Russia will benefit from our joining NATO – Montenegrin President

Montenegro is one of Europe's smallest and poorest countries, but it is not holding back when it comes to trying to join some of the world's biggest military and economic clubs. RT spoke to its president Filip Vujanovic.

As Montenegro lines up for entry to NATO and the EU, there is concern that it will grow apart from its long-standing ally, Russia. But, as President Vujanovic explains, the countries' bonds are too strong to suffer.

RT: Mr. President, if the world community allows Greece’s economy to go bankrupt, what will happen to neighboring countries like Montenegro?

Filip Vujanovic: Our situation concerning economic situation is very good now. We succeeded in avoiding bad economic situation because Montenegro is above all a tourist country and we succeeded in saving good economic situation. I expect this year and next year much better than the previous years, and I am sure that our situation will be much better because we have good relations with our neighboring regional countries and we build up good relations with the European Union. And we succeeded in building good economic atmosphere. I am sure that Montenegro is a very good example in our region concerning economic situation.

RT: A German think tank says that the Montenegrin economy is “firmly in Russian hands.” Do you agree with that?

FV: We have very friendly and very open connections with Russia. We are absolutely satisfied because of it. You know that our history is very close, we are very proud of it, and we are countries, nations, with very fruitful ties during history and now, and I am sure it will be in our future and we are very proud of it.

And I think that it is so significant to save such relations because it is so important that citizens of Russia are now in Montenegro as tourists, as businessmen or commercially and I am sure that very clear, very tough bridge between the two countries are so important for us and we are very proud of it.

RT: The aluminum plant of Podgorica accounts for some 40 per cent of Montenegro’s industry. It’s owned by Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska. If he refuses your loan, as I understand, the government loan to maintain production, what can you do make him keep up that production?

FV: Montenegro succeeded in concerning support of our government to save our aluminum industry, and it was great contribution of our government to saving this industry, and I am sure that in our future it will be a much better company than now. And I am sure that the owner of this company will be in position to improve this company and to save this company because KAP is a company with a very good location in our region. Our port is very close, and I think that it is good precondition to save such a company in good condition.

RT: A European Commission study says that Russians also use Montenegro to launder money. Do you have evidence of that?

FV: No, we have good relations with Russian government concerning it. I am sure that our relations are absolutely clear. We are very grateful of very visible support of Russia concerning that issue and I am sure that it will be our relation in the future.

RT: Are you sad that Montenegro is not playing a bigger role in Gazprom’s new South Stream gas pipeline across Europe?

FV: Unfortunately, our position is apart of that pipeline. But we try to build our good position, and I think that Montenegro has great interest in Russian companies in various areas.

RT: You may become the next member of NATO. Have any Russians complained to you about that?

FV: Russia understands our position, as I’ve said. Our position in our region is quite clear concerning that issue. You know that after Croatia and Albania became members of the European Union, Montenegro is the only country in the Adriatic Sea area out of NATO, and I think that it’s quite normal to have such position, and our friends from Russia understand it. And during our meetings with dignitaries of Russia, we explained everything concerning such position. I should say that, I must say that I had a very open, very fruitful meeting with President Medvedev and I explained to him our position concerning that, and our Russian friends understand our situation concerning NATO absolutely good.

RT: So you wouldn’t tell Russia to be a little bit less aggressive politically, economically? Your membership in NATO is not against Russia, you’re saying it’s against ..

FV: No!

RT: So your membership of NATO will be more about fighting terrorism, for example?

FV: Absolutely, absolutely. I’m sure that our friends from Russia, as I have said, understand our position concerning it, and I’m sure that we will have absolutely fruitful and friendly ties, and I’m sure that our friends, dignitaries from Russia, understand such position of Montenegro, and it is very significant for us concerning economic relations and good level of economy, and I’m sure that it is very clear situation and understood by our Russian friends.

RT: You’re very keen to join the European Union. By what year do you hope, if the process goes well, that will happen?

FV: I don’t have a clear prediction about it. I think it is so significant to achieve standards of European Union. I usually would like to say that it is so important that European Union would be in Montenegro concerning standards of European Union. Our future {as a] member of European Union depends [on] relations within European Union, but it is so important that citizens of Montenegro and society at all achieve everything what is possible to be in European Union as soon as possible. And I’m sure that Montenegro is capable to achieve everything what is possible to be in European Union as soon as possible, it is a great task, and our public is absolutely-absolutely in favor of European Union, and I’m sure we’ll keep such good relation and such very visible intention and will to be in European Union.

RT: How can Montenegro help Russia as an ally within the European Union and NATO if and when you join? Can you help Russia?

FV: We would like to be in European and European-Atlantic integration, and I think it is absolutely in Russia’s interest, especially in European Union, and our relation concerning security level is absolutely-absolutely open to Russia, and I think it is interest of Russia to respect wish of our citizens and respect intention of our state to be in the NATO. It is, as you know, one of the reasons to improve in economic area and to build up good conditions to have better economic situation in Montenegro and to better relation with member of NATO.

RT: Montenegro remains the second-poorest country in Europe, after Moldova, in GDP per capita. What is your target for raising Montenegrins living standards?

FV: I think it is important to improve our economic level and to provide our citizens to have good and better living standards. I think that Montenegro is absolutely capable to organize economic atmosphere, to provide better living standards of our citizens, and we must use our good economic and natural resources to provide good situation in Montenegro and to show that Montenegro is capable to achieve European and European Union standards and to be absolutely open. It is so significant when you have so small country to be absolutely open in all level and to build society which will provide everything for good life of citizens and good life of our friends, the tourist people.

RT: Montenegro sponsors many tourism adverts on world television. How many tourists does Montenegro have now, and how many do you hope to have?

FV: I think that main task of Montenegro economy is to improve our tourist offer, and I’m sure that Montenegro has a very good occasion to be in the very high level concerning that issue.

You know that Montenegro has beautiful natural resources, and I’m sure that Russian people are in the occasion to see how Montenegro is cross-country, how our citizens are closely to Russian people concerning tradition, religion, our history, very similar language, and I’m sure that it is a good advantage to build up much better relation with our friends from Russia to be in Montenegro and try in Montenegro good place for resting, and I’m sure that our relation concerning tourist offer will be much better, and it is our great task.

RT: You are one of the few presidents in the world who refuses bodyguards – why?

FV: Ah…I would like to say – habits of life from previous period, and I’m absolutely proud of it because I think I succeeded in it, and I think it is a good sign of good security situation in our country, and it is habits of my life and my family, and my friends respect it, and I’m absolutely, absolutely proud of it.

RT: Any interesting experiences as a result?

FV: (laughs) It is good experience for me, and it is, I think, good contribution for organizing good life in Podgorica, Montenegro.