Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina took another step towards NATO membership by joining the Adriatic Charter last week.
By Jusuf Ramadanovic in Sarajevo and Nedjeljko Rudovic in Podgorica for Southeast European Times - 09/12/08
Albanian Foreign Minister Lulzim Basha (left), US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried (centre) and Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic attend the Adriatic Charter signing ceremony in Helsinki on Thursday (December 4th). [Getty Images]
Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) took another step towards the prize of NATO membership on Thursday (December 4th), when they joined the Adriatic Charter, a group of NATO aspirants formed in 2003 under a US initiative.
Attending the signing ceremony at the OSCE ministerial meeting in Helsinki were the two countries' foreign ministers, as well as their counterparts from the inaugural Charter members, Macedonia, Croatia and Albania. US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Daniel Fried represented Washington.
Fried said the United States supports the Charter as a means of helping Balkan countries "ensure their accession to Europe in this decade" and praised it for helping the three original member states to "deepen their reforms and strengthen their international position".
BiH Foreign Minister Sven Alkalaj said joining the Charter is of exceptional significance and pledged his country would remain committed to multilateral co-operation and regional security. In his opinion, admission to the Charter would invigorate reformers in BiH. He also thanked Washington for its advice on complying with NATO membership requirements.
Montenegrin Foreign Minister Milan Rocen signed on behalf of his government, but it may face a rockier domestic path than Sarajevo does in trying to gain NATO membership. Surveys suggest only 26% of the public support NATO accession, with 35% opposed and the rest undecided.
Serbian List, the strongest opposition coalition, accuses the government of ignoring public opinion and of taking "steps harmful to Serbia", with which Serbian List seeks closer relations. The opposition bloc considers Charter membership a US "payoff" for diplomatic recognition of Kosovo.
However, the government gained unexpected support from another opposition party, the Liberals. "We believe Montenegrin integration ... will cause important reforms," Liberal Party official Andrija Petkovic said.
Providing encouragement at the signing ceremony were foreign ministers of countries that are either approaching NATO membership or have already joined. Croatia's Gordan Jandrokovic said admission to the Charter would strengthen BiH and Montenegro's contribution to regional security. Estonia's Urmas Paet, whose country already belongs to NATO, said Estonia is prepared to share its accession experiences with Charter members. "We hope that Serbia will soon join the other nations in the Adriatic Charter as well," Paet remarked.