Check against delivery!
Thank you very much Mr Prime Minister [Duško Markovic]. It was really a pleasure for me to be back in a different capacity in Podgorica.
And I start here – out of my strong will and decision -, I start here a visit to the all “Western Balkans Six”. I start here because Montenegro is clearly the frontrunner in the EU integration process and I start here a regional visit because in the European Union we know that there is not going to be any progress on the European Union integration path if it is not also accompanied by a strong regional integration and cooperation process.
And on the other side, we know that giving a strong and credible EU perspective to each of the six represents the best basis for regional cooperation. The two things go together.
And we have a strategic interest as Europeans - inside or outside of the Union - to make sure that this region that is in the heart of Europe finds the way to cooperate after just 20 years of the conflict. 20 years can be a long time but can also be a very short time and I think that if the Western Balkans are today a region that - with all the problems - still is a cooperative region, and that is building together common economic projects, infrastructure projects and it is talking rather than fighting, this is thanks to the European Union perspective of the entire region. We are aware of that.
This is an interest of the citizens of Montenegro for sure, of the Western Balkans, of the Balkans at large, of the European Union and of the entire continent.
This is why the message I am bringing here, starting my visit here is this: that the European Union door is open, not only that, but that we want you to cross that door and enter. That this is not a faraway dream, but this is a project on which Montenegro has done incredible steps, thanks to the determination of its leadership, thanks to credible approach so far of the European Union. And others can follow exactly the same path and I hope that we can finish the mandate of this European Commission and the term of European institutions currently, -we still have 2 years and a half or a little bit more than that - reflecting on not only of how will it be the future of the European Union when we will be 27 after the Brexit, but also when we will have new Member States and we will be more than 27 and more than 28.
This is part of the future of the EU and as we launch the reflection on the future of the European Union, me being here means that we reflect on this together with the countries that are working to enter the European Union , starting with Montenegro.
So this is for sure a message of encouragement, of hope, but also a message of commitment because we know very well that this needs – membership to the European Union -, needs hard work from your side, not to meet our conditions but to meet the expectations of your people, because every step is a step that improves the lives of the people and the society and infrastructure of the country.
But this also requires credibility from our side and I am here also to tell you , not only personally but in the name of the European institutions – [European] Commission, Council, I am the only one lucky enough to represent both – that the European Union is committed to have new Member States, to have the European Union integration process for Montenegro and for all the region as a credible and real perspective.
So it is not a dream, it is not a vision. It is something that is happening and it will happen and it will happen in the coming years if we manage to continue working well together.
And, as I said, this is not out of charity; it is because we share a common European interest in cooperation, economic growth, peace and stability. Peace is not something that you can give for granted. And economic growth, we learnt it; it is something you cannot take for granted. These are the two features of the European Union and we see a huge potential for the Balkans to be part of this big project.
I was honoured and pleased today not only to meet you [Prime Minister, Duško Marković], which is a great pleasure and our conversation will continue in the evening, touching also on some aspects on our cooperation on some common elements of interest from economy to security. I was also pleased to meet the President [Mr Filip Vujanović], the Speaker of the Parliament [Mr Ivan Brajović], and to address the Parliament.
I have been a national parliamentarian myself. It is a deep European Union conviction that institutions are always to honour, they are the temple of democracy and the Parliament is by definition the heart of our democracies.
I was sadden that the opposition was not present today, I hoped for them to be present and have on that occasion an exchange with them.
I am sure – and I hope – there will be other occasions in the future and I hope my message in the Parliament of trying to build space for cooperation. Trying to return to the institutions - this requires good will on the opposition side but also on the government side to create the conditions for the situation to evolve into a normal institutional situation.
I think people of Montenegro expect their institutions to function and to face the problems we all know. Because it is true that Montenegro is the frontrunner, we have good news when it comes to Montenegro, but it is also true that the economic and social situation is difficult – not only in Montenegro, actually the economy here is going quite well but it is a global trend, it is a European trend. And the challenges the society is facing – the challenges people are facing – require everybody to do their part of the work.
So I hope that the situation can find a solution. It is not for the European Union to indicate a solution. I always say that we do not enter into the politics of countries, not even in the politics of our own Member States. We relate it to the institutions of the country and we strengthen institutions, because we see institutions as the key element for participation, stability and for delivering to our citizens.
So, I would like to thank you Prime Minister for the warm welcome and for the very fruitful exchanges we had, but most of all I would like to wish you, your government, the Parliament – the entire Parliament -, the President, the authorities of the country wisdom, determination and vision.
Some argue that vision should not be used in politics. I believe we need also vision joined with determination, courage and consistency to lead the country towards the European Union, inside the European Union, and on our side you will always find a partner to do that because this is important for the country, this is important for the European Union, this is also important for the region.
I would like to take this opportunity to mention another thing: that the role you are playing in the region is remarkable and that we will continue to work together for stability in the Balkans and for better future for all of us. Thank you very much.