Inauguration of the President of Montenegro Jakov Milatović

20/05/2023 13:00

Inaugural speech of the President of Montenegro Jakov Milatović:

Dear citizens,

Former President of Montenegro,

Esteemed Speaker of the Parliament,

Dear Prime Minister,

Distinguished MPs and ministers,

Dear holders of the highest judicial positions in Montenegro,

Dear presidents and prime ministers of friendly neighbouring countries, 

Esteemed special envoys from Europe and the USA,

Your Excellencies – ambassadors,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is with special honour and pride that I am assuming the office of the President of Montenegro today, by taking an oath in front of the Members of the Parliament, in line with the Constitution. I consider it a privilege, but also the greatest responsibility, that I was given the opportunity to lead the country in which I was born, which I love infinitely, and on whose foundations the generations of my ancestors had built in their lifelong achievements, winning its freedom with sweat and blood and defending its right to exist.

And even if I could choose – I would choose to be born right here, on the most beautiful piece of land, interwoven with centuries-old struggle for survival, tucked in between sea and stone, at the eternal crossroads between east and west, north and south. Conscious of the fact that Montenegrin history is, in fact, a testimony of creation, sacrifice and renunciation, I will look for inspiration for the performance of my presidential duties in the state-building visions of Vojislavljevići, Balšići and Crnojevići, the libertarian endeavour of the holy lineage of Petrovići, the anti-fascist struggle of Montenegro and the determination of the post-war generations.

Deeply aware of the responsibility laid upon me by the enormous confidence expressed in the elections – I will be a true President of all citizens, regardless of their political, national and religious affiliation or any other personal trait.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Given the processes in which we participate and the challenges we face, the current moment in the Montenegrin society has a historical character in many respects. The change of political establishments and the consolidation of our democracy, which we are witnessing, gives ground for optimism that in the coming period we will address the open issues that are of vital importance for the future of Montenegro with much more unity and vision, in a freer environment.

The tasks that await us in this regard will be neither short-term nor easy. On the contrary, the elimination of internal divisions, the building of strong and independent institutions, the affirmation of human rights, the impartial distribution of justice, building a society of equal opportunities, as well as the establishment of a sustainable economic model, will require the full commitment of both the decision-makers and those who are responsible for executing such decisions.

Divisions in society, originating in the events from the past decades, divert the focus from the topics that are crucially important. These divisions were often and are still being caused artificially, frequently with the intention of concealing the decades-long alienation of common goods and the increase of personal wealth at the expense of the public interest. Instead of re-fighting the battles that ended a long time ago, the time has come for us to leave the trenches and gather around what is undoubtedly the common denominator of all of us – love for Montenegro and the desire to live in an orderly country and have a better life.

As the President of all citizens, I will represent each and every one of us in the effort to establish harmony where we were previously divided. A reconciled Montenegro is the only true Montenegro. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

We must never again allow any individual in this country to feel disenfranchised; we must never again allow anyone to be denied success in life because of a different political affiliation. My mission is for Montenegro to become a country of equal opportunities for all its citizens – where hard work and education will be the main factors for success in life. This is my vision, which I hope will become the vision of all of us. 

In those domains where we have so far lacked energy or intelligence, I will utilise my reform agenda and conciliatory tone to act as a cohesive factor in the joint struggle for a better Montenegro.

Building democratic institutions is everyone’s task. Unfortunately, the institutional system created to primarily accommodate the needs of a single party did not withstand the challenges brought by the change of government. I am sure that we have learned important lessons from this experience that will help us all to establish strong democratic institutions, ready to be a reliable instrument in strengthening the rule of law and a guarantee of legal security for all citizens.

The legal system also requires improvement as numerous ambiguities that we witness almost daily threaten the stability of the state and prevent in-depth reform efforts.

In the legal and institutional reform that awaits us, we should not chase the parliamentary two-third or three-fifth majorities, but strive for consensus in finding the best solutions. This is the only way for Montenegro to prosper.

In this regard, to the extent permitted by my constitutional and legal powers, I am ready to become a generator of the overall social and political dialogue and thereby contribute to the achievement of the consensus necessary for judicial appointments and for stepping-up our EU accession process.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There is no democracy without an economically independent citizen. The range of numerous economic reforms, including the “Europe Now” program, irrevocably changed the entire social environment, putting economic and social issues in the focus of the political struggle. The reforms contained a strong humane character, significantly raising the standard of living. For the first time after many years, citizens’ hope for a better tomorrow was restored.

In the coming period, we must work with even more dedication to create a sustainable economic model, with a focus on the implementation of capital infrastructure projects, as well as on the creation of new and better-paid jobs. In my international activities, I will focus special attention on economic promotion of Montenegro, presenting our country as an attractive and safe investment destination.

