by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the joint press point with the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Zdravko Krivokapić
Prime Minister Krivokapić,
Welcome to NATO Headquarters. It's great to see you here.
And congratulations on your recent appointment as the Prime Minister of Montenegro.
I want to thank you for your strong commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration and reforms.
Montenegro is a valued Ally, making important contributions to our shared security.
You provide financial support to the Afghan Security Forces.
You also contribute to NATO's peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
Building stability in the Western Balkans.
And I welcome that Montenegro is increasing defence spending.
All these contributions keep NATO strong.
Prime Minister, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge us all.
But Montenegro does not stand alone.
NATO's disaster relief centre has coordinated assistance to Montenegro.
And Allies have delivered essential medical supplies.
Just last month, Montenegro received assistance from NATO's new medical stockpile.
This included 20 ventilators.
And additional supplies worth 500,000 euros are on their way to Montenegro.
This is NATO solidarity in action.
At the same time, the security challenges we faced before the pandemic have not gone away.
So NATO's air policing mission continues, to ensure the safety of your skies.
With jets from Italy and from Greece.
Today, we addressed security in the Western Balkans. Including how NATO's open door policy contributes to security in the region.
I commend Montenegro for promoting stability in the region.
NATO remains committed to the Western Balkans.
And it is key for the stability of Europe.
We also discussed NATO 2030 and our efforts to make this Alliance even stronger.
We must ensure that we remain strong militarily, become stronger politically, and take a more global approach to the challenges we face.
So Prime Minister, thank you once again.
I look forward to working with you and to welcoming you at the NATO Summit here in Brussels next year.
Remarks by Prime Minister Krivokapić
Question: Ivan Mijanovic, Radio and Television of Montenegro. New Montenegrin government announced the improvement of relations with Russia, do consider that the reinforcement of cooperation with Moscow can go hand in hand with the policies of the Alliance, and I have also one question for Prime Minister Krivokapić. So what are your impressions, after the first visit to NATO and the visit to the Secretary General? Will Montenegro continue to meet the obligations from NATO membership, namely deploying soldiers and will it determine the grounds for training?
Secretary General. [inaudible]…dual track approach to Russia. We believe in dialogue, but also deterrence and defence and we believe in the combination of being firm, provide a critical defense for all allies, but at the same time being able to engage in dialogue with Russia to try to strive for a better relationship with Russia. Russia is of course not an ally. And we have seen Russia being responsible for efforts to try to meddle in domestic politics in democratic processes in several NATO allied countries. We have seen them being responsible for cyber-attacks against our Parliament's or against our democratic institutions, and we have seen Russia being willing to use military force against neighbors. For instance, illegally annexed Crimea. So, we need to pursue this dual track approach. Critical deterrence, defense, but at the same time dialogue and through that to try to improve the relationship with Russia but Russia has to respect international law, to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries in Europe.
Prime Minister of Montenegro. Allow me to resume and answer to the first question. Obviously, in my inaugural speech, which I presented in the Parliament of Montenegro I let everybody know that we will be strengthening all the good relations with everybody including Russia. That part was so solely and only connected to the necessary economic activities and tourism, because the largest influx of tourists to Montenegro comes from Russia. And when it comes to getting into conflict with any policy of the alliance of course we will comply with the policy of the alliance in any such instance that's very clear answer about the path that Montenegro will be taking.
When it comes to this second question, I partly answered, talking about the missions, so there is no need for me to repeat myself. But when it comes to the training grounds, your question probably has to do with the situation that happened in Sinjajevina mountain and we will analyze with due diligence all the opportunities and possibilities and find a good training ground which will satisfy NATO standards. Why is Sinjajevina mountain reflection of citizens victory this time? That is so because an environmental area was safeguarded and I have to say something very important for Mr. Stoltenberg to hear. Our water source [Mariza (?)], which is mostly used for [potable (?)]water in Podgorica, we still today we don't know which hypothesis is true whether this water source comes from Sinjajevina, [Morickakapa (?)] or Ponikvice locations. So we have to be very careful about everything that we are doing, we have to find the best solution in order to meet the needs of NATO requirements and our plans and to preserve the essential value which is first and foremost our environment. Thank you.
Question: Jovana Djurisic, Pobeda. My first question goes to the Secretary General, do you expect that new Montenegrin government will have a full commitment to NATO membership, and did you receive such a confirmation from Prime Minister having in mind that his close coworkers and also members of his cabinet were a big opponents of NATO membership, which was demonstrated by burning NATO flag. And one more question for Prime Minister, will this decision on allocations of the planned 2% for defense be changed? This decision was made by the previous government. Will it be maybe revised bearing in mind Corona crisis and deaths. Thank you.
