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Debates
Tuesday, 2 October 2018 - Strasbourg Revised edition

4. Formal sitting - Montenegro
Video of the speeches
PV
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  Presidente. – Signor Presidente, benvenuto a Strasburgo e alla sessione plenaria del Parlamento europeo. Sono particolarmente felice di questa visita, perché Lei è il primo capo di Stato di un paese dei Balcani ad esprimersi davanti a questo Parlamento.

Sono lieto di accoglierla per la quarta volta in poco più di un anno, e la regolarità dei nostri incontri conferma una realtà ormai consolidata: il Montenegro fa parte dell'Europa, non solo geograficamente ma anche perché condividiamo l'eredità culturale, la storia e i valori che hanno forgiato la nostra identità europea. E come italiano non posso non ricordare come la storia del Montenegro e quella dell'Italia si siano intrecciate più volte.

Questi incontri permettono di ancorare il Montenegro e, più in generale, i Balcani all'Unione europea. È importante dare al vostro paese una prospettiva chiara. Bisogna affermare con forza che il vostro processo di adesione all'Unione è irreversibile. La Sua leadership è essenziale in questo processo perché è un percorso politico e non burocratico. Può contare sul mio appoggio e su quello del Parlamento europeo. Dobbiamo intensificare la nostra cooperazione per affrontare le sfide in materia di sicurezza e la minaccia del terrorismo. È nostra responsabilità lavorare insieme, anche per gestire i flussi migratori.

L'Unione deve essere al vostro fianco anche per opporci insieme all'influenza di chi vuole destabilizzarci. Le agende degli estremisti e dei fanatici, dei radicalisti islamici sono contrarie ai nostri valori. La vostra stabilità è la nostra stabilità. Siamo anche a vostra disposizione per aiutarvi a fare le necessarie riforme dell'amministrazione e della giustizia. Sono strumenti preziosi per consolidare un clima degli affari sano e per attirare ancor più investimenti europei nel vostro paese.

Ora, signor Presidente, La prego di prendere la parola per parlare con i nostri deputati europei, per informali della situazione del Suo paese, ma anche per darci un'immagine di ciò che sta accadendo nei Balcani.

Signor Presidente, ha la parola.

 
  
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  Milo Đukanović, President of Montenegro.(The following is a transcript of the interpretation of the original speech from Montenegrin into English) Mr President, esteemed MEPs, ladies and gentlemen, you have bestowed a great honour upon me by inviting me to address this highest house in European politics in my capacity as the President of Montenegro – one of the youngest and smallest European states. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to inform you of the achievements and plans for Montenegro, the country that is the frontrunner in the negotiating process with the EU, and the country that, since its independence referendum in 2006, has been approaching its strategic national goal in a determined, stable and dynamic way. That goal is full membership in contemporary Europe’s system of values.

I would also like to present our views on the future of the Western Balkans and the European Union. I would like to understand your invitation as yet another confirmation of the European Parliament’s commitment and support, not only to the EU prospects of Montenegro, but also to the EU accession of the region and the EU’s enlargement policy. So the question is: where is Montenegro today, 12 years on, as a country whose renewed independence was met by scepticism by many in the country and neighbourhood, but also in Europe and the world?

I would like to draw your attention to two of our key achievements. We have strengthened our internal stability and ensured dynamic economic, institutional and democratic development. Internationally, we have been achieving – and over-achieving – our very ambitious goals. We have been a NATO member for a year and a half; we are a candidate country for EU membership, and there are only two remaining chapters to open. We are a responsible neighbour and an important contributor to regional stability and cooperation. And as a result of all of this, we are a destination for investments and an inspiration for many renowned foreign partners.

