Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of Montenegro, Milo Đukanović

  • 18 May. 2021 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 18 May. 2021 12:45

(As delivered)

Joint press point with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of Montenegro, Milo Đukanović

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: 
President Djukanović, dear Milo,
Welcome back to the NATO Headquarters.
It is great to have you here.
And I really appreciate this opportunity to meet with you.

Montenegro is a valued Ally, making important contributions to Euro-Atlantic security. 

You provide financial support to the Afghan Security Forces.

You contribute to NATO’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
Building stability in the Western Balkans.

And I welcome that Montenegro is increasing its defence spending.

All of these contributions make our Alliance stronger and safer.

Just as NATO can count on Montenegro, Montenegro can also count on NATO.  

We continue to support you in the fight against COVID-19.

Providing essential medical supplies, including ventilators from NATO’s new medical stockpile.

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 the regional situation. Security and stability in the Western Balkans is important for NATO and for peace and stability in Europe.

We also addressed Russia’s destabilising actions across the Euro-Atlantic area.
From hybrid activities to dangerous intelligence operations in our countries to the considerable military build-up in and around Ukraine. 

These developments raise serious concerns.
We agree that we must continue to support our partners, including in the Western Balkans.
And to continue to strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defence.

We also discussed the NATO 2030 initiative, which is at heart of the NATO Summit in June.

We must reinforce our defence and deterrence, broaden our approach to security and work with partners to protect the rules-based international order.

So I welcome Montenegro’s support in this process.

So once again, Mr. President, welcome. It is always a great pleasure to have you here at the NATO Headquarters. Please, you have the floor.

President Milo Đukanović of Montenegro:
Mr. Secretary General, dear friend, thank you for this exceptional opportunity to meet at the 4th anniversary of Montenegro’s NATO membership¹.

We can talk about the most topical issues related to our relations. And as you said, topical issues of stability and security in our region and in the zone of Euro-Atlantic responsibility.

From our point of view, these four years were very positive. We believe that you share our opinion, and we believe that the experience with Montenegro confirmed to NATO Alliance and the Member States that it was justified to trust us in 2017.

We are happy that NATO has continued following with great attention the situation in the Western Balkans and that NATO is expressing through its policy of open doors, its willingness to extend the Euro-Atlantic zone in our region.

And in that context we strongly welcome the [accession] or the membership of North Macedonia and progress in partnership with Bosnia and Herzegovina. We believe in such a policy, you will continue to confirm or to support to strengthening stability in Euro-Atlantic zone and regional stability.

In line with these assessments, I wish also to confirm that Montenegro is absolutely ready to implement all the commitments that it undertook in its national action plan, and that we want to participate actively in the equal distribution of burden of financing NATO.

I want to confirm that we are willing, by 2024, as we promised in our national plan, we are ready to allocate 2% of GDP for the needs of army and defense. And I want to tell you that in 2020 we already achieved 20% of allocation of funds for modernization. And according to our plan, this will be confirmed this year as well. So we will continue allocating the required percentage for modernization of our system of army and defense.

Allow me to confirm what you already said in your press statement. The most important part of our meeting today was focused on continuation of cooperation of NATO, with the countries of the Western Balkans, with a view to ensuring reinforcement of our stability and achieving of European and Euro-Atlantic goals.

I'm happy that we fully share the opinions about jeopardizing European and Euro-Atlantic orientation of the Western Balkans through penetration of certain political interests of the countries whose value system and whose goals are opposite to European Euro-Atlantic Alliance.

Unfortunately, this is a serious threat, not only for the future of the Western Balkans, but also for the stability today. This is something I wanted to draw your attention additionally to, although I never doubt that the Western Balkans is in the NATO monitor and that you are following closely everything that's going on. But I just wanted to share with you very lively and very topical experience of Montenegro.

It is our impression that such a destructive activity is continuing, and therefore, I thought that through our meeting today and meeting with European partners that I will have today, I wanted to mobilize, mobilize everyone further, so that all of you can see Western Balkans as the field that is under the attempt of certain third countries and that they want to use it for further activities against NATO. 

So I think that is the zone of joint responsibility And I think that we need to strengthen our activities in order to secure and enhance stability of our region and create conditions that our countries in the Western Balkans can, smoothly, go towards its strategic goals, and that is adoption of European system of value and full-fledged membership in the European Union and NATO.

