Inauguration speech of the President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic

20/05/2018 13:30

Inauguration Speech During the Presidential Oath at the Ceremonially Assembly of the Parliament of Montenegro in Cetinje.


Inauguration Address

Cetinje, 20th May 2018

Fellow Citizens of Montenegro,

Distinguished residents of Cetinje,

Honourable President of the Parliament and President of the Government,

Esteemed high officials,

Honourable Members of the Parliament,

Your Excellences,

Ladies and gentleman,

It is with the feelings of exceptional honour and responsibility that I am taking on the position of the President of Montenegro today, proud of the achievements that our country has made in the last two decades, making great historical progress that would have taken centuries to achieve in the past.

It is not an ordinary thing for a man to have the privilege that I have today – that of standing in the same place (the Government Building in the Historic Capital of Cetinje) 20 years later, taking on, for the second time, the duties of the President of Montenegro. Given the circumstances I will avail myself of the opportunity to recall the events of the 20 years between these two ceremonies.

For Montenegro, the end of the 20th century was the beginning of its articulation of its independent and nationally responsible politics guided by the idea of gaining the right to decide about our own future. Or, to put it more simply – the right of modern-day Montenegro to freedom. All of this happened in very difficult conditions, after Montenegro had not been in the position to use the opportunity to be established as a separate state in any peaceful dissolution of ex-Yugoslavia, due to the expansionist pretentions in the region and the pressure and resistance of a significant part of the internal political forces against any new state politics. It was also in an environment of mistrust and the understandable caution of the international community towards changes in the Balkans, which was based on the tradition of the regions instability. This was not only based on tradition, but also on the recent experience of the military conflict of the Yugoslav union with the NATO Alliance in 1999, that Montenegro was involved in against its will. 

In spite of all of that, since then, led by a clear vision and absolute determination, Montenegro has preserved the peace; avoided the devastating consequences of the NATO air strikes; improved tolerance among nations and faiths; established economic sustainability and achieved rapid economic growth, even in a period of an economic depression in Europe; restored its independence and achieved international recognition in a way which was a democratic precedent in the history of the Balkans; and implemented an admirable level of social reforms thus ensuring itself membership of the NATO Alliance.

To put it in a nutshell: not choosing the option of becoming a province of an enlarged Serbia, that it was offered in the presidential elections in 1997, Montenegro became the most developed country in the Western Balkans in terms of both the economy and democracy. It became the leader in reforms and negotiations with the EU and quite clearly the first in line to become a member of the Union. 

I believe that the generations that live in Montenegro today can be proud of these achievements that, given the short and difficult time in which they were made, certainly are among the greatest achievements in our history.  

The feelings of honour and responsibility that I mentioned at the beginning are even stronger when I think of the fact that the will of the citizens is to make me the President of a country which has a thousand yearlong tradition of statehood - a country which had exceptional rulers from four royal dynasties and state dignitaries from the period of socialism in Montenegro as a part of Tito’s Yugoslavia.  

I come now to this position that was once held by people who laid the foundations to our state and national identity, to our multiculturalism, and to our reputation and international recognition. I pay great respect to them and to all the known and unknown heroes, victims and martyrs, all the builders and their deeds, all those who created and preserved Montenegro through its history and made it better and more progressive. 

The new Montenegro owes it to its ancestors and to its descendants to build on their great deeds.

It’s been 140 years since Montenegro earned its first international recognition in the Berlin Congress. It’s been 100 years since we lost both the state and the name of our nation, due to the illegal decisions made by the Podgorica Assembly. It’s been almost eight decades since the heroic uprising on the 13th of July. These are the milestones in Montenegrin history that remain cast in stone both as lessons and warnings for the generations to come. The future of our state is built on the foundations of anti-fascism. We have the duty to preserve it and make it a place where our generation, as well as our future ones, will enjoy a better life.

It will not be an easy task in these times of rapid global changes and the ongoing technological revolution, which means that our civilization keeps facing increasingly numerous challenges. It will not be easy, primarily due to the complex international political and security context that threatens to slow down significantly, if not to jeopardize completely, the European and Euro-Atlantic prospects for our region. Prospects that only yesterday appeared to be so certain and foreseeable. Relations in the global arena today can be compared with the most complicated stages of the cold war era. In such a context, but also due to its very specific issues, the European Union needs internal consolidation. Regardless of whether this will be declared or not, this process will also entail revisiting the core vision of European unity, or at least of the pace and model of implementing it in the future. Such changes have a significant impact on the security of the Western Balkans.

It is as if today the European future of our region has become suddenly blurred, while at the beginning of the new millennium it seemed absolutely certain. The on-going rethinking and the slowdown, the lack of strong incentives for the societies in the Western Balkans to work on the adoption of the European system of values, combined with the emerging purported alternatives to that path, which have already proven to be negative in our history, cause a level of confusion and hesitation in that part of our region’s public that has unfortunately been trapped for too long in anti-European political autism. 