With the moral and political capital of an ex-Yugoslav republic that did not see a war on its territory in the 1990s, we are now developing a civic society of multi-ethnic and multi-religious harmony, without outstanding issues with our neighbours, which is confirmed by our border agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, the first such agreement among ex-Yugoslav countries. Despite being one of the least developed ex-Yugoslav republics, our economy is the leading one in the Balkans today. Last year, we registered real growth in GDP of 4.7%, which is one of the highest rates in Europe. Throughout the period since the independence referendum, we have had average annual rate of real growth of the economy of over 3%, and the living standards of our population are now among the highest in the region. Twelve years ago, we were at 34% of the EU average, and last year it was 46%. All the other Balkan countries are below 40% and some, unfortunately, are even below 30%. From 2006 to the end of last year, our GDP grew nominally by 100%.

Consequently, GDP per capita in current prices in 2017 was close to EUR 7 000, compared to close to EUR 3 500 in 2006. In August this year, the average rate was EUR 511, which is nominally around 80% higher than the previous year. The average wages in Montenegro are the highest in the region, but still, unfortunately, three times lower than the EU average. This is a consequence of the historical lagging behind of this part of Europe in terms of economic development.

An important impetus to economic growth has been given by foreign direct investment in this period, with net inflows of over EUR six billion, or close to 18% of annual average GDP. We have also been registering very good results in tourism, which accounts for 20% of GDP. We have a population of over 600 000, and last year we had around two million tourists in hotel and private accommodation. Of course, we should recall that throughout a good part of this period, we had a devastating financial and economic crisis in Europe and the world, which has logically adversely affected our economy as well.

Insufficient employment, especially of young people, is still the biggest challenge in terms of social development in Montenegro for the period to come. It is necessary to strengthen macroeconomic stability and improve our competitiveness internationally through further structural reforms.

We have made a major step forward in the Euro-Atlantic Accession processes. Last year we became a fully-fledged member of NATO and, as such, we participated in the NATO Summit in Brussels and confirmed our readiness to contribute to the policies of the alliance as a responsible and credible ally. NATO membership for us is the greatest recognition of our enormous efforts in implementing comprehensive reforms and our contribution to regional and global stability through developing cooperation among partners.

Our NATO membership has produced positive effects, not only in terms of security and political stability, but also in other areas. We have more direct investments from NATO countries, and the share of tourists from NATO countries this year grew by 25%. Our NATO accession testifies to an important reform-based step forward for our entire society, economically and politically speaking, and of the results of the continuous efforts we are investing in building rule of law.

As a candidate country, Montenegro has made much progress in the process of EU negotiations. In the six years of negotiations, we have opened 31 negotiating chapters and provisionally closed three. Montenegro has fulfilled all the opening benchmarks, in total 22 of them that were set for 13 areas, thus completing this demanding phase. We have also submitted 32 negotiating positions and we are preparing for Chapter VIII – Competition. We hope that the remaining two chapters will be opened in the near future. Apart from Competition, there is Chapter 27 – Environment. At the same time we are committed to fulfilling the closing benchmarks in all the areas in which these parameters have been defined.

One should not forget that the negotiating process with Montenegro started with the new approach in which Chapters 23 and 24 are opened at the beginning, and the whole process depends on the progress of these two chapters, which is the greatest challenge for the region. Already today, Montenegro behaves as a member of the European Union when it comes to the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy. We unequivocally adhere to the common EU positions, despite the frequent pressures we are subjected to because of this. Furthermore, Montenegro is continuously contributing to peace and security through the participation of the Army of Montenegro in NATO, EU and UN operations and missions.

When it comes to the issue of resolving the migrant crisis, Montenegro is in line with the principles of solidarity and humanity, expressing the wish to receive migrants from African countries within the limits of its capacities. That is an expression of our dedication to humanitarian goals forged in the time of wars in the former Yugoslavia, when refugees of all ethnic origins at times made up a fourth of our population.

Economic and social progress is directly linked to the results in the field of the rule of law. During the negotiations in this field, we have passed approximately 70 reform laws, strengthened the strategic framework and created institutions such as the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption. We have made progress in the fight against high-level corruption and organised crime. We know the importance of the rule of law for society as a whole, not only for the negotiations. We are working hard on fulfilling the provisional benchmarks, and we hope they will be recognised in the positive report and the closing benchmarks.

