Pence: Balkan’s future is in the West

US Vice President Mike Pence, at the Adriatic Charter Summit in Podgorica; Photo: AP Photo / Risto Božovic

PODGORICA – Montenegro’s membership in NATO represents a historic success and the future of the Western Balkans is in the West, US Vice President Mike Pence said at press conference.

“We believe that the future of the Western Balkans is in the West and I am looking forward to building cooperation with the countries of the region,” Pence said.

On the today’s Balkan Charter Summit, he noted that Russia wanted to violently stop Montenegro on its NATO path, but that it failed in doing that. He added that the United States is on our country’s side.

“Russia was trying to destabilise the region and separate it from the rest of Europe. Moscow agents wanted to kill the prime minister and stop Montenegro on its path to NATO. It is Western Balkans’ exclusive right to decide on its way. The United States will support Montenegro,” Pence said.

He pointed out that US President Donald Trump will continue to support countries in the region on their Euro-Atlantic path.

“Our goal is to have all countries of the Balkan initiative in NATO. President Trump will sign a law on the sanctions against Russia and we will require Russia to change the actions that led to the sanctions. The West will never violate its values. In the last 15 years we have been moving towards peace and prosperity,” Pence said.

The US Vice President said that we need to get closer to Europe, pointing out that he believes we will finish the job we started.

Marković: This is a great day for Montenegro

Prime Minister Duško Marković said that this was a great day for Montenegro and that Pence’s visit had a wider significance.

“Your visit to Europe is evidence of the solidity and sustainability of the transatlantic connections as well as the Euro-Atlantic perspective of the Western Balkans. The engagement and constructive role that the United States plays in our region are extremely important. You have continually shown that through initiatives and active role in the framework of the Adriatic Charter, which has three NATO members 14 years after it was established,” said Marković.

He said membership in NATO was not a goal itself.

“Our alliance with NATO members, most of which are EU member states, is a natural, historical and civilising choice. Membership in NATO is its confirmation. It strengthens our statehood, values, culture and tradition. We have been striving towards this goal and achieved it in 11 years since the statehood restoration. Direct foreign efforts to make Montenegro give up NATO membership failed to deter us from that goal. Those are short-term attempts and our Euro-Atlantic commitment is permanent. It has no alternative,” the PM said.

Marković pointed out that our country’s membership in NATO is also the good news for the region and that Montenegro is willing to share its experience with the friends in the region and to and to help them in the integration process.

“There is no free and peaceful Europe without a stable Balkans. It is the interest of everyone – Europe, the United States and us from the region,” he said.

The prime minister pointed out that we do not forget there is still a lot of work to do.

“We are ready and we are continuing key reforms with the new encouragement. Only in that way do we become part of the solution rather than a part of the problem, as it was the case in the past,” he said.

Zaev: Montenegro’s membership in NATO encouraging

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that Montenegro’s membership in NATO brought benefits to the entire region.

“The region is ready to cooperate. Montenegro’s membership in NATO is encouraging. We are waiting and we hope that Macedonia will be the next, 30th alliance member,” Zaev said.

At the invitation of Marković and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev, PMs of Croatia, Albania and Serbia, Andrej Plenković, Edi Rama and Ana Brnabić, the chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia-Herzegovina Denis Zvizdić and Kosovo President Hashim Thaci are participating in the summit.