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news 27 Nov 15

US and NATO Praise Montenegro's Progress

US and NATO officials welcomed Montenegro’s security reforms ahead of a key meeting next week, when alliance foreign ministers will decide on whether to invite it to join the club.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
Montenegro's foreign and defence ministers met NATO chief Stoltenberg in Brussels on Wednesday | Photo: NATO.

US Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday said he strongly supported Montenegro's membership of NATO, adding that the doors of the alliance were open.

Attending the Brod-Brijuni summit in Zagreb, Croatia, Biden said that Balkan NATO members Croatia and Slovenia had both shown what was possible through reform and reconciliation.

"Anchoring the Balkans in NATO and EU... from our perspective seems to be the best way to promote stability, security and prosperity," he said.

"Accession pushes countries to make tough but necessary reforms," he added.

In Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also discussed Montenegro’s potential membership in talks with Montenegrin Foreign Minister Igor Luksic and Defence Minister, Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic on Wednesday. Stoltenberg also welcomed Montenegro's progress on reforms.

Montenegro's goverment said NATO member states had praised its strong commitment and the political will it had shown in the process of NATO accession.

"The meeting also commended Montenegro’s visible progress in increasing public support, which came as a result of intense campaigns," the government said.

Montenegro on Wednesday completed the fifth cycle of the Membership Action Plan, MAP, the process regarded as a final step before joining the Alliance.

The NATO Secretary General, who led the ambassadors of the North Atlantic Council on a visit to Montenegro in October, said that joining the Euro-Atlantic family would be a “win-win” for Montenegro and for NATO.

“Countries which joined the Alliance have been able to strengthen their democracy, boost their security and make their citizens safer,” he said.

While the government of Milo Djukanovic sees NATO membership as a strategic priority, opinions about NATO remain divided in the country of about 620,000 people.

Many in the large Serbian community are still angry about NATO’s bombing campaign against Serbia in the 1990s, which forced Serbia to withdraw from its then province of Kosovo.

A recent poll suggested Montenegrins remain almost equally divided between supporters and opponents of NATO integration.

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