Aim of the regional conference was the exchange of opinions from the field of security, and consideration of current challenges faced by Western Balkans countries.
President of the Parliament of Montenegro, Mr Ivan Brajović, said in his opening presentation that the countries of the Western Balkans needed to have the same vision of the future of the region, which meant a place in the EU and NATO. Mr Brajović stressed the importance of strengthening mutual understanding and cooperation in the region, and the vision and faith in the unity of the European community where, as he pointed out, every country of the Western Balkans would have its own place. "European values are and must be our main guiding principle, without neglecting the traditional, identity and cultural characteristics of individual countries. As a model of a multiconfessional harmony, as a country where many nations live and where holidays of three faiths are equally celebrated, Montenegro can be an example of cohesion for other countries and these are the values we are particularly proud of", Mr Brajović said. The President of the Parliament also added that no country was strong enough to face challenges such as migration and climate change on its own, and that, in this sense, joint initiatives in the region needed to be strengthened.
Deputy Prime Minister for Political System, Home and Foreign Policy and Minister of Justice, Mr Zoran Pažin, said that with the membership in NATO, Montenegro contributed to the security cohesion of the region and added that as a new member of the Alliance, our country would provide support to other countries of the region as well, in their intention to become members of that military alliance. Mr Pažin noted that the region of the Western Balkans was not immune to the challenges through the course of history, and that this fact was reason enough to bind each country individually. Mr Pažin also stressed that he strongly believed in the European path of the region and its full valorisation through EU membership.
Minister of Defence, Mr Predrag Bošković, said that Montenegro, as a new member of NATO, would strongly support the aspirations of its neighbors with regard to the EU and NATO membership, as well as any initiative aimed at promoting regional cooperation. Mr Bošković also emphasised that Montenegrin membership in NATO was not directed against any other country. Minister of Defence pointed to the need for more intensive cooperation through regional and defense initiatives and in this context he particularly emphasised the cooperation of the countries of the region within the framework of the A5 Initiative, which, he pointed out, have made a special contribution with regard to the cooperation in the field of security in the Balkans.
State Secretary of the Ministry of Interior and national coordinator for NATO, Mr Dragan Pejanović, in his address to the participants, said that regional cooperation in the field of security was a necessary condition for political, economic and any other stability, as well as attracting investments, opening of new job positions and improving the lives of citizens. Mr Pejanović also added that the harmonisation of the security system and the achievement of a higher level of interoperability should be a priority in the region, and that joint military exercises of the countries of the region particularly contributed to achieving this goal. "In this regard, the cooperation of police administrations was very important, through various forms of joint work and activities, electronic exchange of information, through the work of joint patrols, exchange of police officers during the tourist season, implementation of joint actions, work in joint bilateral or trilateral centers", Mr Pejanović said.
Chairperson of the Defense and Security Committee, Mr Mišo Stanišić, stated in his opening remarks that a common response to contemporary transnational challenges, such as cyber terrorism and migration, was crucial for the countries of the Western Balkans. Mr Stanišić stressed that a stable Western Balkans has been an inseparable part of Europe and added that Montenegro lead continuous policy that contributed to good neighborly relations and stability. As the Chairperson of the Committee said, Montenegro has repeatedly shown that it cherished the principles of civil society, religious tolerance and respect for the principles of international law. In this context, Mr Stanišić recalled that Montenegro was the only country in the region that did not fought the war and that solved the issue of its independence in peaceful way. Mr Stanišić said that the countries of the region could only respond together to the contemporary security challenges, adding that Montenegro's membership in NATO offered a unique security shield for the countries of the region and a guarantee of a secure future and prosperity. "Modern life teaches us that security risks, wherever they appear, are a common problem. Experience has shown that they can and must be solved only by joint forces and cooperation. NATO, especially for us in the Balkans, is showing to be the safest framework of stability and more prosperous future. We believe that with our active engagement in the region, as well as in other areas, together with our partners, we can contribute to strengthening regional security. Membership in NATO is a guarantee that we will be able to manage our future, and thus ensure that many unpleasant episodes from our further and closer past never happen again", Mr Stanišić said. The Chairperson of the Committee also said that Montenegro would strongly support all the neighbors aiming at the NATO and EU membership, since those two organisations cherish the same principles, like the rule of law and social development.
