Milan Rocen, a member of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, has served as foreign minister of Montenegro since November 2006. His portfolio also includes overseeing his country's bid for EU integration.
In an exclusive interview with SETimes, Rocen discusses lasting peace in the Balkans, his country's decision to recognise Kosovo as an independent state, and relations with the EU.
SETimes: How can we achieve a stable, peaceful Balkan region, without conflicts?
Milan Rocen: We should continue on the NATO and EU membership path. For the first time in the history of the Balkans, we share common strategic goals. We are all on the right path. We should not underestimate the fact, however, that there are still open issues to be solved, [issues that are] warnings for us in the region.
SETimes: What are those open issues that need to be resolved?
Rocen: First, what happened in Sarajevo is a warning to us all. All should condemn the [October 28th] attack on the US Embassy. This means that, however, there are extremists in the region, who think we should look back, to the past. Open questions are well-known: Kosovo and Macedonia-Greek dispute.
SETimes: How should the Serbia and Kosovo issue be resolved, including the EU- facilitated dialogue? Montenegro recognised Kosovo, but Serbia did not. What would be the best way to resolve this problem?
Rocen: Yes, we recognised Kosovo. It was not an easy decision for us, but we think it was the right decision. First, because it contributed to the stability in our country, and secondly, we think that we contributed to stability in the region. We took reality into account.
True, for Serbia it is a painful issue, but there is no other way than dialogue. And I am sure that time works for us all. We need more patience and time, but it is important to talk and this is the path that leads to permanent peace. For us, membership in NATO and the EU is the way to regional stability.
SETimes: What about Albania?
Rocen: I just talked to my Albanian colleague (Edmond) Haxhinasto; we are happy that Albania, like Croatia, became a NATO member.
I hope our Albanian friends find common ground and that Albania will move forward on the EU path as soon as possible. If Albania were not a NATO member, the political situation here [in Albania] would be much more serious.
History has shown that that we, in the Balkans, never had self-regulatory mechanisms for conflict prevention. Alliance membership is a formula for permanent stability, and, by extension, stability in Europe and the world.
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