Workshop on the Role of Youth against Terrorism and Violent Extremism in the Western Balkans organized by the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, with the support of the Embassy of Canada, was held in Podgorica, Montenegro from 19-21 November 2018.

During the 2 days event over 30 young people from across the Western Balkans, learned and discussed with reputable speakers and experts about radicalization and the foreign fighter phenomenon among the youth in the Western Balkans, a specific topic that concerns not only regional, but international security as well.

Through vigorous presentations delivered by renounced speakers, such as Former Islamic extremist Adam Deen, Professor Vlado AzinovićVeselin Veljović – Director of the Police Administration of Montenegro, Archpriest-Stavrophor Boris BrajovićJessie Hronesova from Akis Strategy and Džemo Redžematović from the Islamic Community of Montenegro, the young participants had a chance to get more thorough insight on what drives the young people to join terrorist organizations, what makes young people to go to foreign battlefields, what is the influence of social media in recruiting people, what are the other mechanisms through which the youth is recruited? How to prevent it? What is the role of youth in positive messaging against violent extremism and radicalization leading to terrorism? What is the role of universities and religious institutions?

The Atlantic Council of Montenegro and YATA Montenegro recognized that youth is simultaneously the group most vulnerable to violent radicalization and the group that has the greatest potential to prevent and counter it.  Knowing that, one of the main objectives was for young people to gain skills and necessary knowledge in recognizing and combating radicalization.

We succeeded in our efforts to encourage significant discussion with a wide range of opinions regarding one of the most important issues in the field of international security.

All of the participants agreed upon that regardless of education, age and class everyone can undergo radicalization, as well as that terrorism and violent extremism are global problems and should not be linked only to one religion or group.

The Workshop has managed to justify high standards set by our events and became the platform for critical discussion among the youth.

NATO and Norway are preparing for NATO’s biggest exercise in recent years. Trident Juncture 2018 will gather 50,000 participants.

The exercise will test the whole military chain – from troop training at the tactical level, to command over large forces. It will train the troops of the NATO Response Force and forces from other allies and partners, ensuring they can work seamlessly together.  

  • When: from 25 October to 7 November 2018.
  • Who: Around 50,000 participants from 31 NATO and partner countries.
  • Why: To ensure that NATO forces are trained and ready, display our collective capabilities and to show that NATO stands strong.
  • Components: Around 250 aircraft, 65 vessels and up to 10,000 vehicles will be used during the exercise
  • Location: Central and eastern Norway; the surrounding areas of the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea, including Iceland and the airspace of Finland and Sweden.
  • Objective: To ensure that NATO forces are trained, able to operate together, and ready to respond to any threat from any direction.
  • Commander: Admiral James G. Foggo, Commander of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples, is responsible for conducting the exercise.

As the latest NATO ally, our country will participate and contribute to the Excerise with 33 members of Armed Forces of Montenegro.

The main part of our forces is the Infantry Platoon of 27 members, which will be part of Slovenian Company. The Infantry Platoon is from the composition of the First Infantry Company from Nikšić. All pertaining equipment is from the First Infantry Company, as well as four vehicles which are already been shipped for the Kingdom of Norway.The unit is equipped with all necessary equipment for extremely cold conditions and is ready for the execution of tasks on mountain terrains in cold conditions.

From the rest of six members, one pilot, logistics NCO, military police member will be in the composition of Slovenian squadron, Slovenian Logistic Company HQ, respectively Slovenian Military Police Company, while two staff officers will be in the Italian Brigade HQ. One officer will be in charge as Evaluator – Controller during the Exercise. By completing the activities during the Trident Juncture 2018, our army will raise the level of training, exchange experience with NATO allies’ countries, strengthen the cooperation and trust with its partners and adopt new NATO standards and procedures, necessary for increasing the operational capabilities.

