Greece and Montenegro will become essential partners this decade
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at a recent meeting with his Montenegrin counterpart Zdravko Krivokapić in Athens expressed Greece’s unequivocal support for the European accession process of the Western Balkan countries.
This is just one of many signs that Greece and Montenegro are poised to have an important strategic partnership over the next decade.
Greece, the backbone of European and economic integration
Montenegro, seated in the Western Balkans, is destined for European integration.
In this case, just as with the 2004 EU enlargement, Greece can and will play a vital role in helping and ensuring this smooth expansion.
We must bear in mind the work done by Greece for the integration of Bulgaria, Romania or Cyprus.
Having a historic role, Greece connects both the countries of Western Europe (since it has been part of the EU for more than four decades now) and the countries of Eastern Europe / the Balkans, with which it maintains cultural and other links.
What makes Montenegro special is that, unlike other Balkan countries, it is not economically dominated by another EU country (Albania by Italy; North Macedonia by Germany).
This should be a critical fact for Greece as it deepens ties with Montenegro, as the country itself could play a leading role.
In 2012, Greece was Montenegro’s third importing partner, just behind Hungary and neighboring Serbia.
This shows that there are already strong economic relations.
Montenegro is a country of about more than half a million inhabitants and a GDP of around five billion.
Greek investment should therefore be a top priority, both in key sectors and in expanding markets, as has already happened in much of the post-Communist Balkans.
Greece was one of the first countries besides Italy to establish mass tourism and to date this is one of the main factors in the Greek economy (some argue correctly that the Greek economy is too dependent on it).
Montenegro also shares a beautiful Adriatic coastline and is currently advancing tourism and infrastructure.
With ten years of long experience in this field, Greece can easily navigate and help Montenegro’s tourism industry to develop and prosper.
Expanding historical ties for cultural and military cooperation
On March 25 of this year, on the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution, Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović congratulated the Hellenic Republic for this achievement and underlined the historic ties between the two countries.
His speech made it clear that the relationship between Greece and Montenegro goes far beyond simple economic or modern integration.
In fact, the history of the two countries has been closely linked for many centuries, ranging from a shared Orthodox Christian heritage to a common struggle against the Ottoman occupation.
A famous Greek revolutionary of 1821 was Vasos Mavrovouniotis (Greek: Βάσος Μαυροβουνιώτης, or “Vasos the Montenegrin”) who fought courageously in this common struggle.
One of the most committed and fierce fighters, he was born in Montenegro as Vaso Brajevic and, through an ancient Balkan ritual, was awarded the Brotherhood of Blood (“Vlami”) along with many other warriors. Greeks such as Nikolaos Kriezotis.
Later, during the Balkan Wars of 1912, the two countries found themselves on the same side, forming an alliance with Bulgaria and Serbia aimed, successfully, at liberating much of the Balkans occupied by the Ottomans.
As I said, these are just a few examples of the legacy of the two nations and a big reason why future cooperation will not be just economic.
Earlier in April, Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos met with Montenegrin Foreign Minister Đorđe Radulović where they discussed bilateral cooperation issues, NATO and recent developments in the wider region.
Deputy Defense Minister Alkiviadis Stefanis and Hellenic National Defense Chief of Staff General Konstantinos Floros were also present at the meeting.
Geopolitically, Greece and Montenegro share very similar goals and should therefore work together for respective strategic interests.
One such example could be a common policy aimed at containing all possible plans for “Greater Albania”.
The nationalist and irredentist concept of “Greater Albania” has in many ways been the state doctrine of the Albanian nation and is by definition hostile to Montenegro and Greece as it encompasses a considerable part of both countries.
Military cooperation between countries should, for example, serve to stop such developments and encroachments.
More generally, however, a mutual strategy linking the Adriatic to the Ionian Sea can be achieved.
The 2020s are still in their infancy; however, all indications point to a bright and shared future for Greece and Montenegro.
If the correct measures are taken, we can witness a joint flourishing and cooperation at different levels of the economy, integration, military and culture.