The round table Perspective of the Armed Forces of Montenegro within NATO Structure was organized by the Atlantic Council of Montenegro in cooperation with NATO and the Council for NATO Membership’s Communication Team, with a view to gather relevant military and political actors, as well as experts from the country and abroad in order to discuss further steps of Montenegro and its Armed Forces, that are important for the NATO integration. A constructive discussion on the reform of the Armed Forces of Montenegro was held, and experiences of Montenegrin Army and other countries in NATO missions/operations were presented.
Apart from Dr. Kentera, the president of Atlantic Council of Montenegro, keynote speech delivered also by prof. Dr. Fabrizio Luciolli, the president of the Atlantic Treaty Association and H.E. Amb. Krisztian Posa, the ambassador of Hungary to Montenegro. Prof. Dr. Luciolli commended a great work of the Atlantic Council in the process of Euro-Atlantic integrations. He said Montenegro will play a key role within NATO, which not only is a military, but a very powerful political and security organization. Ambassador Posa emphasized the progress Montenegro has achieved in such short period of time, from the renewed independence, and pointed out the importance of the defense sector reform for the development of Armed Forces.
At the first panel entitled NATO Missions – Experiences of Montenegro and Other Countries speakers were major Igor Knežević, Commander of the 5th Contingent of the Armed Forces of Montenegro to ISAF mission, major Nataša Zorman, Deputy Contingent Commander of ISAF and KFOR, Slovenian Armed Forces and prof. Dr. Zoltán Szenes, former CHOD of Hungary. Panelists talked about experiences of their countries in NATO missions from different aspects. Major Knežević said the participation of the Armed Forces of Montenegro had not started after the renewed independence in 2006, but at the end of the 19th century. Speaking of missions in Afghanistan, major pointed out that the participation in such a mission was a great challenge for the Armed Forces comprising 2000 members, but they did not feel inferior, not even for a second. Major Zorman spoke about participation of female members of Armed Forces in military missions and about challenges they are coping with. She emphasized that the cultural aspect played the main role in relations towards women in Armed Forces, and that her experiences varied depending on the tradition of the country she served in. In addition, she spoke of the importance of raising awareness that women soldiers should not be seen through the gender prism, but through their experience and capabilities. Prof. Dr. Zoltan Szenes announced that harmonizing with NATO standards required great efforts, and that the NATO membership was not only about the Armed Forces, it was about the entire structure of the country. He concluded that a success in missions exclusively depended on each country individually.
Speakers at the second panel, Modernization of the Armed Forces of Montenegro – Investing in Future, were Admiral Dragan Samardžić, Chief of the General Staff, the Army of Montenegro and Ms. Dragana Kiprijanovska, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Macedonia. General Samardžić presented the general situation of the Armed Forces of Montenegro and stated that the very modernization did not imply investment in equipment solely, but in personnel, training and organization as well, including the good analysis of security risks in order to find optimal solutions for concept of the defense system. Responding to the question asked by a participant regarding the protection of airspace of Montenegro, Admiral pointed out that the protection of Montenegrin airspace is to be solved within the collective security system. Ms. Kiprijanovska said Europe has been confronting the most serious crisis since 1989, and that it was necessary to understand the complexity of modern challenges. She emphasized that Macedonia expectations from this year’s NATO Summit in Warsaw were to again raise the issue of the Alliance enlargement which will influence the enhancement of overall security in Europe.
At the last panel of the round table entitled Transformation and Reform of the Armed Forces of Montenegro – Future Steps, participants discussed the upcoming challenges of the Armed Forces of Montenegro as a NATO member. Colonel Tatjana Pečnik, Deputy Commander of the I Brigade of Slovenian Armed Forces, spoke about the experience of Slovenian Armed Forces in the transformation process and pointed out that it was impossible to consider all aspects and be prepared for everything. She emphasized Slovenian Armed Forces were more involved in peacekeeping missions, but they will be returning to their roots and their main task, i.e. defending their country. Talking about Croatian experience, Igor Tabak, military analyst, stated that Montenegro will have a lot to do after the accession and that it won’t be simple at all, having in mind it took Croatia three years to join operational activities. Representative of the Armed Forces of Montenegro, Colonel Rajko Pešić, Deputy Chief of the General Staff said that after the renewed independence Armed Forces faced problems, such as human capacities and the high average age of the Armed Forces members. However, the condition of Armed Forces has been improved and there is a tendency to reinvigorate the Armed Forces and to work on specific issues, such as knowledge of the English language.
Atlantic Council of Montenegro, within the round table, presented the poll entitled Citizens’ Attitude on Military Service in Montenegro. Taking into account the poll results, Atlantic Council of Montenegro from now on supports the introduction of voluntary military service for a period of minimum three months in order to raise young people’s awareness of fundamental moral and human values (including order, discipline, respect for state symbols and development of patriotism), which such experience offers. Also, young people would again have the opportunity to get trained for acting in state of emergency, and to find a job in security structures of Montenegro, after finishing the training, if they want to, of course. On the other hand, MOD and Armed Forces of Montenegro would create a high-quality base from which they could recruit people based on the assessments made during the training, not based on an interview, as it is the case now.
President of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, Dr. Savo Kentera, pointed out that it would be a great opportunity for creating necessary military backup, and a terrific chance for young people to find a job in the security structures.
The results have shown that 61% of respondents considered that the military service shouldn’t have been repealed (63% of men and 57% of women), 23% of respondents disagreed (22% of men and 25% of women), while 16% of them had no opinion (15% of men and 17% of women).
To the question if they would sign up for voluntary military service 55% of respondents answered positively (69% of men and 33% of women), 33% of respondents answered negatively (50% of women and 22% of men), while 12% of them had no opinion (8% of men and 17% of women).
Respondents gave their opinion on Montenegrin soldiers’ going in NATO operations, where we see that 39% of respondents have a positive attitude (44% of men and 32% of women), 36% have a negative attitude (35% of men and 37% of women), while 25% of respondents have no opinion on this matter (21% of men and 30% of women).
To the question if they would sign up voluntarily for going into NATO missions, 29% of respondents answered positively (38% of men and 16% of women), 56% answered negatively (48% of men and 67% of women), while 15% of them had no opinion (14% of men and 17% of women).