Professor of the Center for Transatlantic Relations of John Hopkins University in Washington, Mr Michael Haltzel, said that he saw Montenegro as a country which was moving in good direction, although it could move faster. In the interview for Pobjeda, Mr Haltzel points out that populists won’t change the European policy much.
“As far as elections to the European Parliament are concerned, I think it would be fair to say that right-wing populists have strengthened, but not too much. Raising from 20 to 24% is not a giant step forward”, said Mr Haltzel.
He thinks that, at this moment, populists aren’t united.
“Mr Orban has already announced that he won’t be forming a coalition with Mr Salvini. I don’t see any chance of successful coalition. What they can do is to block the measures that might sabotage the legislation and refuse to abide by the decisions of the officials. Therefore, I think their power is more negative than positive. With one fourth of members in the Parliament, I don’t believe they are going to be able to implement their plans. Populism is definitely stronger than it used to be, but its swing has slowed done. The fact that they took part in the elections was a positive thing for democracy”, said Mr Haltzel.
He points out that nobody thinks EU enlargement is going to happen soon.
“I’d say Montenegro is the first among the candidate countries. If Montenegro sticks to the reform policy, it might happen for five or six years. EU accession isn’t the only objective, that’s what I think. Reforms should be implemented for your own sake. The most difficult think to acknowledge is patience – but I’m telling you to be patient. It will be worth it. The EU has achieved a lot and it’s going to keep up with that. There’s a certain amount of arrogance and inaccessibility and irresponsibility, but we understand that. And people in Brussels understand it, now more than ever”, says Mr Haltzel.
Is Germany going to take over the Council of the EU presidency? Mr Haltzel says it depends on who is going to lead Germany.
“German Chancellor, Mrs Angela Merkel, has announced retirement whereas Mr Macron and France are in huge problems right now. Therefore, it’s very difficult to predict what their policy is going to be like. Germany and France are the drive of the EU. I think it’s such a shame that the UK is leaving EU and that they aren’t internationally-oriented. However, there are other states that could enhance the enlargement process – Croatia and Slovenia for example, maybe even Hungary. A lot of power is required, but I wouldn’t give up hope. Right now, Germany isn’t very interested in pushing the enlargement process but it definitely is Germany’s interest. Of course, there are requirements that a candidate country must meet in order to be EU Member State. You haven’t met all the requirements yet, but you are doing a great job”, says Mr Haltzel.
However, he thinks that Montenegro could accelerate the process a little bit.
“In the context of motivation, you have to be motivated but if you keep questioning the values of the EU in relation how it used to be before, it’s not going to work. Either you want it or not. I’ll repeat it – you are doing great, but you could be moving faster”, says Mr Haltzel.
Mr Haltzel finds it hard to answer if the Russian influence has weakened or not.
“I don’t mind Russian investments, I don’t mind Russian tourists coming to our state. But I am against the Russia which attempted a coup – it’s as simple as that. They are not happy with the fact that Montenegro is NATO member, and they are not happy with the fact that NATO exists. Mr Putin has his own revision of history which isn’t correct but let’s not dwell on that now. Although they don’t have much to offer, I think they will keep investigating wherever they can. It’s far easier to destroy than to stabilize. Russia is falling down in every sense. Bit it has weapons. They are good at cyber wars and other hybrid types of warfare. I don’t think it would bring any positive things”, says Mr Haltzel.