Further information here:

On Trident Juncture 2018: https://forsvaret.no/en/exercise-and-operations/exercises/nato-exercise-2018

NATO official page: https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/157833.htm 

Ministry of Defence of Montenegro official page: http://www.mod.gov.me/en/search/192653/Armed-Forces-of-Montenegro-sends-33-members-to-the-TRIDENT-JUNCTURE-18-Exercise.html

The Atlantic Council of Montenegro today marks the 12th anniversary since its establishment. For the past 12 years, the Atlantic Council has become recognized as a key platform for routing effective political and security changes and its activities contributed in raising awareness of the Euro-Atlantic values and the importance of Montenegro’s membership to NATO.

In the years to come, the Atlantic Council of Montneegro will dedicate its work to the provision of expert, scientific and research support and knowledge necessary for adequate responses to contemporary security challenges and for strengthening the democratic capacities of Montenegrin society. Through dialogue and discussions on key international issues, we will strive to enrich public discussion and strenghten peace, security and the role of NATO in the SEE region.

Save the date for 2BS Foruma 2019. Forum will be held May 30 – June 1, 2019. See you in Budva.

Montenegro became a member of NATO on June 5 last year, and two days after, Montenegrin flag was raised in front of the NATO headquarters in Brussels.

The representatives of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro symbolically celebrated the first year of membership in NATO and on June 5 2018, they made the NATO and Montenegrin flags wave on Lovćen as well!

PANEL IV: “DISINFORMATION IS A NEW INFORMATION?” 

Disinformation in the world cannot be stopped, and it is impossible to control anything that is published on the Internet, so funds should be invested in defence of hybrid information, it is said at the panel “Disinformation is a new information”. Communications specialist Kateryna Kruk spoke about the situation in Kyiv’s Maidan, and explained that Ukraine, when it comes to war information, is not part of the problem, but part of the solution. Russia, she believes, does not use fake news to increase “soft power”, but to take advantage of conflicts. She also believes that the football World Cup, to be held this year in Russia, should be boycotted. Boris Reitschuster, German journalist, agreed with her saying it is necessary to build the trust in media, and stating that it is necessary to find algorithms that would identify suspicious sources of information.

Senior Fellow and Director of the Russia Program within CEPA, Brian Whitmore, says that we need to understand that disinformation war does not exist in a vacuum. Speaking about the Law on Facebook in Germany, Whitmore says that it is necessary to regulate the functioning and the use of Facebook. The problem is not only in media literacy, he believes, but the problem is in education as well. Senior Officer for Russia and the Western Balkans from NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division, Robert Pszczel, believes that the role of traditional media is important, but does not support media control. Speaking of what should be done in NATO to help countries fight fake news, he said that it is necessary for all countries to be on the same level.  

PANEL V: „EXPLORING THE RELIGION-POLICY/SECURITY NEXUS” 

Panelists pointed out that the dialogue is very important, and that religion is actually ad peace in the world, although certain extremist groups send different messages to religious dignitaries.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of BiH, Igor Crnadak, says that linking religion and security makes sense, stating that he is optimistic regarding messages of representatives of religious communities, panel participants, on their contribution to peace and stability. He said that he cannot accept the assessment that there is a large gap between the three entities in BiH, but he believes that 23 years after the war, there should be more trust.

Bishop of South America and Buenos Aires, Kirilo Bojović, said that the role of religious communities and the Orthodox Church is significant from the aspect of security. According to Bojović, the church is a factor in preventing and deterring people from violence. Bojovic says he sees no danger to Montenegro when it comes to inter-religious hatred. He referred to Kosovo, stating that the Serbs there are in an absolutely unequal position. Bojović believes that terrorism cannot be identified with Islam, since it is more about the psychological problem of an individual.

Bishop from BiH, Monsignor Tomo Vukšić, believes that secularism has failed, stating that from the perspective of Christianity, violence never had any legitimization. Comparing BiH with the barrel, Vukšić said that the state is held together more closely by foreign hoop than cohesion forces from within.

Reis of the Islamic Community in Montenegro, Rifat Fejzić, said that the world has become a small village, and that the rapid flow of information has made everything available from one end of the world to the other. He dismissed linking of Islam with terrorism in the world, stating that no religion or people can be identified with terrorism and warned that most Islamic offenders come from the West, where they, according to him, have learned such behavior.

