by NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller following the CRNA GORA 2016 civil emergency exercise in Montenegro
I came this morning to see the final day of this important exercise that is looking mostly at issues to do with water rescue.
And I was indeed able to see how the 17 teams from all across the region and from as far away as the United States have been working together to, you know, simulate rescuing victims of floods. Rescuing people who are trapped in houses. Even rescuing farm animals.
And I think it is so important to show that NATO is not just about cooperative defence; it is also involved in dealing with natural disasters, helping countries to address terrible situations that arise.
I know even here in Montenegro you’ve had terrible floods from time to time. Terrible snowfalls. And NATO working together with countries such as Montenegro is able to help with these natural disasters.
So it was a great opportunity for me. It’s my very first trip as the new Deputy Secretary General of NATO. And it’s my very first opportunity to be in Montenegro as well.
And so it’s really been a working visit. I have learned a lot, and I thank Montenegro for the terrific work that your people did, your teams did, to organize this important exercise. Except for maybe the rain. Otherwise a perfect, perfect exercise I would say.
National Television: We have seen on the eve of the elections here on the 16th of October that a possible terrorist attack was thwarted. We heard the Prosecutor General of Montenegro speaking about it. It was possibly linked to the Russian activity and we see Russians are quite active in the region. Will this speed up Montenegro’s accession to NATO? How do you evaluate events of this kind and the readiness of Montenegro to join NATO in this context?
Rose Gottemoeller: First, of course the events around your election are a very serious matter. I know the comment was made about the investigations being open, the Prosecutor General being involved in the matter. I would not want to comment on an open investigation of this kind, but it is a very serious matter indeed, and I am glad that there is now an open investigation, both here in Montenegro and also an ongoing investigation in Serbia. So I think it is very important that these investigatory processes proceed forward. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on them. But I will say that I believe the work you have done to strengthen your national institutions is very important to address a situation of this kind. So I do think that the process of preparing for NATO membership has strengthened Montenegro to address a serious crisis such as this kind. So that is already a positive effect of NATO membership. As far as your accession to NATO, it is, as I remarked a few moments ago, proceeding smoothly. It is already clear that Montenegro has been invited to become a NATO member and one by one the countries who are currently NATO Allies – the 28 countries – are voting in their national parliaments on accession. That process is smooth. I don’t see any reason why NATO membership for Montenegro should not be ready in 2017. Of course, Montenegro itself will have to complete your accession processes in your parliament and then that will complete the overall process of your NATO membership. I think it’s not a matter of anything needed to speeded up. I think actually your membership in NATO, the accession process is moving forward smoothly. I expect that, pending all of these parliamentary processes being completed, you will become a member in the spring of 2017. So I don’t see any problems with that.
Telegraf: Your comment about the military exercise in Serbia, in which Russia and Belarus participated. Is it only a coincidence that the NATO exercise in Montenegro happened at the same time?
Rose Gottemoeller: I already mentioned what careful planning went into this exercise for these emergency response scenarios here in Montenegro. This exercise has been under planning for already a year. So it wasn’t thought up at the last minute. One thing I do want to stress – I think it’s a very, very important point – is that NATO puts a lot of importance on countries having the opportunity to choose their security relationships. It’s a country’s sovereign right to choose its own security arrangements. So it’s up to Serbia to decide if it would like to take part in a military exercise with the Russian Federation. As far as NATO is concerned, that’s fine, that’s ok. This is not a zero-sum game. Serbia can choose its security and defence relationships as it sees fit, as a national sovereign nation. But we’re also very glad that Serbia is here, participating in this important emergency response exercise. So, again, it’s important that a country be able to participate in what exercises it finds useful for its defence and security relationships, but also for its national requirements in areas like emergency response. I think all the countries that participated here learned a lot about how to deal with natural disasters that would require water rescue, like big floods.