Stoltenberg stated in an interview for Vikend Novine that NATO membership has opened the door to European integration for many nations and that the doors of the Alliance are wide open. An open door policy does not mean NATO is moving east. These are sovereign ad independent countries which choose their own path. We will retain our presence, our focus and engagement in the Western Balkans and support Euro-Atlantic aspirations of countries in the region, said Stoltenberg.
“Montenegro became the 29th NATO member last year, and its ascension was an important milestone for our alliance, once again confirming the open door policy of NATO and a historical expansion success. We are pleased to have Montenegro at the table, with the same rights and responsibilities as any other ally and with an equal vote in shaping the future of our Alliance. We appreciate the concrete and significant contribution of Montenegro to common security and collective defence. Montenegro is contributing in the Afghanistan mission and our efforts to financially support Afghan security forces. We also commend the choice of Montenegro to spend 2 percent of the GDP on defence by 2024. We all must invest in our security, in order to keep our nations safe and secure a just division of the burden through the Alliance. We are now discussing preparations for our next Summit in July, where Montenegro will for the first time participate as a full NATO member. At the Summit we will undertake next steps in adapting NATO to the developing security environment. We will reach decisions to further strengthen our collective deterrent and defence, continue to project stability beyond our borders and modernize our Alliance, to answer to challenges we are facing currently. We will also further develop our cooperation with the European Union,” said Stoltenberg.
He feels NATO membership of Montenegro additionally strengthens security in the Balkan region. “Montenegro and other regional countries in the Alliance have become exporters of stability in the Balkans and beyond. Joining NATO helped expand democracy, security, prosperity and stability around Europe. This has also opened the path for European integrations for many countries. Our doors remain open to all European countries which can bear the responsibilities of membership and contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area. This open door policy does not mean ANTO is turning to the east. These are sovereign and independent countries choosing their own path,” added Stoltenberg.
Commenting on the statement of Jean Claude Juncker that Western Balkan countries will, if they do not join the European Union soon, be at war or on the verge of it, Stoltenberg feel that EU membership, as NATO membership, consolidates democratic institutions, rule of law and good neighbourly relations.
“Countries which have joined EU and NATO have undertaken significant reforms in order to bolster democracy and make lives of their citizens safer. All of this is vital to regional stability. So, there is no doubt that EU expansion and NATO expansion has brought stability and prosperity in Europe. At NATO we are determined to aid all regional countries to complete all necessary reforms for the benefit of citizens, regardless of whether they want to join NATO or not. We respect their choice, whatever it is. Stability and security in this region benefits from stability and security in Europe. We will retain our presence, our focus and engagement in the Western Balkans and support Euro-Atlantic aspirations of countries in the region, said Stoltenberg.
Translated from Café del Montenegro, click here for the original.