Visiting Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, Fatim-Zohra El Malki, says that the messages sent by extremist groups are not the ones sent by religious dignitaries. “Islam should be treated like any other religion or tradition,” says El Malki, pointing out that Islam is as rational as any other religion.

The President of the USA, Donald Trump, does not have a wide perspective when it comes to foreign policy, but his policy is based on instinct. At the same time, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, would gain 60 percent of the votes if he were the candidate on the elections in Serbia. These are the messages from the third panel “Has the US foreign policy shifted under the Tramp’s administration?” in the framework of the eighth 2BS Forum taking place in Budva.

Speaking about the President of the USA, the former Minister of Defense of Serbia, Dragan Šutanovac, said that a couple of days ago he was listening to the manager of Trump’s campaign, Mr. Corey Lewandowski who, as he highlighted, almost convinced him that Trump is the best leader.

When it comes to the attitude of Serbia to the East and West, Šutanovac said that the Serbs have different opinions.

“Emotionally, we are leaning towards Russia and we would say that we love it the most, but, if you ask us where do we want our health insurance, the answer would be – the USA and  the Western Europe”, said Šutanovac.

He stated that Serbia is not ready to become a member of NATO as fast as the other countries of the region.

“Trump is led by instincts, he is a great businessman. I am a democrat, and the nationalists say – “Serbia first”, just like “America first.” But, if we had elections and if Putin were a candidate, he would gain 60 percent of the votes which is surprising” said Šutanovac.

Stating that the EU is the only choice for the region, Šutanovac said that all of us would become NATO member states, eventually.

Šutanovac commented the attempt of a third party’s interference into the political events in Montenegro and Macedonia:

“Serbia is under the real siege and fake news attacks.”

Concerning the question whether this fake news is from Russia, he responded:

“I think so. You would not believe what could be received from that source. We have one magazine with the headquarters in Russia and their influence is much stronger than the content produced by the televisions.”

As he said, he does not perceive a serious vision in this: “In this situation, we are like a pebble in a shoe, we obstruct every movement. We have long relations with the USA, it is something that should be considered and this way, we should cope with fake news.”

The Director of the Warsaw Office of the German Marshall Fund, Michal Baranowski, said that the pessimism concerning Trump is real, stating that the Trump’s administration nor the USA are like him.

“It is true that it would be good for us to be a strong actor on the security field and to have a good ally in the USA but we must consider the USA from that perspective. We might not like what Trump is representing but it is even worse when we think of the consequences of his rule – i.e. the undermining of his alliances, and NATO and the EU belong to them”, said Baranowski.

Baranowski said that they would approve if Joe Biden won the next elections, stating that his country would remain pro-American, no matter who is in the White House.

According to him, the biggest threat is the imitation of Russia by the other countries, which is a Putin’s success.

The Director of the Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, Michael Carpenter, thinks that Trump does not have wider perspective concerning foreign policy, but that his policy is based on instincts. All of this is not good for human rights and democracy, as he considers. 

“Foreign policy should be in the hands of professionals”, said Carpenter.

He thinks that the American foreign policy was based on a strong transatlantic relation.

Carpenter said that the relations of Serbia with Russia are acceptable, but, they should not be combined with the aggressive Kremlin policy.

“Do they see the foreign policy of this country which is clearly manipulating?”, asked Carpenter.

The Counsellor in the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Selmo Cikotić, says that the USA should think of an alternative for their benefit.

“It is natural for us to have reasons to believe that our connection in the region is a guarantee for a stability in the Western Balkans. And that is why the interventionist role of the USA is expected in all of this. That intervention of the USA has been the best since the period of the Cold War.”, said Cikotić.

As he said, NATO is seen as the only efficient concept.

“Whenever a problem appears, NATO is the only one that can solve it.”, he highlighted.

While commenting the presence of the Russia in the region, he said that they do it with a very few investments.

“There is no simple approach. In all of the nations in the region, there is the attitude that Russia is a great nation that participated in the creation of the civilization, which is true, but when the crisis emerge, you will always find some radical element from Russia.”, said Cikotić.

He said that the investments from Russia would not bother Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the problem is that the President of the Republic of Srpska, Milorad Dodik, is inclined towards Moscow. 

