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PM Marković on occasion of two years of Government: We started in most difficult year of our recent history; today, Montenegro is more stable than ever

PM Marković on occasion of two years of Government: We started in most difficult year of our recent history; today, Montenegro is more stable than ever
Published date: 28.11.2018 23:58 | Author: PR Service

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PR Service PR Service

Podgorica, Montenegro (28 November 2018) -- Prime Minister Duško Marković noted on the occasion of the second anniversary of the 41st Government of Montenegro that the Government started its mandate in an extremely challenging environment, in 2016 - the most challenging year for Montenegro in its recent history, but thanks to the dedicated work of the entire Government an excellent result has been achieved. Today Montenegro is a large construction site, it is more stable than ever and it has started accelerated economic development and improvement of the living standards, he added.

"The entire 2016 was the most challenging year for Montenegro, primarily in political and security terms. We had also challenging years in previous decades, but in that year we had the most brutal, most direct attack on the State, its institutions, its political system. It was the year in which the political will of the citizens of Montenegro was threatened to be changed in an undemocratic way in order to halt its European and Euro-Atlantic perspective. I would say that the ultimate goal was the loss and the disappearance of Montenegro as a state. At that very moment, the Government took over the mandate. You recall that the dissatisfied opposition that organised the boycott was on the streets, encouraging social and other dissatisfaction. The Government faced a serious challenge to ensure not only political but also security stability of the country, to enable its functioning. That was the political environment in which we started the mandate," Prime Minister Duško Marković said in an interview with national broadcaster TVCG on the occasion of the second anniversary of the Government’s work.

Recalling that in 2016 Montenegro was at the half of NATO's ratification process, with 24 open chapters in the process of European integration, facing international financial circles’ skepticism, the Prime Minister said that the Government managed to stabilise the public finance, boost the country’s economic position and, most importantly, to ensure economic growth, which is among the highest in Europe, which has led to the creation of a significant number of new jobs.

"These two years have been demanding, complex, risky, but I really do not want to be subjective, I want to say that the Government responded in a sustainable manner to these challenges. Today we can talk about Montenegro that is politically stable and secure, which has such an international reputation that it has never had before and, of course, excellent economic performance for the future," PM Marković stressed.

PR Service PR Service

NATO membership is greatest success since referendum

PM Marković, however, assessed Montenegro's accession to NATO as the greatest success of his government, saying he considers it to be the greatest achievement since the referendum that restored the independence of the country.

"There is no greater success for Montenegro in the last decade or in the last 12 years - since independence, than NATO accession. I would say that we have two key benefits from this process. Today, Montenegro is more stable than ever, although our stability is characteristic of the country in a very turbulent Balkan environment. Montenegro has always had the capacity to preserve this internal stability. However, today, our stability is much greater and of higher quality, and it is not only internal but regional, European, and, I would say transatlantic. At the same time, thanks to this stability, Montenegro has gained an unprecedented position on the international scene. Although being small, Montenegro can be a pretentious, global player. It sits around the same table with the most powerful countries of the world, not only in economic and military, but also in political terms. As a result, we have become a planetary known and there is great interest in investing in Montenegro's tourism, energy and agriculture. And for this reason we have experienced this kind of economic growth. The key benefits of NATO are stability, our international position and using of our potential for accelerated economic growth and higher living standards of citizens of Montenegro," the Prime Minister underlined.

The Prime Minister emphasised the fact that the country's membership in NATO has spurred investments from all over the world.

As to European integration of Montenegro, the Prime Minister noted that  the progress towards membership of the European Union goes in line with the dynamics that is realistic.

"We would like to be in the European Union tomorrow. But that is not realistic. We must earn this membership through the reforms that we have to implement in the country and which must be sustainable, the pace of which will not depend on elections or any political party. Our progress in these six years is impressive. Today, we have 31 chapters open, it is certain that in December we will open one of the most difficult chapters in the negotiation process, Chapter 27 - Environment, for which we have to allocate approx. one billion euros by 2035 in order to secure our living space to be sustainable and to beneficial to both development and quality of life of each individual. We have temporarily closed 3 chapters. At this point, we have already provided the internal readiness to close six chapters. We have even asked these days the European Commission to start drafting reports on the fulfillment of the provisional benchmarks in chapters 23 and 24, because we think that we have met these criteria and that we need to get the final benchmarks for these chapters so that in the years to come we can start more rapid closing of the chapters," said the Prime Minister.

When it comes to the situation in the region, the Prime Minister reiterated that there is no united and stable Europe without the Western Balkans. "But the Western Balkans needs to do much more than it has done to date," Prime Minister Marković said.

