Montenegro continuously demonstrates its commitment to good regional relations and in addition to the constructive role in regional cooperation through active participation in various regional initiatives, the country has demonstrated full commitment to the continuous development of good neighbourly relations. This area is an example of the effectiveness of the EU external incentives and the readiness of domestic governing structures to comply with the requirements on the path to EU membership, as assessed in the study “Good neighbour – Montenegro and Regional Cooperation”, published by the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) and the German Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES).
The analysis of regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations of Montenegro requires consideration of several interdependent factors, especially political, geographical and cultural. It also includes a review of the EU accession process, which prioritizes the strengthening of regional cooperation. Precisely these factors and processes represented the methodological framework used by the authors of this publication during the analysis – Dr. Vladimir Vučković, CCE Programme associate, Milos Vukanović, CCE advisor and Mira Popović, CCE Programme Coordinator.
The authors of the analysis recognize three main reasons for the indisputably good results in the area of regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations. First of all, issues related to regional cooperation do not affect the private interests of domestic political stakeholders. The second reason is that improving bilateral relations with neighbouring countries do not jeopardize the political survival of the ruling elites, i.e. fulfilment of these requirements on the path to the EU was very useful for domestic stakeholder as well, assessed the authors. Finally, the third reason is the active role of the EU and its Member States in the process of promoting regional cooperation through the development of good bilateral relations.
“The position of Montenegrin institutions towards issues in this area should be a guide for the actions of government officials in other fields to achieve the country’s membership in the European Union within a reasonable time,” emphasize the authors of the study.
Good neighbourly relations are a prerequisite for the democratic progress of the Western Balkans and Montenegro achieves the best results precisely in that field. Some decisions of the Montenegrin authorities, such as apologies for the aggression committed in Croatia during the ‘90s, reparations to Croatian citizens in the case ‘Morinj’, as well as to the families of deported B&H citizens in the ‘Deportation’ case, cooperation in resolving the issue of missing persons, and recognition of Kosovo as an independent state, had a positive impact on the development of good neighbourly relations, as indicated in the study.
The only exception is relations with Serbia, which are continuously unstable and tense. The authors consider that the reason is the unwillingness of political elites to resolve border demarcation, dual citizenship and the position of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC). “Even 14 years after the restoration of Montenegrin independence, there is no full acceptance of this fact in Serbia, which often contributes to tensions. Also, the position of official Serbia towards the internal processes in Montenegro was not always within the framework that defines respect for the neighbouring country, its decisions and the right of its actors to resolve their internal issues in Montenegro itself” as noted in the study.
The results in the field of development of good bilateral relations with the countries of the region are the consequence of the synergy of internal stakeholders who created and directed policies in Montenegro towards the countries of the region and the influence of the EU institutions that are dedicated to the integration of the Western Balkans with the EU. These influences of the EU institutions are reflected in numerous incentives and mechanisms such as the credible perspective of EU membership, financial support and solidarity that the EU continuously provides to Montenegro, direct cooperation with representatives of Montenegrin institutions, but also conditionality as the specific mechanism on which the process of European integration is based and which has proven to be very effective.
European values are the greatest strength and the strongest magnet for the admission of new members to the EU. Precisely those values to which every state in the region aspires contribute to the stabilization of the situation in the Western Balkans, reconciliation and accession of the region to the European family of states and people, the authors conclude.
Vasilije Radulović, Programme Associate