In the ten years since it became independent, Montenegro is at the doors of NATO Alliance and in the late stages of joining EU. Economic parameters show that its leading in the region, with a few capital development projects currently in the works. A last few months, however, it has been facing a complex political situation… On all these subjects, accomplishments of the last decade and challenges that lie ahead, Weekend Edition of Dnevne Novine daily spoke with the Prime MInister Milo Đukanović.
DN: Mr Đukanović, ten years ago today, an hour and a half after midnight, you announced that Montenegro has become its own state. You said that Montenegro should be a big and comfortable home for each of its citizens, and a good and open friend to everyone in the region. What is Montenegro like today?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: Montenegro is moving towards its goals in a stable and dynamic pace. First and foremost – Montenegro is ours: it belongs in the safe hands of its citizens, who decide on their own and our country’s future. This is what we wanted.
Montenegro is a safe home for each of its citizens regardless of their national, religious, political or any other definitions. More than ever, our country is sensitive towards minorities – in every way.
Montenegro is a good and reliable neighbor. It is respected in the region, recognized as a factor of stability.
Functionality of many new and reformed institutions are the only safe foundation for the country, its rule of law and democratic and social development.
Clearly, Montenegro today has developed economy and continues growth. It is dedicated to solving some of its most complex infrastructural problems that were making it energetically dependent.
Our country passed many of the procedures and standards of European environment: it came to NATO’s doors and went a long way towards EU. It can not be denied that Montenegrin society is developing in a dynamic pace, and is becoming more and more modern. We are determined to make modern Montenegro based in the values of developed European civilization: market economy, democracy, rule of law, human rights protection, multi-ethnicity.
DN: Personally, are you satisfied with what was accomplished?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: It is difficult to accomplish everything and improve everything in ten years. We had our challenges – traditional, difficult inheritance of divided society and economic stagnancy. The context of global European economic crisis did not help either.
Aside from our obvious accomplishment, we are aware that we did not create an environment that every can be pleased with. One of the reasons is the fact that not all of us put in enough effort to use this new environment as a chance to improve quality of our own life. But, without a doubt, Montenegro today is a much safer, liberated, developed and prospective home to all of us than it was ten years ago. What is especially important, taking into account the reputation of the region – Montenegro is on the right road to the future.
DN: What was more difficult – fighting to reestablish independence or challenges of present?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: Today is certainly more difficult. In the years before referendum state politics was helped by great enthusiasm, emotional stakes, the excitement of writing the history… Dealing with the serious historical injustice brought to Montenegro and our ancestors. Reestablishing self-respect for modern Montenegro in order to make it ready to deal with global events, and to pull its share at home with great thought and responsibility.
DN: Why is it more difficult today?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: Today we have more practical concerns, and they are less inspirational to the general public: reforms, modernity, rule of law, procedures, deadlines, standards… A lot of important work that will, once it is done, give way to our country to become truly legitimate. There is work that does not excite emotions, especially not positive ones, because some reforms change established rights, privileges, habits. We have very concrete issues of social development that ask for competency and professionalism. There are not so many people with such qualifications.
DN: Democratic Front recently stated that they are not giving up on the idea of reuniting with Serbia, and this will be the context in which they celebrate May 21st. In the meantime, they have formed their “security team” made of people who belonged in the 7th Battalion. Can this political group surprise you still?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: It seems like a pointless goal, because Montenegro is an independent, internationally recognized country with growing trust from international partners. Earned, of course. Montenegro is affirmed with peace, stability, and ability to solve delicate issues in respect with strict European standards. It has a readiness to learn and adjust to the contemporary world. To be, let’s say, a promoter of a new system of values in the historically neglected Balkan area.
These are irrefutable facts known to leaders and voters of DF. They are aware that by staying in the wrong road, they will miss the opportunity that EU processes present. Non-integrated, with their comical and pointless attempts to change the flow of social change in Montenegro. They do not realize that Montenegro is walking towards united Europe, and that aggressive primitivism is not supported by such changes.