We are committed to enhancing justice, creating conditions for a full guarantee of the freedom of expression in the media, and cooperation with civil society; we are supported in this by the European Commission, the Council of Europe and the OSCE.

We appreciate the financial, technical and any other form of assistance from the EU and its Member States. We also share our experiences with other candidate countries. We believe that the success of any Western Balkan country on the European path is the success of all, and we are convinced that the ‘regatta approach’, reconfirmed in the recent enlargement strategy, is a mechanism that represents a true incentive for the whole Western Balkans.

Integration of the countries of the region is a good strategy for the stability of the European continent. The enlargement process is important not only for the Balkans, but also for the stability and competitiveness of Europe. I underline this because it seems that the strong euro-enthusiasm, which was characteristic of Central and Eastern Europe and also of the Western Balkans, is losing momentum. There are two strong causes for this. It is the dissonant tones coming from different parts of Europe regarding the pace of the European enlargement, and also the unresolved problems and issues that have remained open in the regions since the Yugoslav crisis, such as the problems in the relations between Serbia and Kosovo, in Macedonia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. These two causes are interdependent.

The confusion and uncertainty in Europe feed the illusions of the proponents of regressive politics in our region, who still dream of reshuffling the region and seek support for these ideas from some important international actors. They are counting on the short memory of the international community. That is why sometimes one has the impression that the destructive tones are louder today than in the 1990s. That is why I believe that the European prospects of the region in the certain and foreseeable future – which were implicitly announced at the Sofia Summit and in the last speech of President Juncker – will be wind in the sails of the pro-European elites.

Unfortunately, the results of the referendum in Macedonia are the best illustration of the problems I am referring to. Decades of neglecting the problem could not be overcome through the intensified Western support in the last few months. Also, the referendum was organised too soon and without enough preparation. Perhaps the domestic public should have been given more time to fully grasp the importance of such a decision.

However, one should not lose hope that, through a two-thirds majority vote in the parliament or through new elections, this outcome can be achieved. I hope that, in Brussels and in other capitals, this result will be understood as an alarm bell and a sign that it is necessary to take more decisive strategic policy steps.

What remains is the hope that this will not reflect negatively on the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, which is already very complicated even without this. Additional efforts are necessary to ensure that the result is achieved, even more so when knowing that there is enthusiasm, both in Pristina and in Belgrade. The most important thing is that the dialogue has been established and that it lasts, regardless of occasional incidents and the political temperature that has been raised on both sides.

I sincerely hope that all those involved in this process will take into account the traditionally fragile stability of the Western Balkans and strive for a solution that will be in favour of overcoming this historically burdensome gap between Belgrade and Pristina and, at the same time, not jeopardise broader regional security interests

Unfortunately, there also remains the unresolved issue of the functioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is a strong feeling of dissatisfaction with the results of political players – both domestic and international – in the 25 years of implementation of the Dayton Agreement. Bosnia and Herzegovina will go to the polls soon, but regardless of the individual composition of the future three-member presidency, I do not expect either consensus to be reached or greater commitment of leading political structure and individuals to reforms that would take the country in the direction of adoption of the European system of values and integration.

It will take a new, broader international action to achieve that goal, with emphasis on the constructive consensus of all keen neighbouring countries and the most relevant international community players, who have a special role in that part of the country.

We understand very well the need of the EU to eliminate the causes of the crisis it is going through and to carry out the process of internal consolidation, but we do not think the answer to those problems is to stop or seriously slow down the missionary project of unifying Europe. On the contrary, I believe that full unification is the most important part of the answer to all problems that the EU is going through.

Of course, we are not trying to overlook the numerous weaknesses in the EU’s architecture, but we do not want to fall into the despondency that suggests giving up on this vision. Therefore, I think it is necessary to consolidate the vision and fix the architecture. That is the road that will bring the best guarantees that Europe keeps its global competition. Everything else would lead to its weakening, and despite the differences in our views, primarily due to current differences in the level of development, it would lead to loss for all of us, the citizens of Europe.