“We have the economic trade with Russia which was the smallest for the entity that he represents” says Cikotić, while assessing that the geopolitics of the Western Balkans is particular. To the question concerning how much we should be worried about the presence of “the soft Russian power”, Šutanovac responded that the influence of Russia is not rational.

“There were zero donations from the East, but they had better PR. When we had a fire, there were the airplanes from Russia to extinguish it. They acted faster than the USA, since we have the procedures there”, he said.

Strengthening of the radical movements should not be the excuse for the EU member states not to allow the perspective of membership to the Balkan countries, and nationalism is used in order to weaken the independent judiciary, pluralism and freedom of media. This is one of the messages from the second panel at the eighth 2BS Forum taking place in Budva.

According to the assessment of the President of Kosovo,Hashim Thaçi, Montenegro is the inspiration for the region, and the EU, supported by NATO is the strongest peace mission so far in terms of security.

In his opening speech,Thaçicongratulated the citizens of Montenegro the Independence Day and he also sent congratulations to Milo Đukanović for becoming the President of Montenegro.

Thaçi said that he hopes that everyone will work together in order to get close to the EU and reminded that the Republic of Kosovo is in the process of constitutional changes, so that the community of Montenegrins would be accepted through the guaranteed mandate in the Parliament.

“Montenegro is the inspiration to the whole region in terms of the European and Euro-Atlantic integrations. We are happy that Montenegro is a member of NATO. The Montenegro’s and Albania’s NATO membership brings stability to the whole Western Balkans”, said Thaçi.

The President of Kosovo said that we should not retreat before populism since, if it occurred, the demarcation between Montenegrin border would never happen. As he stated, Thaçi is grateful to the authorities in Podgorica that demonstrated understanding and patience for the institutions on Kosovo concerning the process of demarcation. 

“That was a wise approach, this is the reason why Montenegro and Kosovo have excellent relations today”, said Thaçi.

Speaking on the subject “Europe now”, Thaçi said that the membership in the EU is not a gift. He thinks that many things cannot be predicted since certain phenomena is developing by the principle of “the domino effect”, as it is the case with Brexit.

“But, we see that the EU stays strong, the pro-European forces are getting even stronger. The EU, supported by NATO is the strongest peace mission so far, in terms of security. The EU is not only a peace movement, but the movement that we aspire to in order to overcome the problems” Thaçi said, remarking that the strengthening of radical movements should not be the excuse for the EU members not to allow the perspective of membership to the Balkan countries.”

Thaçi said he believes that the agreement between Belgrade and Pristina is hard for Serbia and Kosovo, stating that everything could be overcome with the common European vision. Convinced that Kosovo will get its chair in the United Nations, Thaçi stated that he believes that one day, all of us would become members of the same family, and that is – the EU and NATO.

The ambassador of Kanada to Germany and the special deputy to the European Union and Europe, Stéphane Dion said that there are two problems that Europe is facing: Serbia and Kosovo, and the name dispute between Macedonia and Greece.

Dion thinks that Kosovo being the part of Serbia again is not a possibility; therefore, the only solution is the development of new neighboring relations between Belgrade and Pristina.

“I do not see any other solution”, said Dion.

Speaking about the name dispute between Athens and Skopje, he said that he does not see any problem concerning the name – New Macedonia.

“The other disputes that need to be solved before the EU membership are reflected in the fact that these six countries need to become firm liberal democracies. There is no way for the EU to absorb the countries in terms of the rule of law, since the EU is not as sure of itself as it used to be”, said Dion.

When it comes to the capacities for the improvement of democracy, Dion said that the nationalism is used as a way to consolidate the power of the autocrats. 

“They use it in order to weaken the independent judiciary, pluralism, freedom of media… Democracy and its pillars are threatened by nationalism”, said Dion.

He said that he believes that Montenegro wants to be proud of its contribution to the stronger Europe and the Union. Political leaders are, as he assessed, allergic to any kind of criticism, particularly if it comes from abroad.

“It would be wrong to view the EU standards on the Balkans as a restriction. The requests that are placed upon you are the opportunity to fix the societies separately”, said Dion.

