Balkans joining EU and NATO - (part 6): Montenegro - People of the Black Forest

Over a decade of negotiations, Montenegro still dreaming to join EU | Balkan Photos

Montenegro which is actually named “Black Forest” translated from the local language, had its last king right before joining Yugoslavia, Nicholas the 1st who was the grandfather of Bulgaria’s Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Montenegro was the smallest republic in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and had the lowest population. Being a part of Yugoslavia, had meant that Montenegro had experienced the highest economic growth in its history. Back in the 80’s the Montenegrin coast emerged as an important destination, for tourists from all around the world. This was all contributing with reasons to why the montenegrins, at the first multiparty elections in 1990, were more than happy to overwhelmingly re-elect the reformed League of Communists into power again. After the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1989 there had been an “anti-bureaucratic” revolution in Montenegro, where supporters of Milosevic in Serbia had ousted the old communist guard. This all led to Montenegro joining forces with Serbia to create the new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1992, consisting only of those two countries.

Milo Đukanović was one of those who rode into power, on the back of the “anti-bureaucratic” revolution and quickly became Prime Minister of Montenegro back in 1991. As a member of the newly reformed League of Communists (Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro), Milo had personally taken part in forcing the old communist guard from power. It was the same Milo Đukanović who later in 1996 severed the ties with Serbia, and adopted the German Deutsche Mark as the official currency of Montenegro and subsequently adopted the euro, without even being a part of the Eurozone currency union. This means that Montenegro is a country with no currency of its own since 1996, still until this day circulating only foreign currency in the country.

After the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia(which also targeted Montenegrin infrastructure), Milo started to have regular meetings with Clinton administration officials such as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Secretary of Defense William Cohen and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, as well as the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and also NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana. From this point on, the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro became the strongest supporters for joining the NATO alliance.

NATO membership means, out with the old, in with the new

Shortly after regaining its independence in June 2006, Montenegro joined the Partnership for Peace (PfP) NATO program in December 2006, the next year Montenegro signed a transit agreement with NATO, allowing the alliance's troops to move freely across the country. Montenegro also signed an agreement with the U.S., promising to destroy all “outdated” weaponry, as a precondition for NATO membership. Which would of course mean that they would have to purchase new weaponry, exclusively from NATO approved countries to meet the 2% of GDP threshold requirement, paying with Euro that Montenegro have adopted unilateral, not being a member of the monetary system of the Euro, Montenegro basically pays everything with other countries Euro. Several attempts from the opposition to make a national referendum for the Montenegrins to be heard, whether they wanted to join NATO failed, and the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro with Milo Đukanović in front in 2015, announces that they intend to join NATO without a national referendum, which culminated in riots in the capital. So naturally under the October 2016 parliamentary election, the NATO membership was an issue of wide debate, but as the Democratic Party of Socialists (which has basically ruled Montenegro since 1991) basically won the election again, the road was set. Montenegro became a full member of NATO on 5 June 2017. Till this day, Montenegro is only managing to spend around 1.5% of GDP on defence.

Over a decade of negotiations, still dreaming to join EU

Negotiations for joining Europe had started while Serbia and Montenegro was still unionized as one country in 2005, but after Montenegro’s independence in 2006, the negotiations that had already taken place, were continued with Serbia while Montenegro had to start new negotiations. Officially EU was not happy with Montenegro unilaterally adopting the Euro, but it seems more like a move to show impartiality, because anyone can see that Montenegro has the lower hand in any negotiations with the EU, by already having adopted the Euro without asking anyone or “getting a good deal”. It is also claimed that Montenegro’s population is overwhelmingly pro-EU according to polls, but no referendum will be held, so we will never really know how the people really feel. If everything was this glamorous, it shouldn’t be any problem to hear the people, after all EU “supposed” to be democratic and ought to require countries to hold a national referendum, and not just taking in a new country based on a few leaders decisions. Leaders whose political parties are the de facto administrators of the EUR 507 million in development aid Montenegro is getting from EU, so it’s not hard to imagine why they see European Accession as a win.

Montenegro officially applied to join the EU in 2008, in 2010 it became an official candidate, but is still struggling with implementing EU’s rising demands, having gone so far Montenegro has no option but to implement any requirement from EU, to have a chance of joining anytime soon. If everything goes by plan, it is expected that Montenegro will join EU in 2022, possibly with some restrictions the first decade or so, as we have seen with other Eastern European countries.

The country is effectively locked in with the EU, being given a carrot with development aid at the top, whilst at the same time getting landlocked with loads of requirements to accommodate european businesses.

See also: 

Balkans joining EU and NATO - (part 1): Bulgaria - Turning the tide

Balkans joining EU and NATO - (part 2): Romania - Ending of an era

Balkans joining EU and NATO - (part 3): Albania - Ideology made it hard to make friends

Balkans joining EU and NATO - (part 4): Serbia - Once were Yugoslavs

Balkans joining EU and NATO - (part 5): Kosovo - The long way to independence

Alexander Awayez

Alexander Awayez is an investigative journalist and researcher of Bulgarian/Iraqi descent who grew up in Denmark and later moved to Bulgaria.