PR Service PR Service

In 2019 we will continue development, new jobs creation

Responding to questions from the economic sphere, the Prime Minister recalled the excellent results of the Government, saying that it managed to stabilise the public finance, to correct the economic position of the State and, most importantly, to ensure high economic growth.

"These two years have been demanding, complex, risky, but I really do not want to be subjective, I want to say that the Government and its team, the team I am managing, has responded to these challenges in a sustainable manner. Today we can talk about Montenegro that is politically stable and secure, which has such an international reputation that it has never had before and, of course, excellent economic performance for the future. Today, I think that Montenegro is more stable than ever, and I think that Montenegro has begun accelerated economic development and improvement of the living standards of its citizens and bringing these standards closer to the standards of the citizens of Europe," Prime Minister Duško Marković stated in an interview with Television of Montenegro.

Asked about the economic projections, especially about the budget's for the next year, Prime Minister Duško Marković said that he himself and his Government guarantee security, regularity of salaries and pensions, more money for education, health, and, of course, the development of the country.

"In 2019, I can certainly guarantee that the regularity of pensions, regularity of wages, regularity of social benefits will be provided. There will be no delays. So, I believe that, not only through the stabilisation and security of budgetary allocations, we will also create preconditions for the improvement of the position of employees, primarily in education and health, and, of course, pensioners. I believe that in 2019 we will further stabilise our public finance, create a surplus of revenues in order to invest more money in education, healthcare, and especially for pensioners in the end of 2019. They are in my focus, because it seems to me that this financial situation has most affected our elderly citizens. Another component of the budget is a development component. I want to tell you that our Capital Budget will amount to EUR 300 million. In 2017 it amounted to EUR 280 million, and in 2018 he will, I think, be at the level of EUR 290 million. And with what we are already doing through the Investment and Development Fund - we invested EUR 377 million in two years, and we should invest EUR 450 over four years - this implies that in 2019 Montenegro will be even bigger construction site than it was in 2018. Road infrastructure will be built, social infrastructure will be built - when I say social, I mean health facilities, kindergartens, schools. In parallel, we will be working on improving energy infrastructure, digital infrastructure. I believe Montenegro will be a construction site in 2019, which will enable its further accelerated development and significantly more jobs," the Prime Minister pointed out.

When asked whether there will be new crisis measures, the Prime Minister said:

"Absolutely no. The measures yielded results. I want to say that thanks to these results we gained confidence of the international financial market. In April, with our bonds, we entered the international financial market and received the cheapest offer ever. This is the result of the stability of our public finance and the corrected macroeconomic position. In 2019, the deadline for crisis tax expires, contributions to salaries will return to 9 %. At the same time, there will be no new increases in taxes and excise duties. We are even preparing amendments to the VAT Law, to make it more equitable, especially for citizens in the north, and some other measures related to greater financial discipline and greater inflow of money. All this suggests that there are no crisis measures and that we are entering a period of stability of public finance and greater opportunities for our citizens in terms of their standard," the Prime Minister stressed.

Prestigious ski resort on Bjelasica is emerging

In a conversation which took place at the location of the new Winter Centre Kolašin 1600, the Prime Minister recalled his firm decision that his Government will be in particular devoted to the development of the northern region of Montenegro.

"We are in a place where a new value is being created for the country, for its economy and for the citizens of Montenegro. This Government is focused on the development of the north in order to ensure a balanced development of the whole country, and in particular the valorisation of indisputable resources in the north. To date, we have invested EUR 13 million here. You had the chance to see a new 6-seater cableway, four kilometres of new tracks, this building in which we are located, and which will serve the citizens, guests and skiers, of course, to accommodate the necessary equipment. We will have 60 kilometres of ski slopes and this ski centre that will become competitive in the entire region," said the Prime Minister.

Strongly launched agriculture production, new investments through economic citizenship

The Prime Minister expressed his special satisfaction with the fact that Montenegro has launched strong agricultural production over the past two years.

"Agriculture is not our interest in strategic documents, but it is reality on the ground. I was particularly pleased with the fact that in the second quarter of 2018, we had an 8.8% growth in agriculture. We have not had such growth for a long time. In 2016, we had EUR 22 million in the Agrobudget, in 2017, when I took over the Government, this amount was increased to 32 million, in 2018, the Agrobudget amounts to about 40 million euros, in 2019 we will be close to EUR 50 million. This clearly indicates our commitment and our need. And what is particularly pleasing to me is that the agricultural producers have recognised this. We have a very agile and creative Minister of Agriculture Milutin Simović. Other ministers will not be angry, I will mention some of them later on. We have a very good service that is in daily contact with our agricultural producers or those who want to enter that business ... And every day we have more and more new agricultural producers. What is important: we have entered the process of valorisation of state land that is neglected. Over 310 hectares of agricultural state-owned land that was not exploited, which was abandoned, which was in the weed, was given to agricultural producers through concessions," the Prime Minister highlighted.

