process will contribute strongly to the situation in which there will be better understanding for the decision like, decisions like this one today that there will be higher and stronger understanding for our decisions in 2006 when we said that we want to be independent that we want to have European future which we confirmed in the referendum and in our constitution and that everybody will have better understanding that the elections have been confirming this since then. And this year we have Parliamentary elections as you know and we wanted in this way to reduce the mistrust of the Opposition into our election system and our institutions and I believe that this cooperation will have beneficial influence on the understanding of the decisions like this one today and that more people will understand that this is in the interest of Montenegro and each and every citizens of Montenegro and I believe that this decision will have a good beneficial influence on the future political life of our community.

Q: [inaudible] question to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister under what circumstances and what conditions would you organize a referendum on NATO membership or is it completely excluded, thanks?

Interpreter: Well let me remind all of us what the provision of our constitution says. It does not stipulate that we have to organize referendum about NATO membership. The proper reading of the constitution means that the decision can be adopted by the Parliament; however the Parliament can adopt the decision as well to vote in the Parliament for that or to go for a referendum. So I think that at this moment we should not decide or discuss what the Parliament will decide and that will be the Parliament which will be constituted after the elections in October and as a representative of the Executive Branch of Power I always say that I would never organize referendum if there is no need for that and hide behind a veil of the nation or the people. I would, the contrary I would take the responsibility for the decisions that I am allowed to make according to the constitution but that's one opinion, opinion of the Head of the Executive Branch of Power. There is the new Parliament that will make decision about that and they will make the decision about that when the time comes and that is after the process of ratification of today today's protocol is done in the legislative authorities of the NATO countries. I would like to say that I don't think this is the key question because I have the results of the polls. I don't know if you could, if you had the opportunity to see but they show that the support to NATO membership increases, it is eight to nine percent more people for than those against. But the more interesting data is that seventy five percent of the responses believe that Montenegro will be a member of NATO regardless of what think about that it should be a member of NATO or not. So this actually means that we should not be worried about that. We know that this is a legacy that we have from Parliament people think about it but I think that an increasing number of people understand why joining NATO and I think that if the organizer [inaudible] them today in the referendum the majority would vote for and particularly if they organize a referendum a year from today. But as I said let us give the opportunity to the Parliament to make that decision because that is their right and that's what they should do.

Q: For both gentlemen, are you worried that the ratification process might fall victim for domestic issues in some NATO alliance members, something for example if only last month you had a Dutch referendum on the EU, Ukraine Association agreement that was partly derailed so are you worried about certain similar types of some [inaudible] initiatives that might stop or slow down this ratification process?

Jens Stoltenberg: I haven't seen any signs indicating that. Having said that of course the full membership is in place when its, when the accession protocol is ratified by all 28 allied Parliaments. But I haven't seen any signs or indications of any big problems in any of the 28 member States.

Milo Dukanovic: Speaking in Montenegrin.

Interpreter: I would like to confirm what Secretary General has just said. In my communication which I had with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the member States in NATO I can tell you I have not got the impression that any internal situation might jeopardize the normal flow or the smooth flow of this stage of our process. I am convinced that all the countries think that the acknowledgement (sic) process should continue and that Montenegro has done a good job and that we should become a member of NATO.

Q: [inaudible] with Montenegro with will join NATO and this shows that NATO is very focused on the Western Balkan. But how do you see the position of this two country and the road to stop the Russian influence in Western Balkan looking at we are in Western Balkan? Wasn't U.S. Congress adopted an amendment calling all the country administration to prepare Kosovo to join the Partnership for Peace, what's your comment for this?

Jens Stoltenberg: First of all I think its important to underline that the NATO [audio cuts out] over decades has been very important for stabilizing the Western Balkans and to be able to change the situation in the Western Balkans from a region which was very much characterized by war, suffering and conflicts into an area or a region where we now have stability. And of course NATO's presence has contributed to that stability, both our presence and our military operations in Bosnia Herzegovina but also later on our presence in Kosovo and we continue to remain committed to our presence in Kosovo and we have thousands of NATO troops there with partner nations. And we are constantly looking into how we can contribute to further enhance the stability of the whole region and NATO enlargement has been an important tool to achieve exactly that. So we have seen countries like Croatia and Slovenia, Albania becoming members of NATO and now also Montenegro. Its a its we have signed accession treaty. So NATO will continue to be focused on the Western Balkans and the Western Balkans matters for NATO.

Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much this concludes this joint press point. Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you.