This week, NATO Foreign Ministers unanimously agreed to invite Montenegro to begin accession talks to become the twenty-ninth member of the Alliance. This is a historic occasion. I congratulate the government and the people of Montenegro for everything they have achieved.
I have many fond memories of holidays spent in Montenegro during my childhood. With its mountains and fjords, Montenegro reminded me of my own home in Norway.
Norway is a small country, but within NATO, its voice is as important as any other country’s, because all of our decisions are taken by consensus. NATO guarantees Norway’s security. NATO has been good for Norway’s security, as I am sure it will be for Montenegro’s.
Montenegro has travelled far since it became independent less than a decade ago. It has re-established its sovereignty and consolidated its democratic institutions in accordance with European standards. Working with NATO, Montenegrin armed forces are now stronger and better able to protect the Montenegrin people. The start of formal NATO accession talks is yet another significant milestone.
NATO does not force any country to join it. And this invitation is not aimed against anybody. It is for our shared security. It is about Montenegro freely choosing its own path as a sovereign nation.
The progress that Montenegro has made also helps to pave the way for membership of the European Union. The countries of NATO and the EU are a community of modern democracies. We share the same values. And nine out of every ten EU citizens live in a NATO country. Together, NATO’s Open Door and the enlargement of the EU have advanced security and stability throughout Europe and have contributed to our vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace.
This is not the end of the journey for Montenegro, but the start of a new stage. The accession process is challenging. It demands continued reforms, especially to further strengthen the rule of law and to fight corruption. Montenegro must also continue to build public understanding of NATO membership and support for it. Given the strong commitment that it has shown so far, I am confident that Montenegro will continue to do what is necessary.
Montenegro’s membership will also bring benefits for NATO. It will further reinforce the security and stability of the Western Balkans, a region long held back by instability and conflict. Montenegro has a proud military tradition, and has expertise in areas such as mountain warfare and maritime security. And Montenegro’s membership will demonstrate to all those who aspire to membership that if a country delivers, so does NATO. Our door remains open.
The world today is more unpredictable than it has been for many decades. But when NATO Allies stand together in solidarity, we are strong. The founding treaty of the Alliance states that an attack on one is an attack on us all. For more than six decades, NATO has been responsible for an unparalleled level of security in Europe. After centuries of conflict, NATO has given its members the stability and the confidence they need to grow and to prosper.
NATO membership made my own country safer, and it will make Montenegro safer too. It will be good for Montenegro, it will be good for Europe, and it will be good for the Alliance.
The author is NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. This opinion-editorial was published in three Montenegrin newspapers (Dnevne Novine, Pobjeda, and Vijesti) on Thursday 3 December 2015. Any use of this opinion piece should give attribution to the publishing outlets.
L. J. De Rothschild