2BS FORUM 2018: PANEL 1

2BS FORUM 2018: PANEL 1


Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to welcome you herem and say how glad I am to have an opportunity to ,immediately after the official inauguration, address you here today at this Forum. I want to say that I am happy to see that the Atlantic Council of Montenegro is continuing this very good tradition of organizing these gatherings which make 2BS Forum one of the most relevant platforms where the issues important for the regional and European stability are addressed. So, it’s my pleasure to share with you a few short thoughts on the first panel. So, let me first repeat that I am confident that the European and Euro-Atlantic integration path is the only proper, correct strategic direction of our region. I do not fall within the category of apologists for any idea so. I do not fall within the category of people who forget the weaknesses the problems that European and Euro-Atlantic communities are facing today. On the contrary, I believe that we are all well aware of them. However, in spite of all that, I am sure that through our overall history, particularly, through our recent politico-security experience of our region we have strengthen our belief that the Western Balkan region needs integration. We do not need to prove that this region throughout its overall history, more distant as well as more recent history, has sent sufficient number of messages on the lack of the internal capacities that can provide for reliable stability that can only then be accompanied by stable economic growth and democratic development. Thus, I am concluding the first thesis by suggesting the Western Balkans that the integration implies stability. If we want Western Balkan to be stable, we have to continue steadily our path of integration and integration is something that means return of the Western Balkans to the European cultural and civilization circle. Unfortunately, all the countries of this region have spent too much time outside this circle, somehow spiting strategic direction of of the European civilization development, which resulted in the countries’ legging behind the living standard of the Western Europe. Secondly, today, the European and Euro-Atlantic perspective of the Western Balkan seems more unclear comparing to the one from the beginning of the new century and millennium. That is what, in my opinion, should be the key topic of this panel. Thus, We need to explain to ourselves why these processes have been slowed down and what has led to the drop in Euro-enthusiasm in the Western Balkan region. So, let me remind you that in 2000, there was a strong Euro-enthusiasm in all the countries of the Western Balkans and that we had a dynamic competition among the countries of the Western Balkans, in which one of these countries would be at the door of the EU and NATO first. So, I think that we should identify three reasons why the process slowed down. . The first one is the fact that this European fatigue story has taken too long. Despite of the fact that I am aware that these issues have not been put to the fore at least not in the discussions regarding the enlargement policy and the Western Balkan integration, I would say that the traces of these issues are still present today, even though they are not clearly defined, they can be easily read between the lines from the messages coming from some important European address. It may come from Brussels or from other address, it doesn’t really matter but those of us who have shaped our entire future clearly in line with European and Euro-Atlantic integrations, are very sensitive to these messages. First, this EU enlargement fatigue was mentioned following the so called bad experience that the EU had with Bulgaria and Romania, afterwards some other discussions took place which basically carried the same message so that today, after the end of our summit in Sophia the European perspective of the Western Balkans is confirmed, but still without a clearly defined agenda that will additionally boost or preserve the level of enthusiasm that the Western Balkans need in order to continue the reforms that will qualify us for the membership into prestigious European and Euro-Atlantic organizations. The second factor, as I see it is that not sufficient has been done of what should have been done in the Western Balkans. Let me remind you that a threshold in the most recent political and security history of our region is considered to be the Dayton conference 1995, the year when peace was restated in the Western Balkans and when by consensus we agreed on the idea of the European and Euro-Atlantic integration and future. It’s been twenty-three years since then, when you look at the achievements from that period, I believe that we can’t be filled with joy or satisfaction, us in the Balkans, in the EU or the Euro-Atlantic community. However, these three major issues, remnants of Dayton Conference have been still open today, Issues concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia-Kosovo relation are still open issues. In addition to this, I believe that the messages that have come from important European addresses, have given rise to the third factor for the lost or reduced European or Euro-Atlantic enthusiasm in the Western Balkans. And the third factor is the interference by the third parties and these third parties logically saw some suitable space for their strategic interest to be presented. We in the Western Balkans are well-experienced in this. Of course, They also have experience with us, they know what the public of the Western Balkans is like, they know that the roots of the Euro-Atlantic values in the Western Balkans are not strong enough, are not reliable enough and that is why those who wish to redirect the Western Balkans society from the Euro-Atlantic corridor are today playing with these emotions, with these feelings and with the certain degree of distrust that there is in the public of the Western Balkans, in terms of the attainability of our Euro-Atlantic and European goals. I believe that these are the three key factors that have resulted in this assessment that I shared with you that today the European and