Organisations are supporting programmes to improve citizens' knowledge and awareness of Euro-Atlantic accession.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 30/04/14
Hundreds of students have attended the Regional Euro-Atlantic Camp since it opened in 2008. [Regional Euro-Atlantic Camp]
In an effort to increase citizen support for NATO membership, NGOs in Montenegro are undertaking numerous projects that outline the benefits and importance of the country's Euro-Atlantic integration.
One project, the Regional Euro-Atlantic Camp, is sponsored by the Alpha Centre in Niksic.
The camp, which opened in 2008, annually gathers regional students, experts and officials to learn more about and discuss the importance of membership in NATO for Montenegro and other west Balkan countries.
"The main idea of [the camp] is to raise trust and support for NATO, as a defence and political organisation," Aleksandar Dedovic, executive director at the Alpha Centre, told SETimes.
"Many that attended are now representatives of state institutions, political parties and other organisations that have important social influence."
He added that the centre has been developing programmes for Montenegro's integration in NATO since its establishment in 2006.
"We are making an effort to simplify the NATO issue. We expect that our effort will have positive effects for the whole society," Dedovic said.
The Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, an NGO from Podgorica, works on promoting NATO by conducting research about Euro-Atlantic integration. The last study was done in December and showed 38 percent of citizens support NATO integration, an increase of 6 percent from March 2013.
Nenad Koprivica, executive director at the centre, said the NGO is also organising educational seminars for students to encourage critical thinking and raise awareness of the benefits of membership.
"The key task of the NGO, when it comes to NATO and EU integration, is to provide citizens with timely, valid and objective information, which gradually leads to a higher level of support for these processes," Koprivica told SETimes.
He said the NGO has a role to mediate between the state and citizens because their input helps to shape national and local politics, and to give legitimacy to European politics.
"Activities by NGOs related to European and Euro-Atlantic integration create a space for a constructive and comprehensive social dialogue that leads to a general social consensus on the issue of membership in these international organisations," Koprivica added.
Dedovic said NGOs have played an important role in many NATO and EU member countries during their accession.
"Usually, NGOs are dynamic, creative and close to citizens, and very often they are bridges between citizens and institutions," Dedovic told SETimes.
Stefan Pizurica, general secretary at the Euro-Atlantic Youth Association in Podgorica, said the main role of NGOs in the process of NATO accession is to provide citizens with unbiased information.
"Our projects have been focused toward the younger population. We have implemented several projects of this kind: NATO debating competition for high school students, the School of Euro-Atlantic integration for the students, opening of NATO info points in schools. Our aim is to distribute precise, timely and substantial education and information to youths about NATO," Pizurica told SETimes.
Many welcomed the efforts.
"This is an important process, and NGOs are making a significant contribution," Marko Savic from Podgorica, told SETimes. "Their basic role is to spread information about NATO. Influencing public awareness and building a clear picture of the process are some of their important activities."
What sort of influence do NGOs in your country have? Share your thoughts below.