Congratulations to Montenegro, our friend, partner, and ally, on the second anniversary of your membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
NATO is the most successful alliance of all time. Over the past 70 years, NATO has helped to create the most secure, stable, and prosperous period in its members’ history. From deterring the Cold War threats in the last century to countering the hybrid threats that confront us today, NATO Allies stand shoulder-to-shoulder in protecting our people.
NATO’s strength is in its unity and in staying true to its founding principles. Our commitment to the collective defense of all NATO member states is unwavering, and, on behalf of the people of the United States, I want to thank the brave men and women of Montenegro for their service in NATO’s peacekeeping missions abroad. Your soldiers are renowned for their professionalism, and they should make you proud. Montenegro reminds us that NATO has no small allies – only strong ones.
NATO is an alliance of nations that have banded together because, in the words of the NATO charter, “they are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.” Let us never forget that, in joining NATO, Montenegro pledged itself to uphold these values and to strengthen the foundation that supports them.
Already Montenegro is witnessing the concrete benefits of NATO membership in terms of strengthened security, growing tourism, and increased investor interest. For example, the total amount of foreign direct investment in Montenegro from NATO member countries was €402 million in 2018, an impressive 64 percent increase from 2017, according to the Central Bank of Montenegro. Similarly, MONSTAT data shows a 20 percent increase from 2017 to 2018 in the number of overnight stays by tourists from NATO member states.
These are encouraging signs, and I believe this trend will continue as Montenegro reinforces the rule of law and expands economic opportunities for all of its citizens. The Montenegrin market is already attractive to American investors, who currently finance various projects here in the tourism and energy sectors. One of my top priorities is to expand this existing trade and investment by facilitating new economic partnerships between our countries.
As an ally, the United States will continue to support Montenegro on its path toward integrating with the transatlantic family of nations. Membership in the European Union is the next goal in sight, and we will continue to assist the people of Montenegro in implementing the necessary reforms.
During his visit to Montenegro in 2017, Vice President Mike Pence said, “The future of the Western Balkans is in the West.” Two years since joining NATO, Montenegro is leading the charge among its neighbors in advancing this vision. Your contributions to the security of this region deserve the recognition and respect of all NATO allies.
Congratulations again, Montenegro! We are proud to call you an ally, and I look forward to our continued partnership with all the citizens of this beautiful country.