Euro-Atlantic perspective in the Western Balkans is more funky than it was at the beginning of this century. What is the way out? I believe that we must not allow that this description of the state becomes an alibi for us to give up on our strategical direction. In Montenegro, just like in all other Western Balkans countries, we have experience with various alternatives that are offered to us, which we consider the illusions, illusions that we have very bad historic experience with. That is why we are firmly confident that the Euro-Atlantic integrations are the only option, the only direction and that we must continue that path, however that strategic direction of the Western Balkans must be supported by all the relevant addresses, there must be no hesitation at all. We believe that it’s important to understand the controversies of the Western Balkan society and it is necessary above all, to support the pro-European and pro-Atlantic governments in the Western Balkans as well as those sections of the public of our societies that are aware that we definitely belong to to the European and Euro-Atlantic civilization and cultural circle. Well, I understand that nowadays in Europe, there are some opinions saying that Europe needs consolidation first of all before it can look into the enlargement issue. However, I must admit that I tend to believe much more in the need that the two processes should go hand in hand, simultaneously. We had similar dilemmas in Montenegro conclusively with our dilemmas right before our independence referendum and then, I believe some of you remember that there were some recommendations given to Montenegro that it should be democratized first and then we should look into the statehood issue. And I believe it was a trap for Montenegrin society to lure us into giving up something that is actually prerequisite for resolving all the issues concerning future of our society starting from the democratization issue. We went out of this dilemma by working on both issues at the same time. And I think that it would be valuable also for the Europe working on the consolidation of the EU, which has got through the number of crisis in the past decade, to continue simultaneously with the enlargement because I am sure that there is no better consolidation for the Europe and there is no better way for its global competitiveness without Union and it is only Union and full unity of Europe that guarantee more reliable stability, whatever remains outside the spotlight of the EU and unfortunately, the Western Balkans have been in the shade for too long and it has resulted in some big security threats in Europe in the 90s’, so whatever remains in the shade, outside the spotlight of the EU can grow into a problem for the EU, as a locomotive of the European democratic and economic development, can grow into a problem for the EU, rather than the EU being protected from what could be the consequences of model of life that would not imply Europe and include Europe. I guess I do not need to remind you that the EU, together with the our other partners, including the USA, invested huge funds, resources of all types to solve the problems which were created in former Yugoslavia after ’90s. So the question for all of us is whether we will always tackle the issues post festum, the problems that result from a life in an European region that is not in line with the European standards, or we will invest some effort in order to make that region a part of Europe and create some conditions for the complete internal stability and for the competitiveness of Europe on the global stage. Of course, this is an issue that the EU member states should address. I do not wish to be seen as pretentious in offering some formulas, models however, I believe that we need to tackle this as a joint responsibility. I am not a person and Montenegro is not a kind of country that will take an inferior position in its accession to the EU. So, we don’t think that we should kneel, beg and wait for the EU door to be open, no, we see the EU accession as a joint responsibility, we are ready to assume our part of responsibility for the stability and further progress of Europe and in this context, I wish to say that I am not actually begging as I am person from the Balkans, instead I am speaking as a European, having his own vision on how to improve situation in Europe and how to make Europe as a joint home as a joint interest, become more competitive on the global stage. Until these issues are resolved in the EU, I think there is a lot of work that needs to be done, we don’t need to waste time. So in that context, I see the conclusions from Sophia as encouraging, I think it’s extremely important to continue europeanization of this European region, which means that we should continue with to cross the gap of this region still legging behind the developed part of Europe. So we need to continue developing soft and hard infrastructure, I am referring to energy infrastructure, digital infrastructure, transport infrastructure that should help us integrate the region itself, but we must at the same time establish quality links with Europe, we need to shorten the path, we need to put conditions in place to make European standards more accessible to the countries of the Western Balkans in order to strengthen the awareness in the Western Balkans on necessity for and the strategic advantage of the EU integration. I believe that the Berlin Process right from the beginning to this day together with the conclusions from Sophia, gives us a good foundation for that. Well, I am an optimis , I am sure that in the coming months, in the coming years, we could see some progress in this. . In conclusion, I feel that it is crucial that all of us in the Western Balkans have this awareness that we accept this awareness as a joint interest. In this way, we should build a better negotiation or partnership position, if you like, in our negotiations with the EU. Our regional interest should be exposed and we should try to convince the EU that it is our joint interest, interest of us all as Europeans. Thank you for your attention. First of all, let me salute you It’s a pleasure to be here