Friday

19th Aug 2022

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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".

Opinion

Could the central Asian 'stan' states turn away from Moscow?

The former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan have retained close ties with Russia since 1989. Yet this consensus may be shifting. At the UN, none of them supported Russia in the resolution condemning the Ukraine invasion.

Column

Is this strange summer a moment of change?

It is a strange, strange summer. The war in Ukraine continues, 60 percent of Europe is in danger of drought, and Covid is still around and could rebound in the autumn. At the same time, everyone is desperate for normalcy.

News in Brief

  1. Ukraine nuclear plant damage would be 'suicide', says UN chief
  2. Denmark to invest €5.5bn in new warships
  3. German economy stagnates, finance ministry says
  4. Syria received stolen grain, says Ukraine envoy
  5. Truss still leads in next UK PM polling
  6. UN chief meets Zelensky and Erdogan over grain exports
  7. Fighting stalls ahead of UN visit, Ukraine says
  8. German chancellor to face MPs over tax-fraud probe

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  4. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis

Latest News

  1. European inflation hits 25-year high, driven by energy spike
  2. No breakthrough in EU-hosted Kosovo/Serbia talks
  3. Letter to the Editor: Rosatom responds on Zaporizhzhia
  4. Could the central Asian 'stan' states turn away from Moscow?
  5. Serbia expects difficult talks with Kosovo at EU meeting
  6. How scary is threat to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant?
  7. Slovakia's government stares into the abyss
  8. Finland restricts Russian tourist visas

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us