Secretary General. (inaudible)…that Montenegro will remain loyal and committed NATO ally, that has been the clear message from the Prime Minister. And also a commitment to further increase the efforts to modernize the armed forces of Montenegro and also welcoming the fact that for instance NATO provides air policing for Montenegro. And I think also you have to understand that the membership of Montenegro in NATO is good for Montenegro, it's good for NATO, it's good for the whole region. And what we have seen is that NATO is the most successful alliance in history, because we have been able to preserve peace. Our aim is not to provoke a conflict but our aim is to preserve peace and peace and stability is a precondition for economic prosperity. We have seen that throughout Europe, we have seen that every time NATO invites a new member into our alliance that it's good for the security, but it's also good for economic prosperity. So it is in the interest of Montenegro, it is in the interest of all NATO allies that we stand together. When we stand together we are safer we are more secure and we preserve peace and it was a clear message from the Prime Minister that Montenegro will continue to be a committed NATO ally.
Prime Minister of Montenegro. Well, not to be inconsistent, I would like to express very clear opinion. I was a professor, and I regret. If any burning of the flag took place in Montenegro I haven't taken note of that due to my profession, I was dealing with my profession, I wasn't really following all the news. So, what you said refers only to one person in my office and I want to say that that gentleman in question gave a statement specifying clearly that he upholds the agreement that the coalition had signed immediately after the elections. And allow me to say and that's something that the Secretary General has already said, all of us evolve, we change, so allow that meant to change so that all of us together be partners who will be appreciating each other, respecting each other and working together Thank you.
Question: Maria Psara from Open TV Greece. Secretary General, in the past you have expressed concerns over the procurement and the testing of the S-400 by Turkey and yesterday the USA has imposed sanctions against Turkey. I would like to comment on that. And please comment on the European Council's results on Turkey again, Thank you very much.
Secretary General. I regret that we are in a situation where NATO allies have to impose sanctions on each other. And I have also expressed my concerns about the consequences of the Turkish decision to acquire the Russian S-400 air and missile defense system. This is a national decision but the S-400 system is not compatible with NATO systems, it cannot be integrated into the integrated air and missile defense of NATO and I have therefore expressed my concerns about this also previously. At the same time, I urge all NATO allies and Turkey and other allies to look into whether there are ways to find a positive solution. We know that there has been talks before on the possibility of the delivery of NATO systems, like for instance the Patriot system or SAMP-T which are NATO systems that can strengthen, augment Turkish air defense but also do that in a way which is compatible and possible to integrate in NATO's air and missile defense so I think it is important that we now all look into how can we find a positive to the solution to this difficult situation for Turkey and for the alliance.
Question: Marina Maksimovic, Tanjug News Agency. My first question goes to the Prime Minister Krivokapic. You talked about this parallel track towards the EU and NATO. Do you think that right now, at this moment when all the countries are at this stalemate when it comes to enlargement, does this membership in NATO recommend you for a quicker accession to the EU?
Since we can hear a lot of people and politicians from Western countries who are saying that, NATO membership of Western Balkans countries are a guarantee for the peace in the region, do you think maybe that Serbian neutrality in this situation can be any kind of danger for the peace and stability in the region. Thank you.
Secretary General. So first of all, (inaudible)…sovereign countries. So, if a country wants to join NATO of course we sit down and discuss and assess whether they meet the NATO standards. That's exactly what we did with Montenegro when they decided to democratic processes in Montenegro to apply for membership and they met the NATO standards and we invited Montenegro in. That's also the case with North Macedonia, our newest member – democratic processes in North Macedonia, they decided to apply and we assessed that they met the NATO standards, and that they were invited in and now they are our newest member. At the same time, we of course respect decisions by Serbia to not apply for membership and we respect the neutrality of Serbia, that's their decision. And there is no way NATO will try to change that decision, it's a sovereign Serbian decision which we fully respect. We welcome that Serbia is a close partner of NATO that we work together with Serbia on different issues. For instance, we had a big disaster relief exercise there not so many years ago we worked with them. Also in other areas will continue to work with Serbia as a close partner with fully respecting their sovereignty and the fact that they don't want to be a member of any military alliance. We have other close partners like Finland and Sweden. They are not members of NATO but they're very close partners of NATO and I welcome the fact that we are also able to further strengthen our partnership with Serbia, fully respecting their national sovereign decision to be a neutral country.
Prime Minister of Montenegro. Well let me reply since the Secretary General gave a reply which absolutely coincides with what I think. Let me just get back to you to these two parallel tracks which you mentioned. Even though it seems like these are two parallel tracks at the first sight, what is certain and what has been demonstrated from the so far practices that we shall complete our business that has to do with EU integration if a country is a member state of NATO. And this has been proven in case of other member states so I believe that this path that Montenegro has opted for will be quicker, more comprehensive so I recommend everybody that they pursue the same path. Thank you.