Ex ministers of regional countries, including Bosnia’s former Foreign Affairs Minister, Zlatko Lagumdzija, sent an ‘Appeal for Montenegro’ to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, in which they expressed concern over the situation in this country.
“We, former ministers in the respective governments of the countries in the region, are watching with great concern the latest developments in Montenegro. Having all lived through the Balkan wars of the 1990s, we cannot help seeing alarming similarities between the events in Montenegro today and the events that led to those wars of twenty-five to thirty years ago. Montenegro is not a country with a large population, but is strategically very important to the stability of South-East Europe and even the entire Adriatic basin. Its relatively recent accession to NATO has greatly contributed to the regional security of this part of Europe,” the letter said.
They argued that “although the events surrounding the installment of the new leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro might seem to be related to a religious issue, in fact they have nothing to do with religion, or even with politics or ideology.”
“They are one more manifestation of the conflict between the forces that think Montenegro should not exist as a separate state, and those who believe Montenegro should remain independent, with all the attributes of statehood,” it said.
The former ministers noted that “there is no doubt that the former government of Montenegro could be criticized on many levels” but that, “despite these faults, they strongly believed in an independent Montenegro as a vital member of NATO and with a future within the EU.”
“Their most aggressive critics come from the ranks of people who reject the very statehood and political independence of Montenegro. The many years of stalling of the EU accession process for the Western Balkan countries, encourage instincts and actions which are the reminder of the bitter past,” the letter said.
The former ministers argued that “one doesn’t need to be a specialist in Balkan history to know that all attempts to change borders in this region have been closely followed by wars, human suffering and immense tragedies,” and stressed that “another open conflict and crisis spot in Europe is the last thing Europe and the world need at this time.”
“We therefore urge our EU institutions and other allies to engage in active political dialogue with all different political and social actors in the current crisis in Montenegro and help secure a peaceful resolution of the escalating conflict in the country. Pretending that nothing is happening will have dire consequences for Montenegro and the region. It is especially important to notice and counter the emerging attempts to submit a politically weak government of Montenegro to anti-NATO and anti-EU influences,” the letter concluded.
It was signed by former Albanian Foreign Affairs Minister, Ditmir Bushati, former Kosovo Foreign Minister, Enver Hoxhaj, Slovenia’s former Defence Minister, Roman Jakic, former Macedonian State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Emil Kirijas, former Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia, Zarko Korac, Bosnia’s former Foreign Minister and Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Zlatko Lagumdzija, and former Minister of Foreign and European Affairs in Croatia, Vesna Pusic.