The Prime Minister said he is hopeful that additional sums of money will enter Montenegro on the basis of the applicants for citizenship by investment, which aims to further stimulate investments and their acceleration.

"I do not think that Montenegro has time to wait for some, let's say, better times but to use every opportunity for our economy to grow in line with the interests of our citizens. We do not want to keep our citizens at this level of standards that is now and which is unsatisfactory. This model will enable us to accelerate investment in the south and the north. In the south, because applicants will invest in hotels with five and more stars, and thus accelerate the development of our tourism economy. The funds that we will receive from applicants, or donations, we will use to set up a special fund for the development of less developed areas in the north. From this fund, we will finance the development of infrastructure in the north: road infrastructure, energy infrastructure, utility infrastructure, sites for solid waste disposal, waste water treatment. And it will, indeed, give the north a new momentum. I believe that it will create thousands of new jobs, well paid jobs. We have prevented every kind of abuse in the way that the programme is managed exclusively by the Government. No entity in this process has the power to make a decision, it only has the obligation to collect data and hand it over to the Government. The Government checks credibility through certain agencies, most likely two or three marketing agencies will find clients who are interested in investing in Montenegro based on citizenship. And we will have an agency, an international, licensed agency, which will conduct a security check of the client and, of course, we will engage an international auditing institution that will monitor the implementation of the entire project and each individual investment under this model. And in the end, the Government decides. So, we took responsibility, we defined a model based on the experiences of the other countries of the European Union, both good and bad ones. I believe that this model will be a new powerful development investment impulse for Montenegro. If by chance things are moving in the other direction, we will give it up. The only goal is success, the only goal is a new value. The most important goal is creating new and well-paid jobs," the Prime Minister said.

Good dynamics and quality of work on motorway construction

Prime Minister Duško Marković expressed satisfaction with the dynamics and quality of works on the priority section of the Bar – Boljare motorway.

"I can hear different opinions as well. Of course, when the project moves away and when you see its contours, then those who are worried about the deadlines and possibly the end of the construction, the challenges that accompany it, appear. But it is truly an investment that is greatest in our history, in a very difficult and demanding area. I am very pleased, not only with the dynamics of the works, but also the quality of these works. Our supervisory authority and our engineers involved in monitoring this project told me that the quality is at a very high level. We will definitely extend the completion of the first section in the spring of 2020. But I'm not worried about that. Of course, there have been problems with works on power and water supply and road connections. All these are the reasons. But, I am satisfied, I do not worry about complaints coming from critics and even of, of course, worried citizens," the Prime Minister explained.

Tara River

Asked to comment on the alleged threat to the Tara River posed by the motorway’s construction, Prime Minister Duško Marković said that such claims are not true, that Tara will be preserved and will remain on the UNESCO list and that the motorway will be constructed.

"I am familiar with these objections and I have to say that it is necessary that NGOs and every individual are careful about what is happening in this area. Comprehensive development of Montenegro must be provided in a sustainable way, which means not to threaten environment and not to leave the negative heritage to our generations. Therefore, I am always careful about such complaints and I ask my associates to check every information. But let's get back to the essence: It is s not true that Tara will be endangered. Tara will not be eliminated from UNESCO list. Here is why I think so: Because bridging the Tara River near Mateševo cannot endanger its canyon and cannot endanger the quality of the Tara River. These are construction works in the river bed that imply a certain type of devastation, but the corresponding projects foresaw the rehabilitation of that area after the completion of the project. So, the stories that it would endanger Tara, destroy its wildlife, are the stories told by those who do not know, let me put it that way. The Tara canyon is 145 km long, and only 80 km is under the protection of UNESCO. There are seven or eight bridges on the Tara River. All these bridges had to be built in such a way that they demanded intervention in the river bed. For 15 years, we have been fighting the Tara River, working on the rehabilitation of its riverbed in order to preserve the houses and estates in Donje Polje near Mojkovac. So, we will build this bridge. We will construct the motorway, speed up the arrival and movement of people throughout the whole territory of Montenegro, we will make their lives safe. And we will protect Tara and Tara will continue to be one of the most beautiful rivers in the world and its canyon the deepest one in the world after Colorado's. We are, therefore, okay with objections and warnings given to us, but we are not okay with imputation and gossips, and campaigning for Montenegro not to open Chapter 27. I cannot say that this is a benevolent campaign, but a campaign that should compromise both the project and this policy," the Prime Minister underscored.

PUBLIC RELATIONS SERVICE OF THE GOVERNMENT OF MONTENEGRO