Throughout its history Montenegro had learned how regional stability was important and it had another opportunity to be reminded of that during the nineties. Although it was the only former Yugoslav republic that experienced no war on its territory, Montenegro saw its development being curtailed and its life being absolutely determined by the wars in the region. That is why today we focus on regional stability and see it as a primary requirement for the democratic and economic development that will provide the citizens of the Western Balkan societies with a life of dignity and a better standard of living. 

It is of utmost importance that with that in mind we raise regional cooperation to a higher level and that we lead the Balkans away from its position of inferiority towards the position of being a partner to the EU. To be more precise, the most important thing is that we take our share of responsibility for the future of Europe, a place that we belong to, just like the Member States of the European Union. It is important that we start thinking about and referring to the future of Europe as our future, and that we try to figure out what is the best interest of us - Europeans - for the 100 years to come, given the global context and the dynamics and directions of the changes. It is also important that we understand that European Union needs time to go through an internal consolidation. I believe that this is not the time where the most important thing is to forecast the dates of the future enlargements. And I say this on behalf of the state that has achieved such great progress in the negotiations that it is the only one that can claim the right to forecast the date of the finalization of the process. I think that this is the time to talk about the Europeization of the Western Balkans and about its further development that should integrate the countries of our region into the European system of values. That is why we do not need any promises that we would become members in 2025 or any other year. Even without such projections we will continue working on reforms of the highest quality and in the fastest way possible, aspiring to achieve a better life for our citizens. We need support on our path to close the gap of the historical lagging behind of this region of Europe. We primarily need a clear plan for the infrastructural development of the Western Balkans – with dates. It has to be development that will integrate the region and make the European Union market and society more accessible to us. We need support in the process of building the institutions that would improve the rule of law and raise the awareness of our citizens about the importance of democratic development. 

Ladies and gentlemen

Today we have the reinforced the foundations of the Montenegrin state. We have the restored independence, we have maintained a good momentum of economic development and made permanent progress in institutional and democratic development. We have a strong confirmation of international security and the open path to developed Europe. The most important task of the authorities in the period to come is to develop an environment conducive to achieving a European quality of life for the citizens of Montenegro and as fast as possible. 

The priority in that agenda has to be given to continuous and dynamic economic growth. We have to review from many sides and further develop the model that in the first 12 years of Montenegrin independence was dominantly based on successes in the service sector due to the collapse of the socialist era heavy industry; and additionally based on foreign investments due to the weak entrepreneurship culture at the national level. The future of Montenegro will be certain and prosperous if it is based on a broader dispersion of economic capacities based on the real comparative advantages of our country, on modern technological achievements and the high quality of knowledge of the new generations. Our future will be certain and prosperous if Montenegro takes its position in the very demanding European and international market by being competitive. Of course, this is dominantly the task of the executive branch of power and the Parliament that is to develop a conducive legislative framework. I see the role of the President of Montenegro defined in the constitution primarily as an excellent opportunity to contribute to the joint efforts of the state authorities to work on its future development in partnership with the most credible foreign investors, particularly from the international environments whose positive experience we aim to transfer into our society.  

Knowledge is the key resource today and a decisive factor of development for every society, particularly for a society such as Montenegro that has a territory and population of limited size and which lacks strategic raw materials. To reach a better future we have to build knowledge based society. It should be the starting point for a long term, systemic and consistent development model for our society. That is why Montenegro has to re-examine thoroughly, and without any delay, all the aspects of its education system: starting with the effects of the reforms at all levels of education, through the relations of education institutions with the economy, the labour market and the entire society, all the way to the social status of staff in the education sector. If a higher level of up-to-date specialist knowledge and skills is the condition sine qua non for a profitable, export-oriented and successful economy and for efficient and competent state institutions and a fully functional and internationally prestigious state, then we have to focus on the root of this problem as soon as possible. We have to reaffirm the reputation of educators and researchers in our society through all the instruments that the state might have at its disposal. We have to encourage the best among us to take up that profession so that we can be sure that the new generations will be taught in the best possible manner. 

Young people will be our most valuable capital and our comparative advantage, but only if they have the knowledge that makes them competitive in Europe. The Montenegrin economy is a part of the European market. Our state is already a part of modern European society. Therefore, in the time to come, our young generations have to be prepared to be competitive with the knowledge they have obtained, not only in Podgorica, Bar or Bijelo Polje, but also in Paris, Brussels and Berlin. It is very important that we continuously implement the reforms that will base our educational model on state-of-the-art technological achievements and to encourage young people to be creative, innovative and entrepreneurial. That will not only ensure competitiveness, but also the eternity of Montenegro that our national anthem refers to. 