I am convinced that this is the best choice for all the countries of our region. And I am convinced that in spite of the challenges that we are faced with currently, through even more intensive cooperation of our region with NATO and the European Union, and through even more intensive commitment of NATO and European Union to the Western Balkans, we can ensure achievement of that goal and we can solidify European and Euro-Atlantic stability in the Western Balkans. Montenegro remains the country that will continue promoting Euro-Atlantic values in our region in a committed manner.

Thank you.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu
And we'll start with Pobjeda, and Jovana Djurisic. Go ahead, Jovana.

Jovana Djurisic (Pobjeda)
Good morning President. Good morning, Secretary General. I have a question for Secretary General first: in press conference with Serbian President yesterday you called NATO members to keep supporting KFOR mission, sending there… sending soldiers there. So in that sense, how do you comment on the decision of Montenegrin authorities not to participate in KFOR mission this year? And can this decision cause some consequences in relations between Montenegro and NATO? And also similar questions to President: you are also familiar with this decision, so, in your opinion, is this decision caused - the condition actually - by previous strength from Democratic Front to some government members? And will you raise this question during the Defense and Security Council, where you are President of this body? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
The KFOR mission in Kosovo is an important mission. It is based on a very clear UN mandate. And it is one of the most tangible expressions of NATO's commitment to peace and stability in the region. KFOR helps to provide security to all communities in Kosovo and ensure freedom of movement for everyone living there. Of course it is a national decision whether to send troops to the KFOR mission. It's a decision that has to be taken by each and every Ally. Having said that, I will of course welcome contributions from Montenegro to KFOR, because that will be a support to the important work of KFOR. It will help to ensure peace and stability in Kosovo and in the wider region. And for Montenegro it will be a way to help stabilize its neighborhood, and also work together with other NATO Allies and partners in the KFOR mission. Let me also mention that, since NATO now is ending its Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, many Allies, including Montenegro, will have less commitments in Afghanistan, and no longer any military presence in Afghanistan. And I think for many Allies that it will free up some additional resources and funds for contributing to other NATO missions, including the NATO mission in KFOR. So it is a national decision. At the same time I welcome increased participation by NATO Allies, including Montenegro to the KFOR mission.

President of the Republic of Montenegro, Mr. Milo Đukanović
Let me answer your question. A part of the answer was contained in the answer of the Secretary General, and I said in the introduction that we are very happy with cooperation with NATO in the period behind us. And I said that I expected that NATO thinks the same. And I would say that my expectation is based on high quality participation of Montenegro in NATO missions in Afghanistan, Latvia, and Kosovo. As you know, all these decisions according to the constitutional system of Montenegro, were rendered in the parliament. So that's where the answer or part of the answer to your question lies. So the decision about that has to be rendered in Montenegro in parliament. Initiative has to be taken by the Ministry of Defense and then the council for defence and security has to give opinion, and I chaired that council. And after that the final decision is to be rendered by the parliament. What I think about purposefulness of the increased participation, I will tell you. I think that it is a responsibility of Montenegro. Montenegro is a member of NATO, and it is a member of NATO from the region where this participation has to be shown. And it is twice as responsible for the stability of the region of the Western Balkans than other member states of NATO. And we are more interested I would say for that stability than the others. So that's why I think that we have to approach that issue very carefully. And as the Secretary General said, we now finished our last rotation in Afghanistan and we have a number of trained soldiers that showed in Afghanistan also that they are interested in participating in NATO missions. So I do not doubt that they are interested in participating in KFOR. So there is no serious reason why Montenegro wouldn't increase its participation in KFOR. You know that it was a political attitude of the previous government and the tie spoke about that and in favor of such a decision many times. Hesitations are, as you hinted, of political nature. Hesitations try to be promoted by those who are opposing the independence of Kosovo and who still think that it was a mistake, and who try to put a bit of history back. And I think it's a mission impossible and I think that we should not actually just tolerate such a retrograde politics and do favors to them. I think that we should hear their opinion of course, we should understand it, but I think that Montenegro has to comply with the procedures of NATO, and render the decision to increase the participation […]

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu
For the next question, we will go to Ivan Mijanovic from Radio and Television of Montenegro.

