Newsletter 14/2011 - Our South East Europe

INTERVIEW with Zoran Jankovic, Acting Director General, Directorate for Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Montenegro

Common European future of entire region is a strategic priority

Mr. Jankovic, what would you say are the largest achievements made during the Montenegrin Chairmanship-in-Office of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP)?

In the previous period, Montenegro has demonstrated strong commitment to strengthening regional dialogue and stability of South East Europe (SEE), as well as its economic and social advancement.

During the previous and this year, we have successfully held the Chairmanship-in-Office of Central European Initiative (CEI) (2010), Adriatic-Ionian Initiative (from 23 May this year) and U.S.-Adriatic Charter (from 29 June this year). Through constructive participation in the mentioned regional structures, Montenegro has strived to consolidate efforts of all regional stakeholders to strengthen links among national institutions, civil society and people of this part of Europe, focused on preservation of stability and security, strengthening the rule of law and stimulating economic cooperation. 

From the very beginning, we have paid the largest attention to the Chairmanship-in-Office (C-i-O) of SEECP as the most important regional political framework. Guided by the motto of our C-i-O “With regional cooperation to common goals”, we have been working fully aware of the fact that it is only with joint forces that we can contribute to valuation of the potentials of our region and its integration in the Union of prosperous European countries. We have proved that the foreseen goals can be achieved with a wish and enthusiasm despite having less capacity. To this end, the large challenge was to achieve the standards set out by the previous Turkish Chairmanship-in-Office. I hope that by steering the SEECP we have met the expectations and contributed to achieving common strategic goals. 

A successful year is behind us – large number of meetings were held at the political and expert level resulting in adoption of strategic documents as well as defining the framework for concretisation of regional cooperation in the forthcoming period. Twenty-three meetings were held under the Montenegrin C-i-O agenda. We have held six ministerial level meetings, three on general director level, two expert level meetings, four meetings of political directors, four Coordination Meetings of SEECP Troika, the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and the European Commission (EC), as well as three meetings in the framework of Parliamentary Dimension-two meetings of Working Group and Conference of the Speakers of Parliament.  

Our activities were primarily directed to being actively engaged and improving the relations in the area of justice and home affairs, security and defence, parliamentary cooperation, fight against corruption and organised crime.   

Important documents were adopted – Joint Statement in which defence ministers stated positive progress in SEE in terms of consolidation of stability, prosperity and good neighbourly relations; Budva Declaration on strengthening regional cooperation and coordination in the fight against organized crime in the countries of South East Europe and the Common Declaration of SEECP Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs regarding the endorsement of the Regional Strategic Document 2011-2013 on Justice and Home Affairs and the Action Plan for its implementation; as well as the Declaration on strengthening regional cooperation in promoting energy in the context of sustainable development and green economy in South East Europe.

Montenegro was acknowledged by being chosen for the headquarters of the Regional School for Public Administration (RESPA), opened in November last year, which, as a regional centre for training of public administration employees, symbolises a joint project of the SEECP, RCC and EC focused on professional education of civil servants and their acquiring specialised knowledge.   

Opening of the Secretariat of the Regional Cooperation Council’s Task Force on Culture and Society is a concrete proof of functional coordination and cooperation between the SEECP, as the political umbrella of regional cooperation, and the RCC, as its operational arm. As of 23 June, Cetinje is officially the cultural capital of the region. Important projects within the comprehensive and demanding process of preservation and restoration of rich cultural heritage of our region will be implemented and funded through the Cetinje Secretariat. 

What would you say the current level of cooperation in SEE is, having in mind the EU aspirations?

Regional cooperation is at a very high level, which is reflected in the success of some countries on their path towards the European family. Through exchange of knowledge, experiences and good practices, the aim of regional cooperation is to build modern, democratic, multiethnic society with efficient institutions in the function of dynamic economic development, valorisation of all potentials and increase of standards to match the European level.

We can jointly assert that the progress is visible in the region as a whole in terms of strengthened political, economic, social and cultural links, representing a founding stone for accelerated and efficient European and Euro-Atlantic integration. Our joint activities are focused on regional stability and strengthening the regional mosaic. The previous period was marked by the progress of all SEECP Participating States and by a significant step forward on the path towards the European and Euro-Atlantic integration. This provides additional impetus to continue, with the same dedication, to strengthen a society of stable democracy, dialogue, tolerance, rule of law and market economy, while at the same time observing human and minority rights. It is due to this that cooperation in our region is part of SEE countries’ European policy and a driving force of an accelerated advancement towards joining the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Montenegro has been granted the status of a candidate for membership in the European Union. Candidate status is the crown of thus far efforts on the European integration path and an acknowledgement for the reforms implemented and progress achieved. It is with seriousness that we have embarked on meeting the requirements in the seven priority areas and achieving measurable results which will enable European Council to make a decision to open accession negotiations.

