Prompted by renewed fear of growing Russian influence on its backyard in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, the EU is stepping up efforts to move toward an enlarged union, with European Council President Charles Michel pushing for a 2030 timeline.
Spajić, who pledged to get over the finish line by 2028, also attributed his optimism to Montenegro’s nearly seven-year membership in NATO, as well as the lack of tensions within a region that a century ago was notoriously known as the powder keg of Europe.
“We have zero problems with our neighbors,” he said. That includes Serbia, which used to be part of a single country with Montenegro in post-Soviet times until 2006. “We have a great economic relationship with Serbia. … The trade is very sizeable,” Spajić stressed.
“Montenegro can be some sort of honest broker, and it can help bridge the missing links with the different ethnic groups,” he added, vowing that his country can be “very, very, very productive” in “solving some of these issues that have been plaguing us for decades.”
Still, the EU has had reservations about Montenegro’s path — at least before Spajić’s new, centrist Europe Now! party won at the polls in October.
A report by the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee last year warned of the country’s “failure to build consensus on matters of national interest, and a lack of cross-party dialogue, which have delayed progress on EU-related reforms and plunged Montenegro into deep political and institutional crises.”
Noting that “rule of law was quite a challenge for us in the past,” Spajić highlighted his reforms and policies since coming to power, including by completing a national census — a sensitive ethnic issue in Montenegro — as well as filling the seats on the Judicial Council, an independent body responsible for appointing judges, after a 10-year hiatus.