Ladies and gentlemen,

When we look at the current global context, which is largely determined by the Russian attack on Ukraine, there must not and will not be deviations from our strategic directions and commitments, which include Montenegro as part of the Euro-Atlantic family. We have undoubtedly demonstrated this by taking a clear position in relation to security and other challenges.

Civilisation-wise, I have no doubts about where we belong. We belong to Europe. Europe that is unified in its diversity.

Montenegro will continue to move decisively towards the fulfilment of its main foreign political and strategic goals.

One of those goals has already been achieved, Montenegro is a responsible and credible NATO member, which will remain firmly committed to fulfilling the obligations arising from membership in the Alliance in the coming period, proving itself as a reliable partner in the Alliance with developed democratic countries. In today’s circumstances, we should reiterate once again the well-known position on the irreplaceable importance of this Alliance in the context of responding to the complex challenges the world is facing. On this path, Montenegro will remain a strong partner, dedicated to further strengthening the unity of the Alliance and achieving its common goals, including, first and foremost, the re-establishment of peace and stability in Europe.

Our top priority will be to speed up Montenegro’s movement towards full membership in the European Union. We are aware that there are numerous obligations ahead of us on this path, which must be fulfilled, but I believe that Montenegro has the necessary capacities and strength to face them. Furthermore, today I can say with confidence that Montenegro also has a strong political will to achieve this goal.

We are no longer flattered by the mere title of the EU integration process front-runner in the Western Balkans. It is true – by opening all negotiation chapters, accepting the new methodology, fully aligning with the common foreign and security policy, with an extremely high level of public support, Montenegro has positioned itself as the most advanced country in this process.

Nevertheless, today, after more than a decade of negotiations, our eyes are on full membership as the ultimate goal. On this path, we stand ready to undertake all the necessary activities to successfully complete the reform and other necessary processes of transformation of Montenegrin society. However, on top of a number of tasks that lie ahead of us, primarily internally, I believe that Montenegro, along with other countries of the region, needs even clearer, unequivocal support in terms of our European perspective.

Twenty years later, it seems that the text of the Thessaloniki Agenda for the Western Balkans has somewhat faded, and all the countries of the region now need a new and clear European vision that will form the basis of further necessary political and other processes required for EU membership.

In this regard, we are encouraged by the positive developments that we are witnessing as a region lately, such as the opening of negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania and the obtaining of candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is why I believe, with a touch of optimism, that in the nearest future this positive streak will continue and be further deepened by Montenegro, first and foremost by achieving the desired progress in key chapters related to the judiciary, and then by full membership in the European Union.

On our part, we have to sincerely and unconditionally continue to fulfil the necessary prerequisites. In this regard, we are aware that one of the most important tasks relates to the fight against corruption and organised crime. The steps we have taken in this direction as a society in the past few years, for the first time in the last three decades, give hope that nobody is immune to our justice system. Justice may still be slow, but at least it has become attainable!

The only way to an orderly country with the rule of law and a European standard of living is the way of European integration!

Ladies and gentlemen,

As the President, I will contribute to the improvement of good neighbourly relations in the region. Adopting the European system of values and bringing the region closer to EU membership is the best remedy against the reaffirmation of destructive policies of the past. For us, the Berlin process remains the main bridge between the Western Balkans and Brussels, and its revitalisation is extremely important, primarily in the context of a new and additional confirmation of the presence of the European Union in our region.

Furthermore, I believe that all existing and newly created regional economic initiatives aimed at closer cooperation within our region can have additional value, provided that we put them in the function of supporting membership in the European Union as the ultimate common goal.

The policy of peace, stability and mutual cooperation on equal grounds should be the basis of bilateral relations between Montenegro and the countries of the region. We will only prove ourselves as credible partners to our Euro-Atlantic friends to the extent in which we demonstrate the ability to cooperate and solve open problems as a region.

Esteemed guests from abroad, presidents and prime ministers,

Your presence here in Podgorica today is the best message of good neighbourly relations, mutual respect and, ultimately, democratic maturity of our region. On behalf of Montenegro, thank you for that!

Let me conclude.

I begin my five-year presidential mandate with a great desire to make a full contribution to the further democratic development of our country, its institutional stabilisation and economic progress.

Within the framework of the powers given to me by the Constitution and the law, in representing Montenegro in the country and abroad, I will strive to be a factor of reconciliation and unity, for the benefit of every citizen and society as a whole. At the same time, I will also be a corrective factor, guiding social processes towards further democratisation.

I will not divide citizens into those who voted for me in the recent elections and those who felt differently that day. From the first day of my presidential office, I will bear in mind the image of how the last day of my mandate will feel, when I will be recollecting my achievements, the greatest one of them being a democratic, wealthy and European Montenegro.

Taking an oath today in this high house, the Parliament of Montenegro, I pledge that I will work ardently for the progress of Montenegro, standing firmly in defense of its constitutional and legal order as the first among equals.

Long live Montenegro!