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Ask the Government

                               Ask the Government

Deputy Prime Minister Pažin speaks at Sixth EU-Europe Summit in Podgorica

Deputy Prime Minister Pažin speaks at Sixth EU-Europe Summit in Podgorica
Published date 03.05.2017 09:52 | Author PR Service

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Speech by H.E. Zoran Pažin,
Deputy Prime Minister for Political System, Interior and Foreign Affairs and Minister of Justice

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by thanking the organizers of this conference - “The Economist – Events” for choosing to convene in Montenegro for their Sixth EU – South Eastern Europe Summit -- and for putting Montenegro in the spotlight on this occasion.

It is indeed a very well chosen time to reflect upon the prospects and the future of a small South Eastern European country with the population of barely 630.000, especially in the context of the changes happening within the EU itself, but also in the context of a wider international relations paradigm.

Later this month, on May the 21st we will mark the 11th year since the renewal of Montenegro’s independence. The bid for independence, at the time, promised working towards two key goals – joining the European Union and joining the NATO, primarily because we saw these two organizations as the guarantors of Montenegro’s stability, security and progress.

The latter goal seems to be all but reached, with Montenegro’s Parliament adopting the Law on the confirmation of the North Atlantic Treaty just last Friday, on April 28th in Cetinje. In doing so, Montenegro committed to be a reliable partner and contributor to joint security of 28 other countries of the Alliance.

I am convinced that this is the best possible decision and the right course for the people of Montenegro, not just for their security, but also for the new economic opportunities that involve trading and doing business with any of the 28 member countries.

When it comes to the European Union, 11 years on, Montenegro as a sovereign country is well on its way of meeting the criteria for full EU membership. Since we opened the accession negotiations with the EU in June 2012, we have achieved steady progress: 26 chapters have been opened for negotiations and 2 chapters have been provisionally closed. With each step we make towards the EU, we are improving our laws, institutions and practices. In our case, it truly is, as they say, about the journey, not just about the destination.

And even though when we started off our bid of joining the EU there were no obvious signs of the recent developments inside the European Union, our determination to be a part of the European family has not been put into question, on the contrary, we are even more convinced of the necessity of having a strong Europe, a connected Europe – a Europe which is able to fully integrate the Western Balkans, fully understanding the context and the consequences of the lack of its full support.

That is why the initiatives such as the Berlin Process, or the Western Balkans Process, which is another name for the same initiative, bear particular importance for the present and the future of the region. And make no mistake, the EU involvement in the Western Balkans in the infrastructure projects, especially when it comes to connectivity in transport networks and energy supply networks, is not just to be understood an act of development assistance; it creates a plethora of opportunities for commercial partnerships, for the involvement of the business sector, for the growth of our economies and for stronger participation and contribution to the EU by the countries of the Western Balkans.

The fourth summit of the Berlin Process will take place in Trieste in June, under the auspices of Italy, which has been supporting this process for the past year, and it will focus on the results from the previous year, and the achievement from Paris, Vienna and Berlin, where it all started.

So what can a small country such as Montenegro offer to the European Union? Well, first of all, this great weather, the climate, the natural beauty, the sea, the mountains, the culture – all perfect for short weekend trips or holiday breaks. For that we want to have even more air-connections with European capitals and other cities. And for that we also need to work on increasing our airport capacities and improving the necessary infrastructure, and therein lie the opportunities for joint ventures, public-private partnerships, etc.

Second, we are working on several road construction projects, the first section of the Bar-Boljare Highway is already underway in partnership with the Chinese company CRBC, and there will be 3 or 4 more sections to be constructed as part of this highway, which will no doubt involve either public-private partnerships, or concessions, or a hybrid model. The same goes for the pending project of the Expressway along the Montenegrin coast, connecting the coast of Croatia with the coast of Montenegro and joining in to Albanian road network.

Third, energy. Montenegro and Italy are completing the €900 million project of the trans-Adriatic underwater electric transmission line of 1000 MW capacity, which will make possible to export the electrical energy from not only Montenegro, but also from Bosnia and Herzegovina and from Serbia, thanks to the project of the interconnection of the electric power transmission systems of the three countries. There are so much more opportunities for businesses in the energy sector, especially in the renewable – hydro, wind and solar, and we are open for business in all these areas.

Fourth, abundance of raw materials, forests, high quality spring water and organic agriculture. Montenegro abounds with these resources mainly due to its untouched natural environment in most of the country, especially in the Northern regions. However, we are looking for investment and transfer of latest technologies and know how in the processing industry. We are open for business, and we offer significant incentives for investment in this area.

I don’t want to take any more time in this introductory speech, I am certain all this and more will be discussed in the upcoming sessions.

For now, let me just say once again, thank you to the Economist for organizing this event in Podgorica today, and thank you all for your time and your attention.