Which areas of regional cooperation require additional efforts to meet the expectations of SEECP?

All SEECP Participating States agree that the common European future of the entire region is a strategic priority. In this sense, Croatia’s closing the EU membership negotiations is a significant impetus to other countries which are in various phases of integration process. After obtaining the candidate status, the Opinion of the European Commission outlined seven recommendations for Montenegro with regards to improvement of election legislation, public administration reform, strengthening the rule of law, improvement of the legislative framework for anticorruption, strengthening fight against organized crime, enhancing media freedom and alignment of the anti-discrimination legal and political framework with the EU legislation and practice. I believe that, in the forthcoming period, regional cooperation should be primarily focused on the mentioned areas which, more or less, constitute the issues all countries from the region face. Strict and clearly defined conditions of the EU enlargement policy impose a need to adopt well-considered and harmonised regional approach at both the political and economic, as well as social and cultural level. It is necessary to pay particular attention to the areas of free movement of goods, intellectual property rights, agricultural and rural development, food safety, social policy, cooperation between judicial and police organisations in the region, energy stability, sustainable development, market regulation, regional promotion of foreign investments, and banking sector and financial control.

In light of RCC’s Annual Meeting, what is your assessment of the RCC’s role, its achievements and efforts invested?

In the previous year when Montenegro held the SEECP C-i-O, high level of correlation and synergy was visible between the SEECP and the RCC. The past year was marked by a strong strategic partnership of the RCC and the SEECP, intensive implementation of the RCC’s Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, which was in line with the priorities of the Montenegrin Chairmanship-in-Office. 

I believe we will all agree on the inevitability of further process of unification of Europe, natural synthesis that will expand to the remaining part of the Balkans. The Regional Cooperation Council’s Annual Meeting was an excellent opportunity to give consideration to the thus far impact and modalities for improving the future functioning of this important mechanism of coordinating the activities of the countries from the region in the process of European integration. The Annual Report of the RCC’s Secretary General for 2010-2011 is a starting point for recapitulation of actions achieved with the aim of contributing to the implementation of RCC’s three-year Strategy.

I would like to use this opportunity and thank RCC Secretary General, Mr. Hido Biscevic, and the entire Secretariat’s team on the comprehensive overview of organisation’s activities in the previous year. The meaningful role of the RCC is evident in strengthening cooperation in the previously mentioned areas of justice and home affairs, culture, security, energy and parliamentary cooperation. However, particular and also very important progress should be made with the aim of economic and social development of the countries from the region. In this context, it is necessary to strengthen the efforts to steer the countries of the region based on the guidelines set out in the EU’s 2020 Strategy, serving as a guidebook on knowledge-based sustainable development of Europe. To this end, it is very important to continue with the implementation of relevant ideas and projects foreseen by the RCC Strategy: transfer of the SEE Investment Committee, development of the Regional Strategy for Research and Development for Innovation, improvement of cooperation of universities and further reform of higher education, facilitating the access to financial private sector funds and intensifying cooperation on infrastructure projects. Within these efforts, it is necessary to consider future directions of RCC’s activities, and modalities for even more efficient linkages with the Multi-beneficiary IPA after 2013.

Zoran Jankovic is the Acting Director General, Directorate for Multilateral Affairs and Regional Cooperation at the Montenegrin Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration. Prior to that post, Jankovic served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of Montenegro to the Council of Europe, Charge d'affaires in the Permanent Mission of Montenegro to the Council of Europe, Special Envoy to the Council of Europe, Minister Counsellor/Deputy Head of Mission of Serbia and Montenegro to the Council of Europe and Plenipotentiary Minister in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Serbia and Montenegro.


Zoran Jankovic, Acting Director General, Directorate for Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Montenegro (Photo: Courtesy of Mr. Jankovic)

Zoran Jankovic, Acting Director General, Directorate for Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Montenegro (Photo: Courtesy of Mr. Jankovic)