When one thinks about the countries involved with NATO, generally, one only thinks about the Allies and Russia. But there are countries outside the Alliance, like partner countries and potential members who are involved. The last NATO enlargement was in 2009, when Croatia and Albania joined the alliance. Since then, four others countries are officially aspiring members: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia, and Montenegro.
Out of these, Montenegro presents an interesting case. It was invited to join the Alliance last December, provided each NATO member ratifies the Accession Protocol of Montenegro. So far seven of the 28 have already done so, and Montenegro is expecting the whole process to be completed by the end of the year.
Even though Montenegro is not a full standing member yet, it was invited to attend the summit as one, however without rights to the decision making process. During a summit press conference, NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg explicitly stated that “this meeting is a meeting with the 28 NATO allies and Montenegro which is very close to becoming a NATO ally, […] so this was a meeting for NATO allies,” this essentially reinforced that Montenegro is a de facto member.
The particular position of Montenegro at the Summit been called a win for the country by James Stavridis, a commentator at Foreign Policy. This new addition is also a way for the Alliance to act on its Balkan flank, as shown in articles 107-110 of the Warsaw Summit Communiqué.
During the Summit, our Editor, Christian Picard, had the chance to sit down with Montenegrin Minister of Defense, Milica Pejanović Đurišić. Below is an excerpt (edited for clarity) of their conversation:
Christian Picard: When do you expect all the Allies to ratify the Accession Protocol?
Milica Pejanović Đurišić: It is difficult to say because there is a lot to be done in all 28 countries. In many of them, it is the full parliament that will debate the procedure. Now it is summer, most of the parliaments are not in session. But a number of them have already ratified it, and a number of them have started the procedures. So I believe that by the end of the year, a majority, if not all of them, will have completed the procedure. But we are not running for a date, a deadline, it is not only about Montenegro, but all of NATO.
In last December, we also learnt that Montenegro would join KFOR, but that it was still waiting for all NATO members’ approval. Is there any update on that?
Our forces are in many missions: we have been in Afghanistan for years now, in ISAF and Resolute Support; we are in the EU mission in Mali; in EUNAVFOR Atalanta [editor’s note: operation for counter piracy in the coasts of Somalia]; the parliament just approved joining the UN mission in Western Sahara; and, of course, we would like to contribute to KFOR, which is in our neighborhood. This is in the final phase of approval by NATO, then we can go forward.
When Montenegro becomes full standing NATO member, what kind of challenges can we expect in terms of interoperability with NATO standards?
The process of accessing into NATO is a very complex one. We have been in the Membership Action Plan for years now. That program was designed in a way to prepare a country for the membership. By doing annual national plan, in cooperation with NATO, we already have been implementing all these reforms, with the final objective of becoming interoperable. I do believe there are no remaining challenges. We, in time, identified what has to be done and it has be done. And by participating in these different missions, starting with Afghanistan, we are actually in the field, showing how interoperable our forces are.
At the moment, the Montenegrin navy is not part of the NATO Standing Maritime Group 2, which is one of the assets NATO is providing to assist in the refugee crisis. Do you think this would be something doable for Montenegro?
We already expressed our interest to be a part of the EU mission in Central Mediterranean, because of the migrant crisis. Up to now, the mission is closed to partners and since we are not a member of the EU, we could not join the mission. But we have a great interest in contributing to that mission, because we do believe that the migrant crisis should be resolved by the contribution of all countries in Europe. From that point now, we will be closely following NATO’s involvement and how the character of that mission [editor’s note: the new Sea Guardian mission], could be modified to have a part of our navy join in the effort.
Montenegro In Brief:
– Gained its independence from Serbia in 2006
– A population of about 680 000
– Will become the 29th member of NATO, and the 7th member from the Balkans
– Montenegro is not part of the European Union