In addition, if the European Union misses another opportunity to integrate the Western Balkans, this would bring a big threat of political involvement of other countries, third countries, which do not share the same strategic goals as the European Union. This would hold our region back within the zone of conflict and would make the European continent insufficiently stable and disunited.

The process of enlargement and full unification of the EU is therefore an optimal path for Montenegro, for the region and for Europe as a whole. However, whether this will happen certainly does not decisively depend on us. We will do what we can do, with or without enlargement policy. Whether it moves quickly or slowly, we will pursue the Europeanisation of Montenegrin society with even greater commitment. Besides, we are already well-advanced on the track that resembles a one-way street. We simply cannot go in the opposite direction. Montenegro does not want to have any other option.

When we speak critically of the European Union, it is because we believe that, as Europeans, we have the right to think and speak about a topic that is our common interest and responsibility, thus we also observe the deficiencies of European policy. We will certainly continue doing so in the future, because I believe that is how we contribute to the growth in support of the regional public for the European future of our states, not the stagnation or decline as is the case now.

We do not accept that we must speak of the EU uncritically, as if it were a new religion, but rather we see it as our joint home – the current one or the future one. In the worst case scenario, as the most important neighbour of all of us but without us being members. I am sometimes misunderstood myself, at home and in some European contexts, because of these statements that are tendentious or that are seen, due to lack of understanding, as euro-sceptical.

This is not Euroscepticism. On the contrary, I consider the idea of a united Europe to be absolutely superior, and I see the European path for the development of the Balkans as a path without an alternative, but we expect everybody to accept that we in the Balkans are partners in the negotiation process with the European Union, and not an experimental laboratory of its administration.

We in the region can complete this process of further unification with Europe much quicker and better if the vision is crystal clear and if the partnership is honest and in line with mutual respect. Everything that modern Montenegro has gone through is based on, and is fully in line with, the essential values that the European Union was founded on and continues to preserve, from preserving peace and multi-ethnic harmony in the 1990s, to the referendum on independence held in line with the highest European standards, and finally to the decisive and successful resistance to the brutal aggression in 2016, which aimed to take freedom away from Montenegro and divert it from the European and Euro-Atlantic path of development.

Therefore, we are right to emphasis Montenegro took a ground-breaking step forward after roaming the wastelands outside Europe, together with the region, throughout history. We have finally taken our ship of state into the direction of its natural European harbour, and we shall not give up on this intention of ours. The Western Balkans region is at a turning point too: it will complete its political and economic transition and join the club of European Union states, or it will continue to struggle with its interethnic and interreligious conflicts, complicated open issues, underdevelopment and low standard of living. Like a time bomb that can still jeopardise European security.

I believe I share the opinion of all of you when I say that all institutions and official authorities, as well as all individuals who are politically involved in any way at the national level or within the European framework, today have the responsibility to contemplate a better and safer future for a united Europe throughout the entire continent that is based on traditional values and embroidered with the spirit of the new times we live in.

It is very important that the forthcoming elections for the European Parliament are prepared and held in this positive atmosphere. The balance of power in Parliament will, to a great extent, define Europe’s path and determine the future of European nations. I want to believe that this path will be a joint path for us from the Western Balkans too. With this, I would like to thank you all once again. I want to assure you that you will always have a reliable partner in the small country of Montenegro, which sees the EU as a lighthouse we are getting closer to.

(Loud and sustained applause)

 
  
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  Presidente. – Signor Presidente, caro Milo, come vede, l'applauso del Parlamento conferma il nostro sostegno al lavoro che il Montenegro sta compiendo per avvicinarsi all'Unione europea.

Noi, come ha annunciato più volte la Commissione, speriamo che questo percorso possa concludersi entro il 2025.

Grazie ancora per la partecipazione a questo incontro, grazie per aver illustrato la situazione in Montenegro e nei Balcani. Il Montenegro, ripeto, potrà contare sempre sul sostegno del Parlamento europeo.

(La seduta è sospesa per pochi istanti in attesa del turno di votazioni).

 
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