DN: Recently, Montenegrin Statehood Forum sent you a note expressing worry that a number of Montenegrins is not growing. They invited intellectual elite to gather and find a way to preserve our self-importance and identity. What does Montenegrin intellectual elite expect of you, and you of it?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: It would be easy to solve that problem if it was all in my hands, or anyone’s hands. I think that all of us who consider Montenegro our home should ask ourselves some questions. Firstly: what each of us does for our state? I am sure it would not take us far from the elite who wants changes of many historical injustices that happened in the Balkans to almost everyone, including Montenegro. Modern Montenegro, that we work on building, is recognized for its respect for all ethnicities, as a safe neighbor and a factor of stability in the region. Hence, its significance is far larger that its population or geographical size. We need all the wits of Montenegro and outside of it, anyone we can make interested, to get responses to modern day challenges, including matters of identity. I respect people who engage their thinking in such subjects, but I believe that we need much more than emotions to organize those historically sensitive matters in the present day context and strategic vision of our society’s development.
DN: Montenegro is recognized by the international community as the de facto leader in the region. How much has Montenegro influenced happenings in the region?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: Generations of today can be proud of the way we positioned Montenegro in the region. Montenegro has been a warrior country through history, but it was the only one that kept peace during the bloody disintegration of Yugoslavia and reflections of ethnic wars that happened at our borders. Then we managed to get our state back by pen and paper, at the referendum. We showed that it is possible to reach historic decision in our region without conflict. This is the image Montenegro has today, as a successful European story and a nucleus of stability in the Balkans. Our country is a regional leader in integration, which EU and NATO respect and we have positive influence on our neighbors with whom we share similar strategic goals.
DN: Since the invitation from NATO, almost half a year passed. Can we feel the benefits of accession in this phase already?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: The invitation for membership undoubtedly raised Montenegro’s international reputation. This is the first and most visible benefit. At the upcoming NATO Summit in Warsaw Montenegro will sit at the table with other 28 members and take part in the work of this organization. It is a positive message, politically, economically and socially. By joining NATO, Montenegro acquired long term safety and stability necessary for further democratic development and economic prosperity that we all want to achieve.
DN: Not a full year before the end of your mandate, and you put the legitimacy of your Government on test. What was the last drop that made you decide on a not so usual act?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: It was the irresponsibility of a partner in the leadership. Due to their minor party interests, they have been standing in the way of the leadership to which they officially belong.
They put in danger development and interests of the state, with a mask of social act, care for democracy and natural resources. None of these things were an issue for the Government. It was just a way to camouflage pathological need to take the responsibility that does not belong to them. They lost the sense of political reality.
DN: Did citizens see through SDP’s politics?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: If the citizens believed that SDP should lead Montenegro, they would have more than 3-4% of voters. They would not fall under the line or have symbolic support in those municipalities in which they went independently.
The last straw of this phase was when they questioned Government’s legitimacy. They did not contribute, in fact they obstructed, and after we had accomplished the biggest goal of last year – NATO invitation – I offered that we hold parliamentary elections. Of course, they ran from this idea regardless of the fact that it would be a responsible way to regain functionality of the leadership. After that, the only dignified response was my initiative to test the confidence to the Government. I believe this is very useful. It cleared political fog and put the opposition from the Government where it belongs – in the opposition.
DN: A part of the public considers your offer to the opposition to be too generous while in the part of the opposition media this is painted as giving in under pressure. What is the reason behind this generous offer?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: There are two motives. One is the attempt to overcome the growing mistrust between opposition and the leadership, seeing as the opposition does not trust in the electoral system or Montenegro’s institutions. The other one is the attempt to regain a political bridge between two coasts divided by inherited segments in Montenegrin society.
The first matter made it really hard for Government to be productive in this mandate. This is why the offer to the opposition opens the doors of executive branch, so they can clear their doubts and contribute to the development of our institutions. Also, I believe that after an experience like this, we can make a Government that the citizens will trust, and it will be able to work on the matters of economic and democratic development and improvement of living standard of our citizens.
DN: What about the other issue?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: The second matter is historical, and limiting to Montenegrin stability and growth. This obliges us to find the solution, and the most of the responsibility falls to the leadership. I am sorry because of misunderstandings in the opposition, in the new Government, not all parties are included, and it would make the functioning better.
