The Faculty of Economics in Podgorica received a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence project, which is awarded to a Montenegrin university for the first time. The project called the Challenges of the Enlargement Policy – EU vs. China's Diplomacy in the Western Balkans 2020-23" will run for the next three years. It will position the University of Montenegro and this Faculty as institutions capable of excellence in teaching and research in the field of international relations, EU integration and other related issues, at European and global level. The Centre of Excellence will have the role of stimulating debate on enlargement and the effects of geopolitics in Montenegro, through the active engagement of local, EU and Chinese experts.
During the presentation of this project to students, organised at the Faculty of Economics at the start of the second semester, Dean Nikola Milović pointed out that the project would result in a more modern approach to the curriculum in EU-related courses. It will also drive changes in the working methodology that lead to the reform and modernisation of the overall teaching process.
"Another Jean Monnet project at the Faculty of Economics – and its first Centre of Excellence – will contribute first and foremost to the quality of the teaching process, and then also to the development of Montenegro as a knowledge-based society, supporting one of its main foreign policy goals, which is full membership in the EU", said Milović.
Professor Danijela Jaćimović, who leads the project, pointed out that it addresses excellence in teaching and research, in which the Faculty of Economics has always been an innovator.
"We will have the opportunity to host about 10 professors from the EU and China, who will be actively involved in the teaching process for undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students. This is important because our students are future experts who will work in the public and private sector, and the quality of their knowledge will contribute to the EU processes facing Montenegro," said Jaćimović.
The presentation was also attended by the Ambassador of the European Union to Montenegro Oana Cristina Popa, who gave a short lecture on the EU, and the relations between the EU and China’s diplomacy in Montenegro. In her opening speech, Popa congratulated the Faculty and drew attention to how commendable it was to receive this title, awarded for the first time in Montenegro.
“Your project and this research will be very important both for the European institutions and for Montenegrin policy-makers at different levels,” Popa stated.
During her lecture, the ambassador also addressed the assessment that the EU and China are somehow in opposition in the Western Balkans, as two powers competing for influence. She considers this too simplistic.
The ambassador reminded: “EU is not just offering economic advantages but the perspective of membership, and the solidarity that comes with it. We demonstrated this solidarity with Montenegro over and over again. During the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU has donated 53 million EUR worth of assistance, both for immediate needs such as masks, ventilators and other equipment, as well as for longer-term investments such as constructing hospitals, helping the economy and the unemployed.”
She pointed out that the future of Montenegro and the whole Western Balkans was in the EU, as confirmed by the recent poll that showed that 75% of Montenegrin citizens supported the EU accession of the country.
“Montenegro chooses the EU and the EU chooses Montenegro too. European Commission President Von der Leyen said in her State of the Union speech: the Western Balkans are part of Europe - and not just a stopover on the Silk Road. This does not mean that the Western Balkans region should reject the opportunities that come with China’s economic activity in the region. After all, the region has a considerable investment need. But investment projects should be in accordance with the region’s commitment to join the EU. Investments should respect European policies and rules as regards, for instance, public procurement, competition, environment, energy or transport,” Popa explained.
In her lecture, Popa stated that the EU itself has a strong relationship with China – a relationship that is at the same time one of the most strategically important and one of the most challenging it has.
“China is, simultaneously, in different policy areas, a cooperation partner with whom the EU has closely aligned objectives; a negotiating partner with whom the EU needs to find a balance of interests; an economic competitor in the pursuit of technological leadership; and a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance. To manage our relationship with China in the years to come we need to maintain strong unity among EU Member States and future Member States such as Montenegro on all of those issues,” Popa concluded.
Just like Ambassador Popa’s lecture, all classes organised under this project will be held in English. This will create conditions for the accreditation of five courses at the UMN Faculty of Economics and three courses at the UDG Humanities, all in English and in the field of international relations and EU integration.