After the promulgation of the Declaration of Independence in the Parliament of the Republic of Montenegro on 3 June 2006, following the independence referendum held on 21 May, the Government of the Republic of Montenegro assumed competences of defining and conducting foreign policy of Montenegro as a subject of international law and a sovereign state. The implementation of this constitutional responsibility of the Government was vested in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was given the task to define foreign policy priorities and activities needed for their implementation. These activities are pursued in close cooperation with other state administration authorities, the President, the Speaker of the Parliament, and other relevant stakeholders.
By becoming a new state in the international arena, Montenegro did not change avenues of its foreign policy. Moreover, permanence of its foreign policy priorities has defined and shaped the country’s foreign policy of today. Montenegro recognised well on time the importance of good neighbourly relations and of integration as ways toward a successful development. In this context Montenegro, as an independent state, has the opportunity to reinforce its international standing and to invigorate and further enhance relations with most important global actors.
In terms of geographic position and population, Montenegro is among the smallest European states. Montenegro is a stable, democratic and multi-ethnic country which shares common values with the countries from its close environment and also with the whole European continent and democratic world. Montenegro is at the crossroads of the East and the West, connected to its Balkan and Mediterranean neighbours, recognised as a stability factor and part of European and Euro-Atlantic integration processes, and belongs to one of the most dynamic regions with very bright perspective.
This special position and benefits derived from it have been integrated into Montenegrin foreign policy. Montenegro aligns its foreign policy with strategic national interests and those of its citizens, with due respect given to the processes in the region, broader context of Europe and to global perspectives.
Consequently, the Government defines the following foreign-policy priorities of Montenegro:
1. Integration into the European Union and North Atlantic Alliance - NATO
2. Improving and maintaining good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation
3. Developing bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
II MONTENEGRO'S FOREIGN POLICY PRIORITIES
Foreign policy priorities of Montenegro are mutually connected and complementary.
By means of establishing and meeting its priorities in relations with foreign countries, Montenegro will pursue integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures and all regional initiatives, monitor global trends and seek to join them relative to its interests and capabilities; develop good relations with neighbours; establish and maintain good relations with the most developed countries in the world; and will fully meet international obligations it has assumed.
1. Integration into the European Union and North Atlantic Alliance - NATO
a. European Union
Integration into the European Union is Montenegro’s strategic goal. This process will remain in the focus of Montenegrin foreign policy in the forthcoming period as it is the most important task in external and internal terms.
Montenegro sees the EU as the optimal framework to accommodate further reforms, and wishes to harmonise with European standards and enhance bilateral relations with EU member states.
There is a general consensus in Montenegro about the need to integrate into the EU that gives an additional impetus for speedy progress towards this goal. The speed of our integration progress will depend on economic, political, judiciary, security and general reform, i.e. on the degree to which the whole society will be engaged in the process.
In the context of foreign policy, particularly important role will be given to regular political dialogue of Montenegro and EU (with member states, the EU Presidency, the EU Troika) and to a long-term harmonisation of our foreign policy with the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU.
The second strategic and equally important goal, but one attainable in a shorter time-span, is joining NATO, which would guarantee stability and security for pursuing other strategic goals. Montenegro believes NATO integration would speed up EU integration.
By joining NATO and developing relations with this organisation in the future through the Partnership for Peace programme (PfP) and other relevant mechanisms, Montenegro will have an optimal framework for preventing potential threats, challenges, and risks for the stability of the country and the region. It will also promote an image of stable democracy, improve economic development through attracting FDI, and enable equal participation in decision-making. Together with other competent bodies, the Government will actively contribute to a broader consensus in the society for accepting this strategic commitment.
Integration of Montenegro into NATO is closely tied to our integration into the EU, as these are two parallel and compatible processes. Democratic institutions, rule of law, market economy, and security are necessary preconditions for a country that aspires to become member of the EU and NATO.
2. Promoting and maintaining good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation
Strategic integration goals of Montenegro - EU and NATO membership - will not be attainable without an active role of Montenegro in regional cooperation, good neighbourly relations, and creating policy with a regional context in mind.
