The President of Montenegro, JakovMilatović, inaugurated at the dawn of Independence Day, believes his presidential performance willbe rewarded by a democratic, wealthy and European Montenegro. In his interview for Diplomacy&Commerce, the President, economist by vocation, emphasizes that in the forthcoming period we need to work more attentively towards creation of a sustainable economic model, with an emphasis on implementation of capital infrastructure projects and aim to ensure new and higher-paying jobs. Speaking of appointment of ambassadors, as the power conferred on him, Milatović points out that as they are meant to personify our country abroad, diplomatic agents of Montenegro must be the very best this country has to offer. He serves as an example of how knowledge and hard work always pay off, thus urging that these values need to find their way back to our system and act as core success factors.
- At the dawn of Independence Day, at the solemn inauguration ceremony held at the Parliament of Montenegro you became the President of the State. Your narrative from that position echoes in cosmopolitanism. Your thoughtful rhetoric makes you stand out on the public stage. Will your actions speak the same?
On the inauguration day I conveyed a message to the public that already on the first day of assuming the position of president I would be thinking about the last day of my term of office and expressed a hope for ensuring a democratic, wealthy and European Montenegro. All my actions since that moment up to date have proved these were not empty words but rather a genuine will for our country to change for the better. I made a promise to the citizens that I would be a “president of all”, never to divide them into those who voted for me and those of different opinions and regardless of their political, national, religious or any other affiliation. As a man of principle, I intend to remain steadfast in this commitment and I firmly believe that my actions already speak and will continue to speak of my good faith.
- Where do you see Montenegro in 2028 with a view to the public opinion polls that showed a record-setting support to the accession to the European Union of 76%? Can this eager wish of the Montenegrin citizens be considered as a guiding light and a path to be followed by every institution in the country with the Head of the State at the helm? In making promises to the citizens, public officials called for Monaco, Sen Trope and the likes as a benchmark. What about you?
Let me remind you that the destination of my first official visit as a newly elected president was Brussels, featuring meetings with the highest-ranked officials of the European Union, as an indicator that Montenegro’s EU membership and acceleration of reforms towards this goal represent our foreign policy priority. In 2028 I see Montenegro as a 28th member country of the European Union, a prosperous country offering a better standard of living, the rule of love and the place the young people want to feel part of. Over the past few days, at various meetings with the European and regional officials, I have been strongly advocating the idea that the European Union needs a success story of enlargement and that it is Montenegro that can and should become such a story.
- Never before has your educational background and professional integrity been imminent to the officials, not only regionally but far beyond. Do you think the fact that yourself being an Oxford-educated student who has pursued career throughout Europe instills hope in your fellow countrymen that having roots in Podgorica, Rozaje, Kotor, Zabljak, Cetinje, Herceg Novi…cannot prevent them from making brilliant achievements anywhere across the globe?
My professional biography and upskilling in the countries of Western Europe and America stemmed from a desire of a young economist from Montenegro to prove that knowledge and hard work always pay off and we need to claim back these values to our system to act as core success factors. Unfortunately, over the past decades, far too many with creditworthy biographies were not given a chance to prove themselves. Nevertheless, I believe those days are over and it is the recent political changes in Montenegro that have sent such practice into the past. As a president of Montenegro I shall endeavor to promote young, successful and educated persons from all over our country, thus encouraging the others as well to dare to take action and follow their dreams.
- Do you consider yourself an exception or rather personification and spearhead of a whole generation of experts originating from Montenegro, contributing to the most diversified fields, yet currently fostering progress and accelerated development of some other countries, because of certain chain of events they could not flourish on their own soil? Do you have a plan how to not only stop but reverse the brain drain and lure back at least some of the expats?
I am this person who decided to leave Montenegro in the pursuit of knowledge and experience that I now want to apply so as to make my own country a better place for living. One of the questions I am often asked is how to motivate our youth to remain in or return to the home country. The answer is quite simple. We have to restore their trust in the system that is, as I have already mentioned, based on education and hard work, create employment opportunities and an environment that will offer proper compensation for their work. This very complex issue calls for engagement of all governmental institutions and us as a society in general and I believe the time has come to address this matter with due consideration.
- The President has power by the Constitution to appoint and revoke ambassadors and heads of other diplomatic missions of Montenegro abroad, at the proposal of the Government and subject to the opinion of the Parliamentary Committee responsible for international relations. What is your opinion of the current diplomatic network of Montenegro and how long it will take until it becomes fully functional? How would you describe to the public your notion of an eligible figure for the position of a Montenegrin ambassador?
Once the new Parliament is established, followed by forming of the Government, the appointment of ambassadors instead of diplomatic agents of the chargé d’affaires rank currently representing the country in various important missions abroad and consequently the enhanced efficiency of the diplomatic network is considered as the matter of paramount importance for a proper representation of Montenegro worldwide. Moreover, in recent times our diplomacy has often served as a reference to the posts filled in by exhausted patronage appointments instead of professionals, thus holding us back from delivering the result needed to step forward. Meant to personify our country abroad, the ambassadors of Montenegro must be the very best this country has to offer and this will be my only guiding principle in appointing the ambassadors.
- You are in the public spotlight, both nationally and internationally. Foreign diplomats in and their home countries scrutinize all your public appearances. From the view of an economist, what would be the way forward for the economy of Montenegro? What is the present outlook and what should be a tax policy strategy especially in relation to the foreign investments? Notwithstanding this topic is beyond direct authority of the President of Montenegro, it is reasonable to expect you will knowingly suggest public policies in this area to the future government as well.
From the view of an economist, I think in the forthcoming period we need to work more attentively towards creation of a sustainable economic model, with emphasis on implementation of capital infrastructure projects and aim to ensure new and higher-paying jobs. When it comes to my international activities, I intend to direct particular attention to the economic promotion of Montenegro as an attractive and investment conducive environment. I am confident we can purposefully unlock the untapped potential of different kinds and attract investments in the areas of IT, tourism, agriculture, energy and many others. As regards tax policy, the scope of economic reforms, including the Europe Nvowprogramme, we have irreversibly reconfigured the overall social environment and in turn significantly elevated the standard of living. It is up to us to continue creating an attractive and competitive business environment that will attract foreign investments, thus facilitating the enhanced economic environment of our country.
- In your public appearances you speak of your family with pride and affection and emphasize the need for full respect of differing opinions under one roof. Will you make yourself available to the holders of executive power in their mission to enable a full-capacity functioning of the institutions of the system, while applying the same guiding principles that you adhere to in your personal and professional endeavors?
Well-functioning institutional structures of Montenegro, especially in the area of the rule of law, certainly counts among the most important reform challenges of our country. In this light, the tasks ahead of us are neither short-term nor easy.
Fixing internal divisions, building strong and independent institutions, affirmation of human rights, impartial administration of justice, equality of opportunity in society will all require a focused attention of both decision-makers and those responsible for implementation of the decisions. In this context, my role as the president is clear – to maintain active policy, launch dialogues with all social stakeholders, keep the focus affixed to the priorities of the country, support the efforts of the Parliament and the Government and act as a correction and cohesion factor in the reform processes.
To this end, I have already initiated discussions with the representatives of political parties that participated in the parliamentary elections concerning the judicial appointments which, in my opinion, is the first and the most important step if to give momentum to the EU negotiations and ensure for the country to obtain a clear roadmap for accession to the EU during my five-year term of office.