Austria and Montenegro Strengthen Relations: EU Accession by 2028 in Sight

PeopleOther ♦ Published: February 8, 2024; 20:48 ♦ (Vindobona)

During an official visit to Vienna by Montenegrin President Jakov Milatović, Austria's Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen emphasized the importance of Western Balkan integration into the EU, with Montenegro leading the way. Given the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, a "realistic prospect of accession" for these countries is now "more important than ever".

Montenegrin President Jakov Milatović (l.) and Austria's Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen (r.). / Picture: © / Carina Karlovits/HBF

It was the first visit by a Montenegrin president to Austria since independence. Montenegro seceded from Serbia in 2006. Federal President Van der Bellen spoke of a "sign of friendship between Austria and Montenegro and a symbol of Austria's commitment to the Western Balkans."

The Austrian Federal President expressed optimism about Montenegro's chances of becoming an EU member by 2028, as all 35 negotiation chapters had already been opened and Montenegro had no major conflicts with neighboring countries that could hinder the process.

The two leaders emphasized the excellent bilateral relations between their countries and the importance of a stronger EU presence in the Western Balkans to avoid political vacuums that could be exploited by other states such as Russia and China. They agreed that the integration of the Western Balkan states into the EU is essential for the stability and prosperity of the region.

The importance of EU enlargement for the stability of the Western Balkans was emphasized, as was Austria's role as an important partner for Montenegro on this path. Both countries agreed to strengthen their cooperation in areas such as the economy, energy and education and to work together for security and prosperity in Europe.

The talks between the two leaders in Vienna also covered economic cooperation and the importance of direct investment. Montenegro, which is building close relations with Austria since its independence in 2006, relies on the experience and commitment of Austrian companies to further develop its economic potential.

Austrian investments for Montenegro

Milatović also used his visit to encourage Austrian industrialists to invest in Montenegro, highlighting Montenegro's improved rule of law and institutional stability as an attractive basis for foreign investment. The meeting took place during a working dinner with Georg Knill, President of the Association of Industrialists, as well as key figures from the Austrian business sector in infrastructure, technology and industry.

During the dinner, President Milatović presented in detail Montenegro's recent achievements in terms of establishing the rule of law and strengthening the independence of institutions, which he emphasized as fundamental elements for improving the investment climate in the country. With special emphasis on Montenegro as a leader in the negotiation process with the European Union, Mr. Milatović expressed his belief that Montenegro will be the next EU member, which characterizes the current moment as ideal for investment.

Mr. Knill, on behalf of the Austrian industrialists, expressed appreciation for Montenegro as a reliable partner and emphasized the country's natural and strategic potentials as attractive investment opportunities. Additionally, President Milatović emphasized the importance of "nearshoring" investments, which not only represent an opportunity for the region, but also meet the needs of EU companies to diversify and strengthen their supply chains.

At the end of his call, President Milatović emphasized the importance of Austrian investments in Montenegro, not only as a means of economic development, but also as an opportunity to further strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries.

Major visit to Vienna

The fact that the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna was the first port of call for Montenegrin President Jakov Milatović during his visit to Austria underlines the importance of the discussions held with Rector Misha Glenny and Permanent Fellow Ivan Vejvoda on democracy, the rule of law and paths to EU membership. The three interlocutors agreed that the democratic changes of 2020 and the presidential elections of 2023 were significant steps on Montenegro's path to EU membership, which could also be an incentive for other countries in the region. Austria is one of the most important foreign policy partners and continuously supports Montenegro on its path towards European integration.

During his visit, Montenegrin President Jakov Milatović held talks with other Austrian officials, including the Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution, Karolina Edtstadler, on strengthening political and economic cooperation and Austria's support for Montenegro's path to the EU.

In addition to the meeting with the industrialists and other officials, President Milatović also used his stay in Vienna to meet with representatives of the Institute of Social Sciences and gave a lecture on "EU Enlargement for Stability" at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna to emphasize the importance of the EU enlargement process for regional stability.

The importance of this visit was also underlined by the participation in cultural events such as the Vienna Opera Ball, whereby the visit was seen as a sign of Austria's friendship and commitment to the region.

President of Montenegro

Presidential Chancellery of Austria