Although it only borders Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Serbia and Croatia, Montenegro also counts former Yugoslav republics Macedonia and Slovenia as its neighbouring countries, due to historic and regional reasons, as well as the neighbours of former Yugoslavia – Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece. The goal is to develop good relations and communications with mutual respect and continuous development of political, economic, security, cultural, scientific contacts and cooperation as well as to ensure good infrastructure connections. In this context, special importance is attached to relations with Serbia, which entails the relationship of equal partnership and mutual respect.
Montenegro not only shares the same geographical space with these countries, but also the same foreign policy goals. Our foreign policy priorities rely on shared work and cooperation with the region. In this context, progress of any country in the region is an incentive for Montenegro.
Montenegro supports development of regional cooperation and further advancement of cooperation mechanisms among countries of South-Eastern Europe. In this way, we strengthen individual relations with countries of the region and we help our own and the region's progress in European and Euro-Atlantic integrations. Montenegro is a reliable partner in all regional organisations and initiatives (SEECP, CEI, JJI, SECI, SEDM, A3+3) and it will strive for full membership in associations in which it now has observer status. It is particularly dedicated to transformation of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe in RSS through which the countries of the region will demonstrate their readiness for regional ownership and mutual cooperation.
3. Developing bilateral and multilateral cooperation
a. Developing bilateral cooperation
In its new constitutional capacity, as a democratic and open state, Montenegro will keep on developing political, economic and other relations with the leading countries in the world, and the intensity of such relations will correspond to the national and overall interests of Montenegro.
Montenegro has so far been recognised by and established diplomatic relations with 166 countries. A considerable number of embassies have been opened in Podgorica, and Montenegro is developing its diplomatic-consular network throughout the world. Our goal is to foster good relations and enhance political, security, scientific and cultural cooperation. It is particularly important to develop economic relations and cooperation through the economic dimension of diplomacy.
Strengthening bilateral relations in all aspects will be conducive to a more substantive, richer, and more dynamic communication with our diaspora. In the context of reinforcing bilateral relations the priorities are:
Relations with European and EU countries - Enhancing relations and cooperation with the most influential countries of the EU, such as Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, with crucial partners in international organisations and other players in the international political arena, is a critical factor for meeting Montenegro's foreign policy objectives and for its internal development. Overall cooperation with these countries through ongoing bilateral contacts and European and Euro-Atlantic integration will contribute to economic and democratic progress of Montenegro and boost our integration efforts.
Apart from these, Montenegro fosters excellent relations with other countries in Europe. Particular importance is assigned to better relations with Central European countries (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia) and Baltic and Scandinavian countries. Development of relations in political, economic and cultural spheres will be a daily task of bilateral relations with each of these countries respectively. With small European countries (Iceland, Cyprus, Malta, Andorra, Luxemburg, Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marino) Montenegro fosters special relations based on exchange of experience on success of small and flexible administrations.
USA - Relations with the USA are particularly important for Montenegro. Having in mind that the USA is the most important ally in the North Atlantic Alliance and an indispensable partner in the EU and in the region and that it plays an important role in many international organisations, it is expected of Montenegro to dedicate considerable part of foreign policy activities to developing and enhancing partnership relations with the USA.
Russian Federation – Good historic and cultural relations enhanced by mutual understanding in international politics testify to the importance of fostering good cooperation between Montenegro and the Russian Federation. Strengthening relations with Russia in all fields and within international organisations contributes to our integration goals and to our overall progress.
Peoples’ Republic of China - Relations with PR China, which has the largest population in the world and a great political, economic, and security relevance, are on an upward spiral. Building better trade and economic relations with Beijing is high on the priority list for Montenegro.
Mediterranean countries – In addition to belonging to South Eastern Europe, Montenegro is also one of the countries of the Mediterranean geographic and historic region. Montenegro fosters relations with all Mediterranean countries in economic, political, military and cultural fields and particularly focuses on relations with Turkey and the Arab states.
