US Set to Back NATO Invitation to Montenegro

15 Sep 15
US Set to Back NATO Invitation to Montenegro

Ahead of a decision expected in December, US Vice-President on Monday said America backs NATO membership for Montenegro if the country continues its reforms – and if public support for membership firms up.

Dusica Tomovic

Djukanovic and Biden in meetnig in Washington in April | Photo by the Montenegrin govermnet.

US Vice-President Joseph Biden told Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic by phone on Monday that Washington supports NATO membership for Montenegro, “provided that Montenegro continues pursuing reforms and boosts popular support” for joining.

The 28-member alliance is due to make a decision on Montenegro’s membership in December.

“Contingent upon further progress in these areas, the United States is prepared to support extending a membership invitation to Montenegro at the December meeting of NATO foreign ministers,” the White House said in a statment after the telephone conversation.

Biden and Djukanovic agreed that Montenegro’s membership of NATO would firmly anchor Montenegro in Euro-Atlantic institutions, promote stability in the Balkans and demonstrate the credibility of NATO’s “Open Door” policy.

Biden commended the Prime Minister on Montenegro’s defence, intelligence and rule-of-law reforms and urged him to continue the fight against corruption and organized crime.

The government press release quoted Djukanovic as saying that Montenegro is fully committed to further reforms and will continue with vigour to pursue its commitments aimed at getting closer to NATO and the EU.

Montenegro has a population of about 620,000 and opinions about NATO remain divided. Many in the large Serbian community are still angry at NATO’s bombing campaign in Serbia in the 1990s aimed at forcing Serbia to withdraw from Kosovo.

A recent poll suggested Montenegrins are almost equally divided between supporters and opponents of NATO integration, with 36.3 per cent in favour, 37.3 per cent against and 26.1 per cent unsure.

NATO last expanded in 2009, when the Western Balkan nations of Croatia and Albania joined.

Source: Balkan Insight (Montenegro)