The story of background pressures is a story of inferior political reasoning from the part of the opposition. *
DN: Mr Đukanović, Montenegrin independence, NATO invitation, leader in the region.. All comes back to your name. There are more challenges in Montenegro’s road. What are your plans after the elections in October?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: The plan is to win the elections, with more votes than ever. In order for Montenegro to carry on its road of freedom and rich future. We want to free Montenegro from political ultimatums of selfish ones, small people and small parties. I have no plans after that. This obligation comes before personal plans. This is our duty to protect everything we have created since 2006, and everything our generations wanted.
Tivat elections encouraging
DN: Elections in Tivat showed DPS’s superiority. Do you expect this to repeat at the upcoming October parliamentary elections?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: I do. As I said – time presents us with new and more complex challenges. Still, experience confirms that DPS offers the most realistic and quality responses to them. This impressive progress of the last ten years is recognized by the world, and it is a result of someone’s effort and dedication. Someone had to work for this. DPS was the rock in the leadership during the whole time. Tivat elections encourage. Clearly, people have recognized the effects of societal development and new life quality, and trusted the authors of this vision with more votes.
Last glitches of losers
DN: We witness May 13th in the Montenegrin Parliament. Your attempt to explain the suggestion of members for the 40th Government was stopped with a rude incident and physical attempt at you…
ĐUKANOVIĆ: I believe that such incidents should not concern us so much. They are the last glitches of losing politics, culture that is dying out, that wants to preserve some kind of influence in Montenegro. First, they tried to do it out of institutions, on the street, they tried to take the leading by force. They have a delusion of being leaders of the people in Montenegro, when they are the complete opposite. Theirs is the mentality of primitivism, aggression, zero tolerance – inferiority. Montenegro wants to be freed of this mentality. When their attempt to take over the Government failed, they were forced to redefine their strategy. Now they want to bring this aggressive primitivism in the Parliament.
DN: They had help…
ĐUKANOVIĆ: This incident succeed due to the cooperation of the leadership of the Parliament. Selfish, personal interests. Zero care about the shame brought to the state and its institutions.
DN: What is behind this type of behavior of DF?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: Desperation. It is clear, even to them, that they have no influence in Montenegro. THey can not change its course. Now they are involved with lower goals: village jokes and yelling that hides cowardice. They want to enjoy representatives’ salaries, official trips, cameras that create the illusion of their importance. This is what they can reach in modern Montenegro. Their primitivism is a thing of the past.
Stable state and professional institutions
DN: How do you see Montenegro in the next decade?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: I see it as a stable state where the citizens will be able to live freely in the near future. I see it as a state in which professional and responsible institutions guarantee that interests of all citizens are protected.
I also see the most dynamic economy in the region that has important investments in the infrastructure, energy, food and other processing industries. Of course as a prestigious, quality touristic destination with many famous hotels, marinas, golf courses. Easily available thanks to modern airports, highways and railways. I see it as a member of NATO and EU.
Due to everything said above, I believe unemployment levels will hit an all time low.
Frustrated and in attack mode
DN: You have been a target for the opposition for years, as well as part of the media and NGO sector. There are certain analysts from out of state that try to convince Montenegrin public that international support to you is under question. On the contrary, it is the international community that gives you the leadership position, and not only in the region. How difficult is it to be Milo Đukanović in Montenegro?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: There is an old saying that says that the most difficult is to be the smartest one in your village. In societies such as ours especially. There is not a lot of people, and delusions of personal identity, imagined competitions and envy are possible. The leadership I represent has been around for an unusual amount of time. I know that this is well earned, but I also know that it awakens frustration in the competition. Some of the leaders of the opposition parties spend time criticizing me, instead of improving themselves.
DN: And the relationship with the international community?
ĐUKANOVIĆ: International partnerships are built with trust and cooperation, without fighting and with all due respect. This is why uninformed attempts to make me look bad at the international scene do not concern me. This is the basis of the healthy relationship Montenegro has with international partners.
Source: Cafe Del Montenegro