Relations with other leading countries in the world - Relations with big countries such as India, Japan, Brazil, and Canada will also be in the focus of Montenegro's foreign policy. Montenegro will dedicate its full attention to improving economic, but also political and other forms of cooperation with these countries. Particular attention will be dedicated to strengthening bilateral relations with Argentina and Australia as well as with other countries with large Montenegrin diaspora.
b. Participation in international organisations
Montenegro is a member of a number of relevant international organisations and financial institutions. Membership and activities in international organisations, particularly in those that are founded on consensus, enable small countries to articulate interests and needs and particularly to confirm their specific state identity. Our active participation in activities of international organisations has to a large degree been tied to preparation and progress into EU and NATO membership. Through activities in international organisations, Montenegro protects and promotes its interests, participates in defining global political trends and together with countries in the region and beyond it seeks to affirm cooperation and common position in broader international forums.
United Nations - As the broadest global forum and the symbol of multilateralism, UN is the framework for implementation of Montenegrin foreign policy priorities. Also, through the activities of this organisation and its specialised agencies (such as UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNESCO, UNIDO, IAAE, FAO, UNEP...), and organisations within the UN system (WHO, ILO, IMO), Montenegro uses many opportunities for development and cooperation (sustainable development, fulfilling Millennium development goals, capacity building in all fields) on one side, and on the other side it seeks to give contribution to activities of this organisation through active participation in its main bodies and in all three main centres of United Nations - New York, Geneva and Vienna.
Council of Europe - Council of Europe, the oldest pan-European organisation, is important for Montenegro as a bridge to the EU, and therefore our activities in CoE play an important role for the EU integration process. Montenegro uses membership in CoE primarily for expert support with a view of further reforming judiciary, achieving required standards in the field of harmonisation of national legislation with the CoE requirements, further improvement of protection of human and minority rights as well as in concluding and implementing remaining international agreements with the CoE.
OSCE - OSCE is the first international organisation Montenegro joined after restoring independence. As a broad political-security forum that goes beyond European borders, OSCE is an organisation in which Montenegro can very actively and efficiently promote and protect its foreign policy and general interests. By continuing its cooperation with all three dimensions of this organisation (politico-security, economic, and environmental) Montenegro uses programmes of assistance and support of the OSCE in police reform, reform of judiciary, reduction of armament, and strengthening democratic institutions.
WTO - Membership of Montenegro in the WTO, which makes up an institutional framework for multilateral trade, has ensured the country’s equal participation in modern international economic relations and provides support to domestic economic reform. Being a step in the process of accession into the European Union, the WTO membership is important for both the developing and countries in transition.
III IMPLEMENTATION OF FOREIGN POLICY PRIORITIES
Foreign policy priorities and values should bring about faster development and overall prosperity of the Montenegrin society. Success in reaching foreign policy goals depend on the political resolve, continuous and patient building upon our capacities and institutions, and on the ability to mobilise all available capacity towards goals broadly supported by the society, but also towards those where such consensus is yet to be brokered.
In relation to this, Montenegro devotes special attention to its representation before international partners, be it in respective countries, international organisations, or other international stakeholders. Developing and promoting the perception of Montenegro as a modern, European country that belongs both to the Balkans and the Mediterranean, shares European values, and is committed to all assumed international obligations and the respect of human rights and development of sustainable economy - is the basis and guarantee of success of its foreign policy activities and the backbone of its positioning in the international community.
The role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration and the diplomatic network is of great importance for Montenegro’s image and for the implementation of its foreign policy priorities. Therefore, it is particularly important to build and develop capacities of Montenegrin diplomacy in the best way possible. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration is the first point of contact for other countries – it channels information, coordinates foreign policy activities, and develops foreign policy strategies.
The Government sets foreign policy priorities, but their efficient and successful implementation requires communication, coordination, and cooperation of all competent authorities. These requirements are met through the activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration.
Montenegro’s foreign policy priorities are long-term and they reflect Montenegro’s political goals and development requirements. At the same time, they reflect realistic abilities of Montenegro as an independent state and its need to find a strategic place in the international arena. The Ministry has a great responsibility in ensuring this. However, the success of Montenegro’s foreign policy will depend mostly on the quality and pace of domestic reform and international development. In that regard, the implementation of foreign policy priorities is not only a task for the Government and other institutions, but for the society as a whole.