“This year, Montenegro became the 29th member of NATO. On the other hand, Macedonia missed the opportunity for membership in 2008, at the Bucharest Summit when it was blocked by Greece because of the name dispute. However, NATO membership is one of the top priorities of the new Macedonian government. On Western Balkans’ security threats, cooperation among the countries of the region, as well as the benefits that NATO membership brings, the European Western Balkans spoke with the Minister of Defence of Montenegro, Predrag Boskovic and Minister of Defence of Macedonia, Radmila Sekerinska.

European Western Balkans: What would be, in your opinion, the importance of a potential NATO membership of Western Balkan countries?

Predrag Boskovic: Taking into account that in past the region of the Western Balkans has often been the scene of many wars, conflicts and intolerance, it is necessary to set up a stable base for the preservation of peace and security in this part of Europe, through the democratic development of the states and a constructive political dialogue. In my opinion, integration of the region does not have an acceptable alternative, and the aspirations of the states in this direction represent a clear message to the domestic and foreign public that the European and Euro-Atlantic perspective of this region is the only possible one.

Looking from the perspective of the region, NATO has gotten a credible partner in Montenegro who will be a guarantor of stability and security in the Western Balkans. Our country will, as a full-fledged member, contribute to strengthening regional cooperation and it will give strong support to the aspirations of its neighbours when it comes to NATO membership since only through the united effort the peace and stability of this region can be preserved.

The full-fledged membership of our country will additionally encourage the strengthening of bilateral defence cooperation with the existing member countries of the Alliance – Slovenia, Croatia and Albania. Although military neutral and without a desire to join NATO, Serbia, by signing the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) in 2015, opened up space for enhancing cooperation and intensifying political dialogue with members of the Alliance. For aspirant countries, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, our membership is a clear message that the NATO door is open and that full-fledged membership can be achieved through the implementation of comprehensive reforms.

Radmila Sekerinska: It is my firm belief that NATO membership is of great benefit not only for us as aspirant-countries, but for the Alliance itself too. In its very essence, the Alliance is a mechanism for collective security. We cannot talk about collective security in Europe without ensuring long-term stability in the Balkan region.

The very concept of NATO has evolved. It is now a community of nations which have mutual interests in terms of security, but more importantly adhere to a shared system of values. This system of values entails rule of law, transparency, good governance, economic prosperity and welfare, and respect for democratic principles. This is key to ensuring a secure environment and preventing any malign influences and security threats.

An integrated Balkan region as part of NATO can be an additional stabilizing factor for Europe at large. Even beyond security, NATO membership makes a big difference. In a conversation with my Montenegrin colleagues about their recent NATO accession, they stressed the surge of new investors that show interest in bringing their business to the country since they joined NATO. These are serious investors with a credible profile who will contribute to healthy, sustainable economic growth and in turn help build a stronger more developed society. This is a novelty directly correlated to Montenegro’s accession.

NATO membership has a profound impact on the resilience of developing nations, such as the Western Balkan countries, which face the ever-evolving contemporary challenges much like the rest of Europe.” (Full Interview here)