Montenegro will not allow Serbia to meddle in its internal affairs, said Mr Srđan Darmanović, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
What do you think about statements of Mr Ivica Dačić that ”tensions in Montenegro have almost led to the fratricidal war” and that “it is a big lie” that Serbia is meddling into our internal affairs?
Mr Darmanović Montenegrin Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already made a statement regarding my Serbian counterpart. Montenegro will not allow Serbia to meddle into our internal affairs. It is very irresponsible to use that cheap but not naïve platform to stir up political passions and create tense atmosphere amid epidemic tensions. That can’t be a pattern of benevolent policy. And spice it with a thesis of fratricidal war! That’s not how friends talks and behave and that’s not style of vocabulary of ministers and high diplomats.
In reality, the whole story looks differently- those who violated the law were detained in custody; facts have been established, indictment has been brought and, in accordance with the law, they were released after 72 hours. State authorities acted appropriately and professionally. Montenegro is primarily civil and secular state, based on the Constitution and laws. There are no vulnerable nations in Montenegro, and any such claim is unfounded and harmful.
The only “vulnerable” ones in Montenegro are those who disrespect the Constitution and Montenegrin laws.
Serbia’s Defense Minister, Mr Aleksandar Vulin, says that “Montenegro is the cause of instability in the region”…
Mr Darmanović: As far as Mr Vulin’s statements are concerned, I really don’t know if they deserve any attention at all, let alone reaction. Montenegro is known to be epicenter of stability in a chronically unstable region.
However, it is not the first time that decisions made by our country are subject to inappropriate comments coming from the highest political addresses in Serbia. That’s the rhetoric Montenegro is very familiar with and is consequence of Serbian nationalism, deeply rooted in their political discourse.
Throughout its history, Montenegro was faced with various versions and forms of that imperial and paternal nationalism. The constant of every version is that Serbian church, with its ingrained anti-western and anti-liberal policy has always provided spiritual support and drive. Such rhetoric was once use as the introduction to wider, malevolent political projects and goals. It can also be used for trivial and temporary benefits – election needs or for distraction.
Apart from the political reply, will you take any diplomatic steps against Serbia?
Mr Darmanović: Montenegro wants stable relations with Serbia. We have one very important, joint foreign-policy objective – EU integration. However, a pre-election race has started in Serbia, so it is not unreal to expect additional negative narrative against Montenegro. Montenegro has always taken diplomatic steps. Whether relations will become more tense or not will depend only on the behavior of our neighbors.
Is the Russian influence on Montenegrin affairs different now, compared with 2015 and 2016?
Mr Darmanović: There’s no doubt that Russia is trying to carry out its policy of distraction, obstruction, particularization, domination, incitement of internal animosities and rivalry within European community through its state and non-state proxy partners in some WB countries. In the case of Montenegro, Russian role in the 2016 coup attempt can testify that.
The fact that Montenegro is part of the collective security system is encouragement for us. We hoped that 2016 taught us some lessons and that Russia-Montenegro relations had started to normalize. However, adoption of the Law on Freedom of Religion, Moscow’s interest in the issue was clearly recognized and the continuity of unacceptable meddling in Montenegrin internal affairs was confirmed once again. Adoption of this law, as part of the legal order of one secular, democratic state, makes this question Montenegro’s internal affair and it cannot have impact on the global unity of the orthodox world. Montenegro is able to cope with these challenges.
Fourteen years have passed since the restoration of Montenegrin independence. Our country is NATO member and is on its way to becoming EU member. Are we safer now?
Mr Darmanović: Montenegro is much safer now. If we need help today, we can count on solidarity and help of our 29 allies. That makes difference. Solidarity, unity and cohesion are fundamental NATO principles and our membership in the Alliance is the basis of Montenegro as Euro-Atlantic country. We are not part of NATO by mistake or temporarily. We are here to stay.
How far have we gone with reforms? Member of EP, Ms Tanja Fajon, says that Montenegro is not leader in the region. What’s your comment on FH opinion that Montenegro is not democratic country anymore?
Mr Darmanović: Freedom House is a prestigious think tank and we always consider its reports carefully. We are going to devote to those segments that were not ranked well. However, EC report will provide more precise, comprehensive and more objective picture of progress we have made in the implementation of reforms.
It might be interesting to explain that “devil lies in details”. Numerical assessment in FH Report has remained unchanged in five important areas: democratic management at national level, election process, independent media and civil society. The only two areas that had experienced decline are legislative framework and independence of courts and corruption.
EU DEVOTED ATTENTION TO THE WB DESPTE THE PANDEMIC
Presentation of the EC report on Montenegro’s progress has been postponed for October. Is the coronavirus pandemic the reason or is there something else?
Mr Darmanović: That’s not unusual. COVID-19 pandemic has affected the working processes in every country. Therefore, this decision comes as no surprise.
We should bear in mind that the EU has devoted its attention to the WB despite the pandemic and kept the enlargement policy as its priority.
The Government has accepted the new methodology for the EU accession process. In what way will it impact our European path?
Mr Darmanović: Technically, it is the same for us. There’s only one chapter to be opened.
As for the closing, there’s no much difference. We are happy that the new methodology has confirmed the full membership perspective on the grounds of individual progress. We welcome the approach in which rule of law makes the central part of the negotiation process.