Joint press conference
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Milojko Spajić
Prime Minister Spajić,
Welcome to NATO. It’s great to see you again and a pleasure to receive you here at the NATO Headquarters.
Montenegro is a highly valued NATO Ally.
You have deployed troops to our battlegroups in Bulgaria and Latvia,
helping to deter Russian aggression.
In Iraq, Montenegro is contributing to building more effective and inclusive security forces, as part of NATO’s training mission.
Montenegro also plays an important role in the Western Balkans,
A region of strategic importance to NATO,
which I visited last autumn.
So Prime Minister, I welcome your strong commitment to reforms and Montenegro’s path to full Euro-Atlantic integration.
This is even more important as stability in the broader region remains fragile.
Last year’s outbreaks of violence in Kosovo were unacceptable.
And NATO responded swiftly, deploying 1,000 additional troops and heavy armour.
We are committed to ensuring that KFOR continues to fulfil its UN mandate.
We also spoke about the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The North Atlantic Council – all 31 NATO Ambassadors – will visit Sarajevo next week.
A demonstration of strong support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
All political leaders must work to preserve unity.
This is crucial for the stability of the country and the region.
Russia’s war against Ukraine is nearing the two-year mark.
And I welcome Montenegro’s support for Ukraine, including through NATO’s comprehensive assistance package.
But NATO Allies and the European Union need to step up and provide even more funding for Ukraine at this critical time.
Because if President Putin wins in Ukraine, there is a real risk he will use force again.
Today we also discussed the preparations for our next Summit in Washington in July, and our work to bolster NATO’s deterrence and defence.
Sweden’s entry into NATO will make the whole Alliance stronger.
So I welcome this week’s vote by the Grand National Assembly of Türkiye to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership.
And I thank President Erdogan for his swift signature of the decision.
I also welcome this week’s clear message of support from Prime Minister Orban and his government.
I look forward to Hungary’s ratification as soon as the parliament reconvenes.
So Prime Minister, once again, thank you for coming here.
And thank you for your strong support for our transatlantic Alliance.
Acting NATO Spokesperson Dylan White
Thank you, we'll go to questions starting with Radio Television Montenegro here please.
Ivan Mijanovic (Radio Television Montenegro)
Thank you very much Ivan Mijanovic, Radio Television Montenegro. Mr. Secretary General, how do you assess the security situation now in the region after recent events in Kosovo, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the presence of the third parties in the region of Western Balkans? Do you think that this presence has increased since Russian aggression to Ukraine and what are mechanisms that NATO has in order to tackle this phenomena?
And in other question, if I may for you, Turkish parliament as you said, gave a long awaited approval to membership of Sweden to NATO. And you recently had a call with Prime Minister Orbán do you expect that all the procedure could be finished until the next ministerial meeting in February and that NATO can welcome Sweden as a full-fledged member until then, and for Mr. Prime Minister, does Montenegro have plans maybe to reinforce its presence in the NATO led missions in the region and on the eastern flank of the Alliance? Thank you very much.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
First, on the situation in the Western Balkans. Of course, the Western Balkans is of great importance for NATO. We have a history there, we have presence there, because peace and stability in the region matters for the whole of NATO, and therefore we were very concerned when we saw an uptick in violence and tensions throughout last year, with some very serious incidents, especially in Kosovo, and that led to the decision by our military commanders to reinforce the KFOR peacekeeping mission in Kosovo with additionally one thousand troops, because NATO has to be able to ensure that we are delivering our UN mandate to ensure stability and the freedom of movement for all communities in Kosovo. And that was my main message also when I visited Kosovo and the region last fall, and we are constantly assessing any need for further adjustment or a presence. In Bosnia Herzegovina, the message is that all parties should refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and the territorial integrity and the international recognised borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina must be respected. We worked closely with the European Union, both in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we actually are working on the ground together. But also we support by our military presence in Kosovo. The EU facilitated dialogue and dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade is the only way forward to find a lasting solution. Then on Sweden's accession into NATO. Swedish membership in NATO will make NATO stronger and all of us safer. And therefore I welcome that Montenegro actually very rapidly ratified and accepted the Swedish accession into our Alliance. I welcome the decision by the Grand National Assembly of Türkiye to ratify and also that President Erdoğan shortly after the decision, actually last night, gave his signature to the decision of the parliament. So now all the decisions are in place in Türkiye. I spoke with Prime Minister Orbán of Hungary, earlier this week, he very clearly conveyed that he support, he supports the accession of Sweden into NATO. And it has been made clear that the parliament will take up this as soon as the parliament convenes and the message is that the parliament will then support the ratification of Swedish membership. The message I have received from Budapest is that the parliament will reconvene at the end of February so we have to wait for that. But I'm absolutely confident and I count on Hungary that the ratification of Sweden will be ratified as soon as the parliament convenes at the end of February.
Prime Minister of Montenegro Milojko Spajić
As in regards to Montenegro’s commitment to Western Balkans, it's absolutely clear why we are stressing out and why we think it's so important for Montenegro because we are in the heart of Western Balkans. We are surrounded by the countries of Western Balkans and it's in our deep national interest that Western Balkans is peaceful, prosperous, that lacking the foreign malign influence and having an opportunity to become a true part of NATO, Europe, EU and other organisations that are democratic, and they're helping the region to step forward in terms of the economy and democracy. As per our commitment in, we are already very present in Kosovo. We stand ready to strengthen our position in Kosovo. We are –we think that situation has calmed down recently, but as we have discussed, we are always ready to help. And it's in our deep national interest as I said that we maintain peace in Kosovo, the same goes for Bosnia Herzegovina, our unwavering commitment to Bosnia’s territorial integrity and peace is utmost importance for Montenegro. As I say we share the big border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. We have offered our help in terms of the experts and training to KFOR – to the people in Bosnia so we are definitely ready to be credible Ally to –in NATO in any shape and form.
Acting NATO Spokesperson Dylan White
Seeing no further questions, that concludes this press point. Thank you all very much.