Right-wing populists represent a challenge for European democracy, but nationalism in the Balkans differs from nationalism in the USA which is reflected in President Donald Trump’s views. These are the messages delivered during the panel under the title  “Rising ghosts of nationalism; building blocks of democracy in peril?”  within this year’s To Be Secure (2BS) Forum held in Budva.

Speaking about why nationalism is on the rise around the world, the Ambassador of Montenegro to the Holy See and former Minister of Foreign Affairs,  Miodrag Vlahović, said that the question is very complex and therefore not easy to answer to.

“When it comes to the region, we belong to a generation that has turned a full circle. Today there is the same destruction – intellectual, ideological, political, which was the motive and the cause for wars in the former Yugoslavia. These ideas and subjects encouraging them have support from non-Balkan factors who promote as the ideas worth the attention and support, as if we did not undergo this disastrous experience 25 years ago, as if that idea was not defeated, as if it was not an attitude reflected through genocide,” Vlahović said.

Vlahović believes that historical rise of nationalism in the Balkans is related to the developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

”In the recent period, there is a depressing tendency reflected in the fact that the nationalists from the Balkans quote the nationalists from the West“.

The question regarding the future of the region if it does not join the EU is avoided: ”The question is – what are we going to do if the member states are not ready to accept us to the EU?”.

Roman Jakič, former Minister of Defence and MP from Slovenia, said that he was glad that pro-European forces won the recently finished European elections: ”We cannot disregard the fact the rightwingers won the additional 20 terms of office, and that we are two steps away from hell if this situation with rightwingers continues.”

The speeches of the President of Montenegro, Milo Đukanović, are the speeches he would like to hear among the European leaders and in the European Parliament: ”Rightwing populists still represent a challenge for democracy”.

“Salvini, Orbán, Kaczyński- these are the leaders who not only promote messages that are intolerant to some groups, but also send inadequate messages to those who are yet to come. They do not know what is going on”, Jakič said.

Speaking about leadership, Jakič gave a very simple recipe:” European politics and politicians need to have a thicker skin, greater solidarity. We need politics and politicians who will inspire us, not manipulate us”.

”If a politician only looks at things through internal political environment, then we will have a problem. I want politicians who see beyond their countries, who realize that the issue is not limited only to Montenegro or Slovenia”, said Jakič. 

Michael Haltzel, Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute, said that the USA consists of institutions created by the people: ”When you undermine institutions, you are on the path to undermine the core”.

Trump’s behavior towards Russia, as he said, is the greatest deviation from American politics. Therefore, it is obvious, in Haltzel’s opinion, that Trump admires the Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

When it comes to the nationalism in the USA, he stated that it is true that tradition of liberal nationalism  in the USA exists. 

”I am an optimist and I believe that there are more discontinuities than continuities”, stated Haltzel.

Talking about Montenegro, Haltzel concluded that great progress has been made, but he agrees with Montenegrin officials who emphasized during the Forum that there is a long road ahead of Montenegro.

Damir Marušić, Nonresident Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council and Executive Editor of The American Interest, said that American nationalism, which is reflected in Trump differs from the nationalism in the Balkan area. 

”America is still, above all, an optimistic place”, said Marušić.  

He considers the manner in which the USA treated the Montenegrin membership in NATO embarassing.