Chairman of the Security Services Control Committee of the Assembly of Serbia, Mr Igor Bečić, stressed that security was undividable and that it did not know borders, and that timely exchange of information was essential for the countries of the region. Mr Bečić reminded that with its Criminal Code, Serbia regulated the issue of the departure of individuals to foreign battlefields and that for this act, adequate penalties have been prescribed. Mr Bečić also said that Serbia adequately dealt with the issue of the migrant crisis and the control over the movement of migrants, and that he had sent an appeal to open the borders to ensure the smooth transition of migrants to their final destinations. According to Bečić, the continuation of regional cooperation in the area of resolving the migrant crisis, cyber terrorism, was of key importance for the regional cooperation.
Deputy Head of the Croatian Parliamentary Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO, Mr Franco Vidović, said that the priority of all countries in the region should be investing in security systems, as well as joint exercises. Mr Vidović has mentioned as key issues a series of transnational threats such as drug and human trafficking, as well as cyber terrorism, and added that contemporary international relations did not know boundaries between internal and external security. Mr Vidović expressed his conviction that the NATO PA would provide a common response and a framework for the mentioned problems.
Chairman of the Committee on Internal Affairs and National Security of the Croatian Parliament, Mr Ranko Ostojić, stated that the problems of one country in the region were the problems of all its neighbors and that this had been seen on the example of the weather conditions that Croatia and Montenegro experienced. Mr Ostojić said that higher allocations for investments in military equipment and security system of NATO member states were essential for the further development of the collective security system, but also for those aspiring for membership.
Deputy Chairman of the Defense Committee of Slovenia, Mr Marjan Dolinšek, noted that a strong signal of the open door policy advocated by EU officials has given incentives to the Western Balkan countries and added that a greater presence of NATO and the EU was essential in that area. Mr Dolinšek added that the right to peace and security was the right of every citizen and it was the task of those who lead the states to provide it to them.
Chairman of the Joint Commission on Defense and Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr Sifet Podžić, stressed that exchange of experience in the course of work was crucial for the neighbors. Mr Podžić also stressed for the need for more efficient resolution of the issue of regulating faster and more operational the transit of people across border, as well as the problem of weather conditions, which, as he recalled, were increasingly challenging to the countries of the region.
Head of the Delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the NATO PA, Mr Nikola Lovrinović, referred to the process of Euro-Atlantic integration through which Bosnia and Herzegovina was going, stressing that the country has been making strong efforts in the reform of the rule of law. Mr Lovrinović said that the countries of the region should also consider launching a special form of cooperation led by national parliaments, since their role, as he concluded, in the integration process was crucial.
President of the Commission for Supervision of Special Measures for Interception of Communication by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Financial Police, Customs Administration and the Ministry of Defense, Mr Emil Dimitriev, pointed out to the problem of the so-called Balkan Route, as an important transit zone for terrorists and in this context stressed that Macedonia has been making strong efforts in order to control border crossings. Mr Dimitriev addressed in his presentation the obstacles that Macedonia has been facing on its Euro-Atlantic path and stressed that, when it came to Macedonia, membership in NATO and the European Union had no alternative.
President of the Committee on Security and Defense of the Parliament of Macedonia, Mr Maksim Dimitrievski, congratulated Montenegro on its membership in NATO. Mr Dimitriev particularly emphasised in his presentation the cooperation of police patrols of the countries of the region in resolving the migrant crisis. Mr Dimitriev said that the priority of the region was membership in NATO and added that neighboring countries should demonstrate good security cooperation through the organisation of joint military exercises.
Head of the Delegation of Serbia to NATO PA, Mr Dragan Šormaz, reminded that Serbia has been leading a policy of military neutrality, but that, in addition to that, it has been committed to improving the military sector and has been regularly carrying out military exercises with NATO Member States. Mr Šormaz said that a timeframe for entering the EU was needed for the countries of the region as a stimulus, and that each aspirant country should be rewarded in the process of European integration in accordance with the individual contribution to reforms and progress.
Today's meeting has brought together thirty participants, including chairmen of the security and defense committees and heads of delegations to the NATO PA. The Conference "Regional Cooperation and Security" was organised in honor of full membership of Montenegro in NATO.