today. What is major change particularly in our political scene it is a pacification of the tensions that followed our accession to NATO, third-part interference in the decisions of the independent sovereign country of Montenegro. In addition to this, there is also a growing trust into the state especially when it comes to the rule of law, fight against organized criminal and corruption, all this certainly contributed to the fact that we can focus on the issues that are of the greatest possible importance for the citizens of Montenegro, primarily our economic growth, improvement of social status of our citizens which has become very visible visible in the past year, especially when it comes to foreign direct investments coming from the countries representing the other 28 members. All this is a very positive step when it comes to Montenegro, Montenegro and we should not neglect the fact that stability and security of Montenegro Montenegro has been guaranteed by its membership to NATO. Regardless of the fact that through a certain number of media reports, bear in mind that Bosnia and Herzegovina has elections in October this year, and that this is what contributes to the fact that the information coming from Bosnia and Herzegovina are influenced by political activity, and sometimes as I call it political spinning. When it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina, we have clearly defined in our documents, especially in law and specific strategic documents, that Bosnia and Herzegovina is committed to European and Euro-Atlantic integrations. Speaking on NATO, in the last three years, we have done on our Tallinn commitments from 2010 much more than in previous years and we managed to do a lot towards registering military real estate and I expect that our partners will definitely recognize that and I expect MAP activation for Bosnia and Herzegovina. When it comes to the European path, you are probably familiar with the fact that on February 28th this year presiding member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Covic and Chairman of the Council of Ministers Mr. Zvizdic submitted the answers to the questionnaire regarding the EU membership and I consider that these are two foreign policy goals and I wouldn’t say that there is a status quo. The bearers of the European values should be clearly identified as Bosnia and Herzegovina is an European state, of course, we have not yet become a NATO member, nor the EU member, but these are our two major foreign policy goals. I believe we need some stimulus, so I agree with what Mr. Palmer and President Milo Djukanovic said, that this part of the South-Eastern Europe or we can call it Western Balkan is certainly the part of Europe and thus we expect the support from all, from Washington, but also from Brussels in order to help progressive forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina to complete as soon as possible the unfinished work. Of course, maybe statements of some politicians from Republic Srpska regarding NATO membership are confusing. But when it comes to the EU membership, there is a complete consensus. However, I have to inform you that the foreign policy is managed by the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and of course, the Parliament and the Council of Ministers have their role in this. When it comes to the political parties which are currently at the state-level there is a complete consensus regarding both of our foreign policy goals, NATO membership, that is the MAP activation above all, but also the EU membership. Of course, we can say that it was a step forward though my colleagues from Balkans and me were a little disappointed, because the commitment was not clearly defined in terms of the time framework. When it comes to the policy, everything is clear, Balkan cannot have the access to two or three pathways, why? Because some of the countries are already NATO members, other countries such as Albania and Montenegro are NATO members and there is a third category of the countries which are applicants for both organizations. This cannot lead to good results. If we want to have general security and stability in the Western Balkans we cannot divide countries into different categories. Our policy is clear, we want a stronger category which is called the commitment to the membership and we want all the countries to be members of both organizations including Serbia, not only the countries such as Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. If we do not provide the countries with the clear prospects for the clear perspective, third factors that we have already mentioned immediately interfere. The third parties or factors have been existing in this region for centuries. We have influence of Turkey, influence of Russia who have been active in Balkans for over two hundred years. We cannot think that we have a magic wand that we can just wave and solve all these problems. It is not possible, so we have to provide the Western Balkans countries with a clear perspective, clear prospects and we have to provide a clear framework. If we have two or three paces in these processes, double or triple pathways, then we leave a room for the third party to interfere, to intervene and that then leads to the situation where the Balkans would be the same as it was two hundred years ago, it means plenty of divisions, instability and everything what has been done in the field of the security would be disrupted. I agree with Mrs Shekerinska, if we overcame the attempts of the third parties, their interference in our relations then we solved all the issues that we had with Macedonia. It turns out that we had a conflict with Macedonia for a long time, for around two decades because of something which is not even important. And in only few months Madam Shekerinska has clearly shown the determination for Macedonia’s membership to NATO and now it is making some progress. Certainly, we would like that Macedonia and Greece reach an agreement to end the name dispute as soon as possible though it is rather an issue having emotional and historic character and I don’t think that it can represent an obstacle for Macedonia on her path to the EU