Ivan Mijanovic (Radio and Television of Montenegro, RTCG)
Thank you very much. So my question was also related to KFOR mission and the gentlemen already gave their response about it. So I will address my question to Mr Đukanović and also to Mr. Secretary General, if possible. After the August elections Montenegro face the numerous challenges in the security sector primarily related to appointments in areas of national security and defense. Do you think that these challenges are still present? And you said before that you were satisfied with the current cooperation with NATO during four years, and are you satisfied with the current cooperation now of Montenegro with the NATO Allies? Thank you very much.

President of the Republic of Montenegro, Mr. Milo Đukanović
Definitely on behalf of the State of Montenegro, I can say that we are happy with cooperation with NATO and that we are very interested in deepening that cooperation. I assume that your question is related to the new structures of new authorities in Montenegro and to the model of cohabitation of structures in power where since 30th of August the parliamentary majority and executive branch of power is composed of those who advocated a policy that was strongly against NATO before 30th of August. But we have to admit that immediately after the parliamentary elections this new parliamentary majority signed an agreement where they confirmed that they would follow the strategic policy and course of Montenegro and respect international commitments. We all see what it looks like in practice. There are certain inconsistencies, there are certain situations where they don't find the right weights. But there are certain things related to the problem that you reminded us of, the security of NATO data, and as you know the state of Montenegro in relation to that initiated procedure of political but also of legal responsibility, and I don't believe that this process is over, it will continue. And what is certain is that the political responsibility for that mistake exists, and that the government has to face that - the government and the Prime Minister. As for the question whether it jeopardizes the relations between NATO and Montenegro, I think it does not. I think that in NATO, there is the awareness about how this is a new political experience that we have the ruling structures in Montenegro now who were waiting for their chance for 30 years and that they are now showing that they don't know how to act within the first couple of months of their ruling. And of course, the understanding is getting smaller and smaller. Nobody has the right to be irresponsible and to make many mistakes in ruling the country. So this is definitely a political mistake and it definitely has to be sanctioned. If you have the responsibility of the executive branch of power it has to be sanctioned. But I believe that this cannot jeopardize the trust of NATO in Montenegro. And I believe that in Montenegro, there is still a very strong political movement, which is currently in the opposition, but it is a very strong and intensive opposition but it is dominant in the society. And that movement will not allow Montenegro to give up on its strategic course of European and Euro-Atlantic policy.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu
Last question from Milos Rudovic from Vijesti.

Milos Rudovic (Vijesti)
Can you hear me?

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu
Yes, go ahead, please.

Milos Rudovic (Vijesti)
Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you. I have a question for both gentlemen. And this is the question for Mr Stoltenberg: how are you satisfied with the cooperation with the new government thus far, and is the cohabitation between the President and government affecting the NATO's cooperation with Montenegro? And my question for President Đukanović is the following: are you going to sign the law on state prosecution service of Montenegro, even though you criticize the law and is that going to affect the cohabitation with the government? Thank you to both.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
So Montenegro is a valued Ally and I welcome the fact that Montenegro joined our alliance not so many years ago. Then of course, we are an alliance of 30 different nations, with different political parties in power and also with changes of power in the different countries after democratic elections. That's part of what NATO is. That's the way we are working. So, as Allies we are used to working together with different governments and also changing government in the different NATO allied countries. What I welcome is that, of course, also the new government clearly has expressed their commitment to NATO to the transatlantic bond, and to continue to work together with other NATO allies. We have standards, we have guidelines and procedures to make sure that all Allies deal with classified information in a safe and secure way, including individual vetting, so that's an issue which we’re used to take care of based on normal procedures in NATO. So, on the question of cohabitation in Montenegro is not an issue for NATO. That's a domestic political issue, and nothing that matters or is an issue for NATO to address or to have any opinion about.

President of the Republic of Montenegro, Mr. Milo Đukanović
Just brief answer. For two days already I'm outside of Montenegro and my legal advisors carefully monitor the conditions for signing the adopted law on state prosecution service. And when I come back to Montenegro tonight I will analyze their expert opinion and tomorrow I will render the decision, for which I can certainly say that it will be in line with the constitution of Montenegro. Whether that decision, positive or negative, will influence the process of cohabitation has not influenced my decision. You already know what my opinion is. Cohabitation is not in my opinion a process where one side has to prove its commitment to the process by accepting everything that the other party is doing. That is not cohabitation. Cohabitation is working together. Each works in its own zone of responsibility, but both work in the interest of national interest of our state. I try to do so from the position of the President of state and that's how I will treat this issue as well. Thank you.

  1. The beginning of Mr. Đukanović' remarks was not translated by the official interpreter.