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Diplomacy in Action

Interview With Jelena Otasevic of RTCG

Victoria Nuland
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Podgorica, Montenegro
July 12, 2014


Question: Well, after the meetings with our authorities, what is your main message to Montenegrin citizens?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Well, thank you Jelena for this opportunity to be here. As you may know this is my first trip to Montenegro, so we thought it was good timing to come to talk to your government, to talk to the opposition, about first of all our very positive assessment of the progress here—political progress, economic progress, security progress—both on the road to NATO and on the road to the EU, but to really roll up our sleeves now, together, and to talk about the continued work that we want to do together to strengthen rule of law, to strengthen your security sector, to strengthen freedom of the media—all of these kinds of things—and to improve the climate for investment, because we’d like to see more American investment in Montenegro. It’s a beautiful country with spectacular potential, and we want to do more together.

Question: Yes, as you know, NATO ministers of foreign affairs decided to approve the decision to invite Montenegro by the end of 2015. They said that they are opening a new phase, an intense phase, with Montenegro, so how do you comment on their decision? You know that we expected to be invited during the summit in Wales.

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Well, as you may know, I’m a former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, so I’ve worked with many, many countries who are in the stage that Montenegro is in, where an enormous commitment has been made, but there is just that bit of work that still needs to be done. So as I said, this is the roll-up-our-sleeves period, assessing together where you can and need to be stronger and how we support you in your effort to get there, so that was part of these consultations today.

Question: But do you think that the invitation to Montenegro from summit in Wales would have been a positive signal, having in mind the situation in the Western Balkans, and what is Washington’s role in all that?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Well, first of all, we very much value the role that Montenegro plays in a stable, European-path Balkan community, and not all of your neighbors are as committed, so it’s very, very important, and the example that you said is important. But the NATO membership decision is made on very concrete criteria of readiness. You have to be ready in all aspects to defend all of us, and all of us have to be ready to defend you. It’s a very serious undertaking, and so we have more work to do together and I think we will do it but I also think that the Montenegrins should be proud of the progress you’ve made on all of these measures, particularly in the security sector, as a contributor not just to European security but to global security now, in Afghanistan, in Kosovo—we will acknowledge that in Wales, we will welcome what you’ve done, and we’ll encourage you to go those last kilometers.

Question: And what can you say about up-to-now cooperation between Montenegro and the U.S.A. regarding the security sector? Why is extra time needed for the completed reforms to be consolidated?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Well, I think I’ve mentioned some of the things that we are working on together. You’ve passed a very good new legislation that allows you to ensure that your intelligence services are 21st century and are ready for NATO standards. That work needs to be implemented throughout the security system. In the rule of law area—starting to prosecute now some of the folks who need to be prosecuted; those cases need to be made. We’re continuing to watch a clean independent judiciary. Your, the government and society’s willingness to attack corruption is very, very important because corruption is not just a democracy-killer, it’s also a threat to sovereignty because outside forces can abuse it, so that’s something we’re watching. And as I said, freedom of the media. We are extremely committed, and all strong NATO democracies have to be open to dissent and ready to hear it, but also transparent and open to their citizens through a free media. So these are all of the things we’ve talked about today, but you’ve made progress on all of those things; there’s just more work to do.

Question: Yes. And do you see Montenegro as a NATO member during the next NATO summit in 2016 maybe?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: I’m going to give you the answer that I give to all countries who were at this stage of getting ready: It’s up to you. It’s up to Montenegrins to do the hard work to be ready.

Question: If we continue the hard work?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: I am confident that you can do the work, and I am confident that there are people here who want to do that work so that we can all say yes together.

Question: Thank you very much.

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Thank you, Jelena.

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