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Commentaries Foreign Policy Governance and Multilateralism

Montenegro and Turkey: a Special Relationship with a European Background

Since its independence in 2006, Montenegro has promptly started developing relations with the international community. Among its closest allies, Turkey definitely stands out. Particularly in recent years, its interests towards the Adriatic country increased in various fields such as culture, education and economy. Only last February, the Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited his counterpart in Podgorica showing increasing interest.[1] At the press conference, Cavusoglu pledged to boost cooperation between the two countries. Worth to be mentioned the planned increase of trade volumes from the current USD 140 million to USD 250 million. However, commerce is not the only aspect in which the two countries intend to strengthen their bonds. One of the most crucial sectors of investment for Turkey remains defense industry. The agreement, signed in 2017 and ratified in October 2019, is set to open the Montenegrin market to Turkish defense companies, more specifically in the areas of industrial production, procurement and maintenance of military materiel as well as technical and logistical support, information sharing and research in the field.[2] Another important offer Turkey has advanced is the Montenegrin diplomatic representation through Turkish embassies in 23 countries, mostly Africa and Asia, where Montenegro has not its own staff. Thus, Turkey commits itself to offer consular service to Montenegrin citizens and even to issue Montenegrin visas for visitors. In addition to these economic, security and diplomatic factors, great relevance is also given to the support of Muslim religious communities living in Montenegro.

However, Turkey is not the only good and profitable partner on sight. Soon in 2008, Montenegro applied for EU membership and, up to now, 32 negotiating chapters have been opened out of 35. In the meantime, the country has continued to broadly implement the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA).[3] The EU has always shown interest in its enlargement process towards Montenegro with the main aim of contributing in the improvement of stability in the Western Balkan region. In regards to financial assistance, under IPA II (Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance), the country has received a total amount of EUR 279.1 million between 2014-2020. Priority sectors destinated to it are the promotion of democracy, rule of law, fundamental rights, environment, transport, innovation, education, employment, agriculture and regional cooperation.[4] It is exactly the regional focus that needs to be further analised. By becoming an actual EU member state, Montenegro would be first of all a bastion of EU policy values in the Western Balkans. In this sense, the ambition of incentivising neighbouring countries to follow the same path would not be so nonsense: a potentially higher increase of EU sphere could favour political stability in an already tense area. Secondly, it would create new external borders and thus become the main actor in the decision-making processes for issues related to the area. But this is not the only international “membership” Montenegro has earned: in 2006 it joined the Partnership for Peace and in June 2017 became a full member of NATO.

In all these contexts, Montenegro has shown deep interest in strengthening ties with all these diversified actors. But, is this bound to produce visible effects in the current status quo? What emerges immediately is the profound support Turkey has had in Montenegro accession to both EU and NATO [5] which for certainly has other roots rather a mere optimistic approach: having a friend across the border can be useful in guaranteeing your interests to be respected. As a matter of fact, the impossibility for Turkey to access the Union can be partially solved by pushing to establish a special relationship with one of its members. In addition to this, what represents a never-seen-before turning point is the conspicuous presence of Islam in a European country. This would be a highly appreciable precedent that, who knows, might lead to an increased détente for what concerns Turkish perspectives.

 

 

 

 

[1] Hamdi Firat Buyuk, Turkey Seeks to Boost Presence in Montenegro, 11 February 2020, available at: https://balkaninsight.com/2020/02/11/turkey-seeks-to-boost-presence-in-montenegro/

[2] Nordic Monitor, Turkey eyeing Montenegro for expanding its footprint in the defense industry, 28 December 2019, available at: https://www.nordicmonitor.com/2019/12/turkey-eyes-montenegro-to-expand-its-footprint-in-defence-industry/

[3] European Commission, Commission Staff Working Document: Montenegro 2019 Report, 29 May 2019, available at: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/20190529-montenegro-report.pdf

[4] Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/instruments/funding-by-country/montenegro_en

[5] Radio Free Europe, 11 February 2020, available at: https://www.rferl.org/a/montenegro-turkey-fms-vow-heightened-economic-security-ties/30429230.html

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