Montenegro’s prospects of joining the European Union and illegal migration are expected to be on the table at Dusko Markovic’s first meeting as premier with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic will be hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday in Berlin, in his first official visit to Germany since he took the post in 2016, with Podgorica’s bid to join the EU expected to be discussed.
Although the government has not yet confirmed the programme of the visit, the two officials are also expected to discuss also how the tiny Adriatic country is tackling illegal migration after some EU member demanded the “closure” of the so-called ‘Balkan route’ for migrants and refugees.
In a brief press release, Markovic’s office said his visit to Germany will be an opportunity for an “exchange of views” with Merkel on bilateral relations and economic links between the two countries within the framework of the Berlin Process as well as the European integration of Montenegro.
The Berlin Process was initiated by Germany in 2014 to improve relations within the Balkan region and accelerate the EU integration of those states that are not yet members.
‘No border changes,’ says Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that “there will be no change in borders in the Western Balkans”.
A possible territory swap between Serbia and Kosovo has been discussed by Balkan and international media for the past two weeks, after the leaders of both countries admitted that “border corrections” were on the table.
Merkel said that changing borders cannot work, while also holding out the hope of EU membership for the countries in the region that are yet to join.
“The European perspective for all the countries of the Western Balkans still exists,” she said.
The visit comes after the German Chancellor took the Montenegrin side in a dispute with US President Donald Trump, who said the tiny Balkan country’s membership of NATO means Montenegro’s “very aggressive people” could start World War III because of the alliance’s mutual defence pact.
The interview was conducted after Trump met Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On July 20, Merkel said NATO’s collective defence clause applies to all members, not just big countries.
She added that Montenegro, a former Yugoslav republic, made great efforts to join NATO and added: “I am glad that Montenegro is a member.”
Markovic is the second Montenegrin premier ever to be invited to officially visit Berlin after the country gained independence in 2006.
Igor Luksic, Montenegro’s prime minister from 2010-2012, was invited to meet Merkel in Berlin just a month after his cabinet was approved by the Montenegrin parliament.
But Montenegro’s veteran leader Milo Djukanovic, seven times prime minister currently serving his second term as the country’s president, has never been invited to meet Merkel in Berlin, nor has she visited Montenegro.
Critics of the government said Merkel's apparent reluctance to meet Djukanovic in Berlin showed Germany was not satisfied with the state of democracy and the rule of law in Montenegro.
In May 2015, then Prime Minister Djukanovic visited Berlin and local pro-government media claimed it was on the invitation of Merkel, but the two leaders did not meet.
He was a guest of the Bundestag Committee for European Affairs and only met German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.