The Assessment of Progress of Montenegro from 2018 is, as he considers, the indicator of the obligations that a country should fulfill, while stating that “democracy has no end” and that we should keep working on it. Dion thinks that the countries of the Western Balkans have a lot to offer. 

When it comes to the statement that Montenegro has been negotiating for six and a half years, as much as Croatia needed, but, the perspective for Montenegro will not be possible before 2025., Dion said that the support for enlargement is possible if the freedom of media and a fight counter organized crime are enabled.

“Improve your countries, fix them. I do not think that the leaders are hypocritical and that the Balkans in the EU is not in their interest”, said Dion.

He believed that the EU would gladly accept the Western Balkans, under condition that the new countries do not weaken liberal democracy.

The President of the European Movement in Montenegro, Momčilo Radulović, thinks that the French President, Emmanuel Macron, is a dark cloud above our horizon, while reminding us of his statement in Sofia that there will not be any enlargement before 2025.

As he says, the condition should be fulfilled because of us and our country, not for the pragmatism and the EU.

“Serbia and Montenegro are frequently put in the same basket. I do not know why they avoid to say that we are the leaders, since Serbia is lagging behind us. There should be made a difference between 30 and 13 open chapters, but, let us call the things by their real name.” said Radulović.

The leaders, as he says, should be the leaders and the facts should not be artificially blurred.

“We became a member of NATO and they are looking up to us, as Thaçi said. Therefore, you should follow the leader.”, Radulović said.

Speaking about the Russian influence, Radulović said that around 25 percent of the public is still inclined towards Russia, which creates problems in the national pride.

“When there is no national consensus, it is particularly difficult to do something. The quarter of the population is on the side of Russia in the mutual meetings. Whenever you have a Russian investment, you have Sahara, in economic terms. We really did experience it”, said Radulović, stating that we still can feel the consequences of Russia’s political interference into Montenegrin issuesin 2016. 

He thinks that it is hard to find positive examples of the Russian influence on the politics and economy.

Senior Associate on the Harvard, Radoslav Sikorski, said that the statement of Macron concerning the Balkans is a serious attitude which is not exclusively his but it is a widespread opinion in the Western Europe.

“The EU will be two times more cautious about the way that the enlargement is going to develop”, said Sikroski.

He is positive that the EU will not admit any new member state which could regress.

“Therefore, the candidate countries should not mark their obligations, but they should do something meaningful, something which would recommend them for the EU members”, Sikroski said.

As he says, the alarming fact on the Balkans is that Russia did not have this much influence 50 years after the war.

The former Minister of Defense of Slovenia, Roman Jakić, considers that the problem lies in the fact that the populism is increased by those who are against the EU enlargement.

“I am sure that all the countries do everything they can to join the EU. Montenegro and Macedonia are very active in this role”, Jakić said. 

He says that the attitude of Slovenia is that the Western Balkans should be integrated as soon as possible and it should be considered from the geopolitical point of view, not through a sole fulfillment of conditions and “marks”.

Consolidation of the European Union and the process of the EU enlargement should be happening at the same time, since everything that stays out of the EU’s attention, and Balkan used to be there, could represent a problem to the EU, according to the message of the President of Montenegro, Milo Đukanović.

In his opening speech, he said that the Western Balkans needs integration.

“We should not prove that this region has sent more than enough messages concerning a lack of capacity. The integration of the Western Balkans is the same thing as stability. Integration means the return of the Western Balkans countries to the European civilizational way”, Đukanović said.

He thinks that the European and the Euro-Atlantic perspective today are more blurred in comparison to the beginning of the century. He states that the reason for the fall of enthusiasm and the slowdown lies in the story about slowdown, which is too long.

“We are convinced that the only accurate direction of the further movement is the European and Euro-Atlantic integration. It is necessary to support the pro-European governments in the Balkans, aware of the inevitability of belonging to that civilizational circle. In Europe, there are the attitudes that the Europe needs the consolidation in order to reach the enlargement, even though, I think that these two processes should flow simultaneously”, Đukanović said.

He equally said that there is no better consolidation for Europe and better way for its global competitiveness than the union.