From the position of the President of Montenegro I will take initiatives and encourage other branches of power, investors and the business community to recognize how important it is to respond quickly, together and in a well-designed way, and how important it is to generate donors’ funds that could in the beginning be a precious support to young people with the best predisposition to adopt and then transfer the knowledge required for the development of our country.

In parallel with the adoption of the European system of values, the new Montenegro also has to raise awareness about how important the specific features of our country are in all the fields, primarily in culture, because culture is there to both preserve and define our identity. It reflects the essence and the character of Montenegrin history and existence. The same goes for sport, where top results make the country recognizable and visible. Our culture has produced great works of art. They are the permanent synthesis and the expression of the very essence of our identity. They are the assets of all our generations and the authentic value that Montenegro is to bring into the European Union. Montenegro cannot be sustainable, democratic, prosperous or European if it does not have a strong Montenegrin identity.

Given our difficult historical experience, we have no dilemma regarding the fact that the strengthening of the identification of our citizens with the State cannot be based only on the power of patriotic emotions. It has to be based on a comprehensive, interdisciplinary and subtle identity policy, absolutely free from every trace of provincial cultural-identity engineering. The discontinuity of our state through the 20th century and in the several state unions before, left us with a burden that is so heavy that it is still limiting our human potentials and slowing down the process of emancipation and the overall progress of our society to a great extent. It was, for far too long, that our nation was put under some sort of patronage, regardless of whether it was imposed or voluntarily taken, and this paralysed the genuine need of Montenegro to define its national interests and to articulate them in public regardless of its status in one or another of the Yugoslav unions. Not less importantly, for a long time the unbalanced nature of our regional development has inspired different feelings of belonging to the country in different parts of Montenegro. A particular problem was that the educational, cultural and research institutions, as well as the media outlets, were established rather late. This was most visible in the ominous experience of the media manipulations and the chaotic situation of state policy that we were exposed to in the nineties, in the early stages of the Yugoslav war. However, the most persistent and the most dangerous factor of destruction in the process of strengthening Montenegrin national and confessional identity is the controversy related to the issue of the members of the orthodox confession in Montenegro.

As a remnant of all these things, political and religious fanaticisms are still very much alive in Montenegro. They have the mission to openly negate the historical and spiritual essence of Montenegrins. The consequences of this in the form of deeply rooted; passionate political and social divisions are still impeding the stability and the dynamics of the development of Montenegrin society.

As the President of Montenegro I will be strongly dedicated to finding the way to solve this difficult inherited handicap that stands in the way to our development. I will be very active in my efforts to contribute to overcoming the divisions in Montenegro using the healthy platform of preserving and affirming the Montenegrin state, its national interests and European development. I will work on the homogenisation of our human potentials that are much needed to deal with the challenges of our future development. 

Ladies and gentlemen

I will invest efforts into the uniting political actors and the civil sector, as well as all the forces in our society around the state project of modern Montenegro within NATO and EU, as the best environment to build our better future in. We have made our choice led by our national interests. We expect everyone, including those who are traditionally our friends, to understand that and to respect our right to make our own choice. 

I firmly believe that we can accomplish all the tasks and deal with all the challenges if we strengthen our institutions and build a society based on the rule of law and respect for human rights and freedoms, including the freedom of the media. The words spoken in public have always been considered to have great value in Montenegro. Unfortunately, the dignity of words is being devalued both in politics and in the media to a deeply concerning extent. We will all need plenty of good will to overcome these conditions of an increased level of mistrust. 

We must stop crime and corruption without any compromise to ensure that our citizens are safe. Therefore we will work on a high-quality and harmonious operation of all branches of power. I believe that from the position of the President of Montenegro, thanks to my long experience in state politics, I can contribute to the better synchronisation of the policy of various branches of authorities with a view to achieving this vital national interests, as fast as possible. 

I will dedicate a significant part of my mandate to the strengthening of the position of Montenegro in the international community. I will work mainly on the development and strengthening of friendly relations in the region. Montenegro has no open issues with its neighbours. It has no territorial pretensions against anyone and it is proud of a long tradition of good neighbourly relations. I will also put efforts into contributing to our increasingly active and responsible involvement in the NATO Alliance. As a new Member State we will be particularly committed to the NATO open door policy. 

Ladies and gentlemen

With honour and responsibility I am taking on the duties of the President of Montenegro, deeply thankful to the citizens of Montenegro for the trust they have placed in me. I want to thank Mr Filip Vujanović for the contribution he has made to the affirmation of our country as the President. We have managed to overcome many challenges together, but we still have to deal with many others. I believe that all the creative forces in our country and our diaspora are fully committed to the building of our society that will lead Montenegro back to its natural place in Europe, its culture and its role in civilization. 

I stand ready to make my full contribution and greet you with the solemn oath: LONG LIVE MONTENGRO!