membership. I would like to add one more thing, I see that Montenegro made a great progress and that progress has not been made only during the last few years or since it its NATO membership. What we are waiting for? What else should occur in order that Montenegro becomes the EU member. I heard of the different criteria, issues regarding the corruption, freedom of media, I heard this from the EU and now I want to ask you if all the NATO member states can say that they have free media and that they solved issues regarding corruption, if all the EU member states can say the same. Why we set criteria which are more or less phrases, empty words, we neglect some crucial issue which is the stability of the Western Balkans and perspective for all the countries of the Western Balkans. I wouldn’t say that what is happening in the EU has reduced our desire or need for reforms. We are working hard on our reforms daily and what Mr. Djukanovic mentioned, inspite of the fact that we do not see a clear perspective in terms of the actual date when Montenegro will join the EU, we are aware that we need to work on our national agenda, our reforms regardless of when the date will be set, in 2020 or 2025 or whichever the date. It is important to emphasize that at this moment even the EU has more problems than the region of the Western Balkans, The EU is more capable to address these problems, but the challenges that the EU is now facing are more complex than those that the Western Balkan countries are facing though, the challenges that Western Balkans are facing are maybe among the most complex challenges in Europe. In general, we hope that Europe will overcome this, but as you are saying, the economic crisis, all the developments in the Near East, in the North of Africa, which in a short time resulted in a large wave of refugees in this part of the world. It has led to.. The greatest weakness of the EU EU has come to the surface that is the lack of unity within the EU when it comes to resolving some key problems. So today within the EU, there are countries that look at the same issue totally differently. Thus, in the EU itself, the border control among the EU member states has been re-established even among the states representing the EU from the very beginning, those that are not the newly joined countries, so for example, you have it between Hungary and Austria, at one point we had such control between Belgium and France etc. Therefore, all that had some consequences here, especially when it comes to the public, the support for the integration of this region in the EU has been reduced. Indeed, there has still been a great support for the EU membership, especially when it comes to Montenegro, it is around 70% in some other countries the percentage is even higher, somewhere it is even significantly lower, and it is less than 50%. But I am reiterating again, Having talked with my colleges before, I am sure that the governments of these countries will not give up and will continue working on the requirements that are ahead of them so that these countries join the EU as soon as possible. As for the EU, I think that the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina are committed and they fully support European path. Unfortunately, the current situation in the country country in terms of the economy is not very good, although in the past year there has been some progress, which has been reflected in the GDP growth, in some new investments in Bosnia and Herzegovina. So, I think that MAP activation is a clear sign that NATO counts on Bosnia and Herzegovina which was discussed by Mr. Palmer and of course majority of our partners, inter alia, here we have the Minister of Defence of Montenegro who is my colleague representing the country which is a NATO member, who as well as our other neighbors i intensively support Bosnia and Herzegovina. But, from the point of view of our partners from NATO and the EU, , there is no understanding for Bosnia and Herzegovina when it comes to the MAP activation, but I believe that the activation of MAP is one of the tools that encourages the institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina to take on additional responsibilities in order to implement reforms regarding fight against corruption and rule of law. Because, when we speak about the EU and NATO, I think that they share the same values. Bosnia and Herzegovina, together with the rest of the countries of the Western Balkan, which currently are not the EU or NATO members, is undergoing the transition process. Although, we could have learnt some lessons thanks to the experience of some other countries such as the Czech Republic Hungary, Poland, maybe we did not learn enough from these lessons, simply because after the war, in this region we had unfinished work. In Bosnia and Herzegovina Dayton Agreement is Constitution despite of the fact that this Constitution does not allow the full function of the state, we need to reform the Constitution first of all. In that context, I wish to say that the MAP activation would create assumptions in Bosnia and Herzegovina that the progressive parties which I believe will win the next election, would get another impetus to take Bosnia and Herzegovina to its Euro-Atlantic and the EU integration path, because Bosnia and Herzegovina, together with its neighbors is part of Europe, regionally and strategically and I think that it is a high time to change this empty phrase saying: ” Balkans equal conflicts” made by some Western countries which associate Balkan with conflicts caused by religion, culture and nation differences. We need to change this, we need to erase this phrase once for all and together we need to work and support each other and show that we can be a great example of wealth in diversity, regardless of the fact that we have diverse ethnic groups, religions, cultures and sometimes different ideas of how some problem should be solved. I believe that Bosnia and Herzegovina should have support of Europe, of NATO and all with the view to achieving more secure and stable Europe and thereby more secure and more stable this part of the Europe, the SEE. Once the MAP is activated for Bosnia and Herzegovina, , this