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Prime Minister Milo Đukanović: “The council is an institution defined by the Law on Cooperation with Emigrants, passed a little over a year ago. Today’s inaugural session rounds up institutional infrastructure which covers this important dimension of our state policy. This further confirms the responsible attitude of the Government towards the diaspora, which is an important partner in the process of strengthening bilateral relations with countries with our emigrant communities…”
Milo Đukanović, Prime Minister of Montenegro
Welcome address at the inaugural session of the Council for Cooperation with Emigrants
Podgorica, 27 September 2016
Dear members of the Council for Cooperation with Emigrants,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome you on behalf of the Government of Montenegro, which, at its session of 28 July 2016, established the council, whose members are representatives of the diaspora, public and other institutions. I congratulate all of you on your election and wish you success in this pioneering work.
The council is an institution defined by the Law on Cooperation with Emigrants, passed a little over a year ago. Today’s inaugural session rounds up institutional infrastructure which covers this important dimension of our state policy. This further confirms the responsible attitude of the Government towards the diaspora, which is an important partner in the process of strengthening bilateral relations with countries with our emigrant communities. Primarily, it is our intention to create conditions for linking our people with their homeland wherever they live, so that they can always be a part of a whole. In the modern world, emigration is an important resource of any country, regardless of its size and influence. This is particularly evident in highly emigrant Mediterranean countries, such as Montenegro.
No matter which aspect of emigration is being discussed, memories and emotions are an indispensable companion to that story. Emigration from our region has lasted as long as human memory – for centuries. In the mid-19th century, the Montenegrins were among the first who settled the west coast of America, along with representatives of the great nations of the time. They brought the first information about Montenegro into the New World. In San Francisco, the journal “Alaska Herald” published in 1869 an article about Prince Nikola, written by our emigrants. In late 19th century, in gratitude for the many good deeds, he sent the Montenegrin flag to our emigrants in California, which is still being held there. In addition to proclamations and correspondence with them, the first priest Matanovic was sent there as well. This was the beginning of institutional linking between Montenegro and its emigrants. Over time the number of emigrants has increased. Emigration has always happened in short periods of peace, especially in the second half of the 19th and early 20th century. About 25.000 of young men, mostly between 16 and 25 years old, moved to America between 1903 and 1908. That was half the labour force, or about 10% of the population of Montenegro. They flooded the American continent, carrying the knowledge about Montenegro from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska.
Since then, Montenegro has gone through great world wars, a period of complete disappearance, and phase of coexistence in various Yugoslav arrangements, up to 21 May 2006, when for the first time in its long and glorious history, it restored independence peacefully and regained international recognition. Great credit goes to our emigrant communities, the Montenegrin citizens of all religions and nations scattered across the world. This is an opportunity to give them our recognition for their contribution to this historic venture, and for all they have done and are doing for their country, its stability, development and progress.
Modern Montenegro, that is expected to become a full member of NATO soon, and is negotiating with the EU, is a country that is admired by its neighbours and recognied as a factor of stability in the region. We are paying attention to our diaspora, as for the countries of that size and level of development, human resources usually play a decisive role in ensuring the pace of future progress. Especially when we take into account our ambitious strategic goals, at both national and international levels. Montenegrin human resources include all our people who are members of the “other Montenegro”, which is a common name for our large emigrant community. This is not just rhetoric, it is confirmed by concrete actions, such as the establishment of the council. Experience of our people around the world are valuable for us, especially now, in the first decade of building a modern state of Montenegro. A large part of our diaspora is living in economically developed and democratic societies. They live by the rules and standards of the European and Euro-Atlantic community. Therefore, their stronger ties to their homeland have special significance at this stage of our development and integration.
The adoption of the Law on Cooperation with Emigrants, regulating the reciprocal links, has created a solid basis for further actions, which resulted in the establishment of this council, which is the Government’s advisory body. Preconditions for increasing the amount of funds intended for cooperation with the emigrants have been created, as well as the basis for the preparation of a large number of quality projects and programmes the Government is planning to undertake through its strategies. The efforts that we have invested over the last decade, as well as the experience of other countries, show that precisely this model of institutionalisation of relations, through dialogue and joint efforts, proved effective. As a multiethnic multicultural and multireligious society, we are strongly committed to strengthening the emigrants’ sense of belonging to their country, which is our common homeland. I believe that summer schools of the Montenegrin language and culture for our emigrants, as well as language courses and schools abroad, will contribute to attaining that goal. Positive examples in recent times in this direction is creation of the National Council of Montenegrins in Serbia, and the Union of Montenegro’s Communities in Latin America in Argentina. In order to encourage joint activities, awards will be handed over to outstanding emigrants and their organisations for special contributions to strengthening ties with Montenegro in various fields of culture, tradition, philanthropy, economy. I especially want to emphasise the commitment of the Government to creating favourable conditions for business and attracting foreign investment. I believe that this segment of the Government’s policy is increasingly of interest to our people who are successful in the business world, or who want to devote themselves to it. Montenegro is an increasingly distinctive tourist and investment destination. Over the past decade, foreign investment has accounted for about 19% of GDP on average per year, which puts our country in the European top in this respect. I am sure that members of the diaspora are extremely interested in the Government’s policy of balanced regional development and in numerous incentives for business start-ups and job creation in the north of our country.
This and other issues will be the subject of work and interests of the council we have established today. In the country, it falls under the competence of the Diaspora Authority, as a public institution. But, many other state institutions are dealing with this important matter as well. We have shown our attitude towards emigrants by setting up the Parliamentary Committee for International Relations and Emigrants.
It has been also reflected in the structure of the Council for Cooperation with Emigrants. You have noticed that we have representatives of local governments from municipalities that have a significant portion of the population in the diaspora. I am convinced that we will all define a new and creative approach to cooperation between the diaspora and Montenegro. Given the fact that all members of the council have been elected through a democratic process of assessment by the emigrant associations, it is very important that the cooperation is channeled precisely through this body, which is established in order to improve partnership with the diaspora. We will be boosting our cooperation continuously and adapting to new challenges and demands that can be imposed on us, as, thanks to new technologies, there are no more insurmountable distances, nor interference for communication on a daily basis. We want to develop our cooperation in step with the times. Only together can we produce results. I assure you that the Government of Montenegro will provide support to all your useful initiatives and proposals.
Finally, I wish to point out that I do not see the establishment of the council as the fulfillment of legal obligations. In a way this is a gesture of respect for our ancestors and all our people abroad who to this day in any way have contributed to Montenegro’s development and promotion.
Hopeful that the council will be an open forum for the exchange of creative thinking and ideas, a place for arranging implementation of high-quality projects and programmes, to the common good, once again I wish you successful work, and representatives of our emigrants I wish pleasant stay in their homeland.
Thank you for attention!
Source: Government of Montenegro