“Everything that stays out of the focus of the European Union, and Balkans used to belong there, could rather represent a problem to the European Union than a way that the EU could protect itself from the possible consequences of the non-European framework. The true question for us is the following: will we deal with the problem too late or will we make an effort to Europeanize that area and create conditions for internal stability”, said Đukanović. 

Montenegro and himself, as he said, do not belong to those who inferiorly look at the partnership with the EU.

“We do not think that we should stand, kneel and beg for the doors of the EU to open. We are ready to take our share of responsibility”, said Đukanović.

Wondering what else should happen so that Montenegro would become the EU member state, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense of Bulgaria, Krasimir Karakachanov, reflected on whether all NATO and the EU member states could say that they do not have any issues with corruption and that they have free media.

He assessed that he was slightly disappointed since there was no clear determination concerning the time framework for the EU enlargement at the Summit in Sofia.

“Our politics is clear. We want a determination towards membership and we want all of the countries to become the EU and NATO member states. If we do not offer clear possibilities for a clear perspective, the third factors occur and they have been present for centuries. There is a Turkish influence as well as the Russian influence and they have been present in the Balkans for 200 years”, Karakachanov said.

If we have two or three rates, as he said, there is a place for interaction and interference, which creates a possibility for divisions and instability in the Western Balkans.

Karakachanov said that the countries aspiring towards the EU should not be given advice, but the advice should be given to Brussels, not to set rigid criteria and feel a debt towards the Balkans.

“Do not give up, be persistent, and the colleagues in Brussels are obliged to think about what should be achieved by the criteria, to deal with the fact that the Euroscepticism will increase if they drop the Western Balkans”, said Karakachanov, appealing that Brussels should be more tolerant.

Responding to Karakachanov, the Executive Vice President of the Atlantic Council of the USA, Damon Wilson, said that there is a reason for the rigid criteria.

“Due to the fact that the Balkans has a difficult story behind, we made a bureaucratic process in order to achieve the goals. We need to have standards in order to measure the shifts that are made but we must not allow for that to blur the ultimate perspective”, Wilson said.

Speaking about the Euro-Atlantic integrations, Wilson assessed that it was not hard to decide why Montenegro should be a NATO member state, and it is the same case with Macedonia.

“The biggest challenge for this region is not to wait for Brussels or Washington, but to surpass our expectations even before we know about that”, Wilson said.

The Minister of Defense of Montenegro, Predrag Bošković, said that the stability and security of our country is now guaranteed by the NATO membership.

He highlighted that Montenegro is working on the reforms regardless of the fact that the precise date of our country’s accession to the EU is not known.

“It is crucial to highlight that Europe, in this moment, has more problems than the Western Balkans. The challenges in the EU are more complex than those in the Western Balkans”, Bošković said.

The Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense of Macedonia, Radmila Šekerinska Jankovska, spoke about the name dispute between her country and Greece, said that they had a couple of bilateral meetings and that the negotiations have lasted more than 25 years. 

“No one can expect that this would be the final answer. We need to check that in public. But, we are optimistic, I believe that Macedonia demonstrated that the crisis was used as a chance”, Šekerinska Jankovska highlighted.

She assessed that the peoples on this area are used to living in the conditions of crisis. 

“Crisis management is a part of our DNA.  A change in the Balkans is reflected in the fact that we did not have naïve expectations that someone will save us, that the EU will use the opportunity and open negotiations with Macedonia”, Šekerinska Jankovska said.

The Minister of Defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Marina Pendeš, said that this country clearly defined its determination towards the European and Euro-Atlantic integrations, stating that she is expecting the activation of MAP for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

When it comes to the EU integration, she said that she would not agree with the assessment that there is a status quo in that country, saying that Bosnia and Herzegovina is the European country, even though it is not the EU member state.

“The Western Balkans is a part of Europe and in that sense, I expect the support from everyone, Brussels and Washington” said Pendeš, with the assessment that the statements of particular politicians from the Republic of Srpska when it comes to NATO, are confusing.

As she highlighted, in the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is the unambiguous determination for membership of that country in NATO and the EU.