President of Montenegro Filip Vujanovic will be present for the first time today at the NATO summit in Brussels. In June this year the country will officially join the alliance.
A member of the Montenegrin parliament, chairman of the Democratic People’s Party and leader of the Democratic Front, uniting the main opposition forces of the country, Milan Knezevich last week paid an official visit to Moscow.
In an interview with reporters, he spoke about the disastrous consequences of Montenegro’s entry into NATO, the country’s economic ties with Russia, the Great Albania project and the Crimean referendum.
– Montenegro will officially join NATO in June. In 2014, the alliance reaffirmed the rule that all countries of the bloc commit to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense. Will the economy of the country achieve this standard?
Of course not. After all, 2% of Montenegro’s GDP is € 70 million. Also 44 of our soldiers are participating in a mission in Afghanistan. It costs an additional € 11 million. Together, € 81 million is obtained.
Taking into account the statements of the Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg that Montenegro should provide a battalion of 600 military personnel for military alliance missions, we will be forced to allocate an additional € 150 million.
In NATO is conducted in order for the people of Montenegro to forget how hard it is for him to live. Instead of joining the alliance, we support the concept of creating a neutral B4 bloc (the Balkan Quartet), which includes Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
What is the real economic situation in your country?
Montenegro, without exaggeration, is on the brink of a socio-economic disaster. The debt, which is € 2 billion, was caused by inappropriate economic and social policies, catastrophic privatization.
Montenegro has surpassed all the “Maastricht criteria” for external debt. The country is actually on par with Greece. And this year Montenegro has taken one more loan for € 750 million. That is, the current debt already exceeds our entire budget.
You have repeatedly stated the need to remove anti-Russian sanctions, which Montenegrin government joined in 2014, despite the fact that the country is not a member of the EU. Why?
The introduction of anti-Russian sanctions first of all hit Montenegro. We still do not know with certainty what these sanctions apply to. And Russia does not even feel them. Therefore, we call them invisible sanctions.
Our economy is largely dependent on Russian investment and the flow of tourists from Russia. Last year alone, 330,000 Russian tourists visited Montenegro. From 2006 to 2017, every third tourist was from Russia, and every third investor was Russian.
In Montenegro, also live from 15 thousand to 20 thousand Russian citizens. If all these citizens were granted Montenegrin citizenship, then, according to our legislation, they would be considered a national minority.
Instead of using these factors to improve cooperation with Moscow, the Montenegrin government decided to take the EU’s side and impose sanctions against Moscow.
You asked the Russian authorities not to tighten the response. But how do you think Moscow reacts to the obviously unfriendly steps of the Montenegrin government?
Additional sanctions in the form of banning charter flights or withdrawing investments from the country would actually destroy the economy of Montenegro. First of all, this will affect the lives of ordinary citizens, and not in the Montenegrin regime, which will use Moscow’s tough stance to strengthen anti-Russian hysteria.
I think that Russia could, for example, impose personal sanctions against those MPs who voted for NATO membership and are responsible for spoiling relations between Russia and Montenegro.
Anti-Russian sanctions were introduced as a result of the reunification of the Crimea with Russia. How do you define the status of the Crimea?
Crimea is an integral part of Russia. The peninsula was in 1953 by one decree transferred to the jurisdiction of Ukraine. Taking into account the events in Ukraine in 2014, it is absolutely logical that the Crimeans voted in a referendum for reunification with Russia.
In the Balkans, there is a similar problem with Kosovo, only with the difference that Kosovo was taken away as a result of NATO bombing in 1999 and subsequent pressure from the West. Kosovo sooner or later, just like the Crimea, will return to where its historical roots are.
The Serbian and Montenegrin peoples must be patient. After all, Russia was waiting for the return of the Crimea for many decades.
Recently, in the media, information about the threat of the Great Albania project is appearing more and more often. How is the idea of uniting all territories with predominantly Albanian populations supported by the West relevant for Montenegro?
In Montenegro, 5% of Albanians live. “Pro-Albanian” national parties are in parliament and even belong to the coalition government. They come forward with quiet support for the implementation of the concept of “Great Albania”.
The ruling regime closes its eyes to this. But the Great Albania project is a real threat. Cooperation between all Albanian parties in the Balkans may soon grow stronger, and serious conflicts may break out in Kosovo or Macedonia, which will spread to other states in the region.