State sovereignty, economic development and regional stability are the most important benefits of NATO membership, citizens say.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 16/01/14
A recent study shows that support for NATO membership is growing in Montenegro. [AFP]
Positive public opinion in Montenegro on the state's NATO accession has been growing over the last six months.
The Podgorica-based Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, an organisation that closely follows the process of Euro-Atlantic integration in Montenegro, published a report last month that shows 38 percent of citizens support NATO integration, an increase of 6 percent since March.
Nenad Koprivica, executive director of the centre, said that although 45 percent of citizens do not support Alliance membership, that number is slowly decreasing.
"Political parties that participate in the government publicly support NATO integration, while the majority of parties in the opposition are against NATO integration. NATO integration opponents are of the opinion that citizens have to decide on the issue in a referendum and believe that the referendum result will be negative," Koprivica told SETimes.
Montenegro jointed the Alliance's Membership Action Plan in 2006, and full membership in NATO is considered to be the next step.
"Given our desire and ambition to be given an invitation for membership in 2014, we will continue with further fulfilment of obligations, and we actively contribute to global stability as a dedicated and reliable partner of the alliance," Foreign Minister Igor Luksic said.
Lukšić also told local media that the government will "intensify the dialogue with citizens on the subject of integration in NATO, and offer sufficient arguments so that they understand the benefits of membership in the alliance."
Predrag Nikolic, the owner of Blues Brothers bar in Niksic, said that NATO membership is the only guarantee for peace in the Balkans.
"I do not see any other organisation that can guarantee stability. If we talk about crucial things for normal people like economy, security, stability, it is enough to compare countries that are NATO members with those who are not, and see the difference and benefits," Nikolic told SETimes.
The government is also advocating membership in the Alliance.
"Montenegro's foreign policy priority is to join NATO. This organisation is a guarantee for our country's sovereignty," Nebojsa Kaluđerović, foreign policy adviser to the prime minister and co-ordinator for NATO, said.
Aleksandar Dedovic, director of NGO Alpha Centre, said Alliance membership will have positive political, economic and security implications on the country's international reputation.
"Peace, stability, rule of law, human rights, and improvement of citizen freedoms and civil oversight of the defence and security sector are some of values that are shared among NATO members and to which is Montenegro dedicated," Dedovic told SETimes.
He added that strengthening and de-politicising state institutions, savings in the defence sector, exchange of technological achievements, opportunities for studying, employment and jobs in NATO countries create an image of a country where it is safe to invest.
Koprivica said NATO integration is connected with EU integration, which is supported by 75 percent of Montenegro's citizens.
"There is no state in the former Yugoslavia hasn't realised the dream about EU accession without NATO accession. Although this principle is not public, and although NATO representatives are not underlining it, there is an impression that Montenegro cannot join the EU without joining NATO," Koprivica told SETimes.
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