Montenegro's Prime Minister Visits the Austrian Federal Chancellor and Foreign Minister

PeoplePoliticians ♦ Published: July 8, 2022; 11:25 ♦ (Vindobona)

Dritan Abazović, the Prime Minister of Montenegro, visited Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg in Vienna this week. Montenegro's EU accession was discussed, as well as the deepening of bilateral relations. In the Western Balkans, the small Adriatic Republic is considered a model pupil among the EU accession candidates.

Karl Nehammer and Dritan Abazović at the reception in Vienna. / Picture: © Bundeskanzleramt (BKA) / Florian Schrötter

Montenegro's Prime Minister Dritan Abazović visited Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg in Vienna this week. The main topics of discussion were the deepening of bilateral relations, the conflict in Ukraine and Montenegro's EU accession.

The small Adriatic republic is considered a model pupil among the EU accession candidates in the Western Balkans and supports the EU sanctions against Russia in the Ukraine war.

In conversation with Dritan Abazović, Federal Chancellor Nehammer expressed his pleasure, as the state in the Western Balkans is an important geostrategic area for Austria and he sees a reliable partner in Montenegro.

"Today is a special day for Austria. I am pleased that the Prime Minister of Montenegro is our guest. The Western Balkans is a very important geostrategic area for Austria, for example when it comes to security issues, but also when it comes to our clearly benefiting economically from the prosperity and growth in the Western Balkans through investments and good, trusting cooperation," the Austrian head of government said in his statement.

Nehammer expressed his conviction that Montenegro had good prospects of joining the EU, as the country was making "enormous efforts" to actually be able to meet the EU's requirements.

"We are companions on this path and offer our help and support where it is necessary and makes sense. If we manage to make the European Union perceive the Western Balkans as an important area for growth within the EU, a positive development will be achieved for the EU overall," Nehammer said.

Nehammer also emphasised that not only the EU, but also the People's Republic of China and the United Arab Emirates, among others, show enormous interest in the Western Balkans, and that the EU must not gamble away this important partner.

According to the Chancellor, all this indicates that "we as the European Union must make an effort and show the Western Balkans that we have great interest in their countries and that we are prepared to promote and accompany their path into the EU, because in sum we will benefit greatly as a community with the Western Balkans".

Austria will work to continue to highlight the needs of the Western Balkan countries and the opportunities that exist through the efforts of the individual countries, he said.

It was important to achieve participant status in informal meetings, to remain in dialogue and to express the EU's constant interest in the Western Balkans.

Moreover, one is in a special situation: "Many people from the Western Balkans live in Austria, have found a home here, and at the same time are still closely connected to their countries of origin. That is why it is so important for us that the countries of the Western Balkans are brought closer to the EU as quickly as possible. I look forward to close cooperation. Austria will continue to be a strong voice for Montenegro, but also for the other states of the Western Balkans, when it comes to EU accession," concluded Chancellor Karl Nehammer.

Meeting with Foreign Minister Schallenberg

In the talks between Montenegro's Prime Minister Dritan Abazović and Alexander Schallenberg, the central topics were also EU enlargement and Austria's support for the Western Balkan states in the accession process.

During the talks, Foreign Minister Schallenberg once again emphasised to Prime Minister Abazović Austria's efforts to integrate the Western Balkan states into the European Union and also offered further support in the accession process.

Austria is ready to provide technical assistance to Montenegro in the accession negotiations and reform efforts. Especially in the current geopolitical situation, marked by Russian attempts to destabilise the Western Balkans and growing Chinese influence, a credible EU perspective is essential for the six Western Balkan states.

"The EU cannot afford a geopolitical tunnel vision. Austria is committed to ensuring that the 'new EU candidates' Ukraine and Moldova are not given preferential treatment compared to the Western Balkan states. The same rules must apply to all candidates. We advocate a step-by-step approach to enlargement, with tangible benefits for the citizens. As the Western Balkan country that has made the most progress in the EU accession process, Montenegro has a role model function for other accession candidates," said Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.

Foreign Minister Schallenberg cited Montenegro's support for the EU sanctions against Russia as clear proof that Montenegro is committed to fundamental European values.

Austria and Montenegro also maintain excellent bilateral relations. At the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic, Montenegro offered unbureaucratic assistance in bringing home Austrian citizens. In return, Austria assisted by taking over Montenegrin COVID intensive care patients and took a leading role in supplying Pfizer vaccines to the Western Balkan countries.

There is also close cooperation in the military sector. Among other things, Austria supports Montenegro in mountain combat training.

In addition, Foreign Minister Schallenberg inquired about energy security in Montenegro, the domestic political situation in the country and the implementation of reforms. For EU accession, further efforts are needed in the areas of freedom of opinion and the media, and in the fight against corruption and organised crime.

Federal Chancellery of Austria

BMEIA Federal Ministry for Europe Integration and Foreign Affairs