NATO Chief Urges Montenegro to Tackle Corruption

Ahead of accession talks with Montenegro, due to start next week, NATO chief says alliance seeks more results in establishing rule of law and pursuing fight against corruption.


NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said Montenegro has to continue to implement reforms in order to become a member, but the Western alliance will not interfere in the internal affairs of the country concerning how such decisions are made. Speaking to journalists in Brussels on Tuesday, Stoltenberg said that Montenegro had already conducted a lot of reforms, which is why it earned its invitation to join the alliance last December – but it now has to deliver further results.

“We have a special focus on the importance the rule of law, on fighting corruption and that the Special Prosecution Office works effectively – and also that the Anti-Corruption Agency, which was established in January, is doing its job,” Stoltenberg said answering a question from BIRN. “We want as much track records as possible, we need to see that those insititutions dealing with the fight against corruption are delivering results,” he explained.

Stoltenberg declined to comment on the debate in Montenegro on whether the decision to join NATO should be adopted following a referendum or by parliament, nor did he comment on the fact that a significant number of Montenegrins still oppose membership. “NATO will not to interfere in the internal matters of Montenegro. We will respect any decisions made by a sovereign country and its democratic institutions,” he said.
Montenegro is due to begin accession talks with NATO next week and the Protocol of Accession will be signed afterwards, which has to be ratified by all 28 members of the alliance. “I hope the talks will not take so much time and end in a few weeks or months, so we can start the ratification process. It is not possible for me to say how long this will take,” the NATO chief said.

Montenegrins remain sharply divided over NATO membership and a recent poll suggested only about 40 per cent support accession. Pro-Russian opposition parties have demanded that the government organize a referendum on the issue on the same day as general elections planned for the autumn. However, the government maintains that a referendum is not a constitutional obligation, and that is enough to take a decision by a majority vote in parliament.

Meanwhile, national NATO coordinator Vesko Garcevic said a referendum can only be discussed once accession talks finish. Garcevic said he expects the negotiations to be shorter than in some other countries because “a lot of work is already done”. Commenting on opposition demands for a referendum, Garcevic on Tuesday noted that of 28 NATO member states, only Hungary and Slovenia had opted for referenda, in the final stage of the accession process.

Several thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in past months to tell the government to stay out of NATO, and to call on veteran prime minister Milo Djukanovic to resign over corruption allegations. Djukanovic has dismissed the protests as Russian-backed and inspired, saying: “Russian policy is on the side of the protest organisers”.

Balkan Insight 

9 February 2016