Tuesday

21st Aug 2018

Interview

EU warned of Russian 'peril' in Western Balkans

  • Dukanovic (r) at the Nato summit in Warsaw (Photo: nato.int)

Russia is actively working with “strongholds” of anti-EU and anti-Nato sentiment in the Western Balkans in order to compete for influence, Montenegro’s prime minister, Milo Dukanovic has warned.

He told EUobserver in an interview at the recent Nato summit in Warsaw that up to one third of people in the region opposed Western integration.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Montenegro will become Nato's 29th member once national ratifications are wrapped up (Photo: nato.int)

He said people in the lowest income brackets in a part of Europe where average GDP per capita is just €6,000 did not see the long term benefit of EU economic reforms and feared the “novelty” of EU political values.

He also said that these people “still cherish a certain emotional attachment to Russia from the past”.

“They want to see Montenegro stuck in the jaws of the retrograde past. They’re afraid of everything that’s a novelty because they don’t have enough self-confidence to adjust to the changes”, he said.

He said this made them “very good prey” for Russian propaganda, but he said Russia also supported the anti-Western minority in other ways.

“They [the Russians] have their strongholds, the role of which is to oppose Nato and the EU, not only in our country, but in all the countries of the region”, Dukanovic said.

“These minorities have very frequent contacts with Moscow. It is clear Russia is very supportive and provides the logistics for certain political parties, NGOs, and media outlets which are trying to hamper Montenegro’s path to Euro-Atlantic integration”, he said.

“Do I see this as a peril? Yes, I do”, he said.

Dukanovic has held high office in Podgorice, either as prime minister or as president, since 1991.

He shepherded the country to starting EU entry talks in 2012 and to being invited to join Nato in December last year.

But he faced a threat to his authority in street protests that began in October 2015 and lasted until January.

The protests, which called for him to abandon Nato and to step down over corruption allegations, included sporadic violence and caused a split in his ruling coalition.

He told EUobserver that Montenegro has now reached a point of no return in terms of its EU and Nato future, but that other nations in the region are not there yet.

He urged the EU to stop navel-gazing about enlargement and to implement a more “assertive” strategy vis-a-vis its Russian “adversary”.

"Wherever there is no EU or no Nato, other forces fill the space", he said, referring to Russia, but also to radical Islam, which is gaining a foothold in the region.

He said the EU should help to lift people out of poverty more quickly and make a bigger show of diplomatic support for Balkan allies.

He said that the Berlin Process, a German initiative of holding summits of EU and Balkan leaders, is the right “therapy” for the region’s ills.

Speaking to EUobserver shortly after the UK’s vote to leave the EU, Dukanovic said Brexit has so far had little impact either on public opinion or on state policies in Balkan countries.

He urged Europe to continue integration despite the UK decision.

“All of us need a Europe which is prestigious and globally competitive. If it is united, Europe will be more competitive and more stable”, he said.

He added that if EU fatigue delayed Montenegro’s accession, then the “process of Europeanisation” was “no less important” because it meant that “day by day, people in the region are living a better quality of life”.

Nato's Russia-deterrent takes shape in Warsaw

Canada, Germany, the UK and the US to take the lead in defending Europe from potential Russian aggression. France to also send troops, despite saying Russia is its "partner".

Bulgaria calls for West Balkan EU integration after Brexit

The UK leaving the EU gives an opportunity to bring the Western Balkans closer, Bulgaria's PM said in Brussels. Bulgaria will hold the upcoming rotating presidency, while Juncker said Serbia and Montenegro will be EU members by 2025.

Serb minister love-bombs EU

The EU and Serbia have moved a step closer despite regional tensions, with a Serb minister calling the EU "the best place in the world".

News in Brief

  1. Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya
  2. MEP accuses Maltese government of 'hate campaign'
  3. EU values not negotiable, German FM tells Poland
  4. Audit warns 840 French bridges at risk of collapse
  5. Fashion king pours money into campaign for second Brexit vote
  6. Germany could aid Turkey, SPD leader hints
  7. UK government set to publish no-deal Brexit advice
  8. Germany and Greece strike deal on taking back migrants

Opinion

Has the time finally come for 'European champions'?

Since Emmanuel Macron took the French presidency in 2017, the concept of consolidating European industries to create continental 'champions', capable of competing on a global scale, has been revived.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. Wind delays launch of European wind-mapping satellite
  2. Greece 'normal' again after end of crisis, EU says
  3. Putin strikes blow against Russia's isolation by Europe
  4. EU-China cooperation on CO2 storage lost in limbo
  5. Greece exits bailouts, but difficult path ahead
  6. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  7. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections
  8. Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us