would be a message for all, , a message for those who lately have tried to gain greater influence, a message for young people that there is a hope for Bosnia and Herzegovina at the same time, a message for the investors investors that it makes sense to invest in Bosnia and Herzegovina and we should help young people decide to stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina, develop their own country, because I believe this part of the SEE has wonderful resources, crucial for development, maybe greater than ones of the Western countries where a large number of people from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region as a whole is heading towards. We do not need to give them pieces of advice, they themselves chose such perspective, but I would advise my colleagues from Brussels not to set such rigid criteria and expect these criteria to be met. Most of the European countries should feel that they owe to the Balkans so that they know that numerous problems were caused by Western countries. That’s why I don’t need to give advice to the countries of the Balkans. Before the integration process had started, we lived in some kind of fog, and I would advise the countries concerned not to give up, to hold on, at the same time, I would suggest my colleagues from Brussels to all the time think about what they want to reach by criteria that they set and to take care not to lose Western Balkans which would amplify the euro-skepticism. What is important is not to allow that this reflects negatively on the way of thinking in the Balkans. If you want to become Europeans, it’s simply an empty phrase, we were Europeans much earlier than those which are the EU members. We had participated in the creation of the international law, we shared together all civilization values, we just simply came to a situation where we confronted due to some divisions, which represent heritage of Europe. That’s why I would suggest my colleagues in Brussels to be tolerant. Therefore we cannot allow that every 5-10 years one by one state joins the EU, since at the same time we should maintain piece and stability in Europe. It is very counterproductive. These are extensive topics, but when we talk about criteria that are defined, let’s not forget that behind those criteria is laying economic interest. I will give you an example, but not as a Minister of Defence, as a Minister of Defence I could give you plenty of examples on the significance of the bureaucratic decisions. For us, there was a condition to deactivate four nuclear reactors, and across the Europe it has been said that the Europe depends on the gas, fuel from Russia. The question is that whether the fact that we deactivated our four reactors made us depend on the import of the energy sources from Russia to a significant or insignificant extent. I think, the answer is clear. When it comes to the criteria that all of us are talking about, there is an example of Bulgaria and Romania. If Bulgaria and Romania didn’t joint the EU and NATO, they would have never started the reforms that they have been implementing. Sometimes it is a difficult process one step forward two back. However, we are still on the path of reforms and if we didn’t join, maybe we would have never implemented those reforms. We accessed to NATO and the EU for some political reasons, but things are now different. The security in the European continent, is it now stronger than fourteen or fifteen years ago when we joined… If you look at the East now, the processes there, at Black Sea, Near East is Europe more secure now? No, it’s not, so let’s be a bit tolerant to countries of the Western Balkan which experienced a lot of things through history and during the last twenty years. And what my colleague from Montenegro has said regarding the invitation intended for Yugoslavia, whether it had a freedom of media, freedom of speech, market economy such as they are considered to be today. Thus, all is about politics, a bit more of tolerance, flexibility would not mind. Therefore, the Western Balkans should be supported. European generations will be thankful to us that we made Europe better, more secure, stable and more prosperous place. I believe that flexibility is crucial. I am talking from the point of view of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the MAP activation, because we are not the EU or NATO member state. I must tell you again, for those of you who don’t know, in 2010 Bosnia received the condition which is not a standard condition namely, registering real estate property is a condition for MAP activation. Such condition has never been imposed to any of the Western Balkans countries. Most partners now see the criterion set in 2010 is maybe not necessary and I believe that in these couple of years, we have shown that we have actually made great efforts to book the things that we can book and then the country that is not a NATO member state, a country for which MAP is not activated, is actively contributing to peace and world and our share in the international forces in Afghanistan is maybe bigger than of some countries that are member states of NATO. So I believe that our partners will recognize this, and I expect that this decision to activate MAP for Bosnia and Herzegovina will be a political decision with a more flexible approach. I think it will not be only in the interest of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also in the interest of NATO and the EU . Bosnia and Herzegovina should be a member of the two families of the two integration bodies because it is only that way that we can continue talking about security and stability. Europe can’t be saying that there are some priorities that are related to challenges that we are facing, and that they are not related to the Western Balkans. Currently, in Bosnia and Herzegovina we have a large number of migrants which is one of the problems that we are facing, we are a small country, we do not have a strong economy, so we are not capable of addressing this on our own. Therefore, we need Europe, we need NATO and I expect positive messages from NATO and the EU.

Danny Hutson

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