Tuesday, 29 October 2019 08:42

President of Montenegro: We want to become a strong energy hub in the Balkans

Caspian Energy (CE): Your Excellency, which countries are strategic partners of Montenegro? Which big investment projects is Montenegro implementing together with the EU?
Milo Djukanovic, President of Montenegro: At the outset, allow me to thank you for the opportunity to share with your distinguished readers some basic facts about Montenegro. Montenegro is a small, but secure and politically stable country, with an open economy and a good geographical position. Our overall policy is focused on improving the quality of life of citizens and fast economic development. Significant investments, monetary stability, free capital flows, low taxes and rising competitiveness are the main reasons for the high rates of real GDP growth, which in the previous two years amounted to 4.7% and 4.9% respectively. In its latest report, credit rating agency Moody’s confirmed the rating “B1” for Montenegro, changing its outlook from “stable” to “positive”, while in the last report of the World Economic Forum - the Global Competitiveness Index 2017/18, Montenegro improved its position moving up 5 places compared to the previous report. The above facts, first of all, reflect the investors’ trust in the achieved economic progress and a clear economic perspective of Montenegro.
Foreign direct investments have been a very important impetus for the economic growth. Measured per capita and by the share of foreign direct investments in GDP, Montenegro is at the European top. In the period 2008-2018, we attracted over 7.5 billion euros of FDI. Almost 4 billion of this amount comes from the investors from the EU-28 countries. Italy and Austria are leading with 825 and 530 million euros respectively. All European countries (EU-28, Switzerland and Norway) have investments in Montenegro. However, in addition to investors from Europe, in recent years investments from the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and, of course, Azerbaijan are also very significant.
When it comes to concrete projects, with partners from Italy we are finalizing the installation of a submarine power cable that connects the two countries, allowing Montenegro to become the energy hub in the Balkans; we are about to finish the exploration of oil and gas in the part of the Adriatic Sea that belongs to Montenegro; we are completing the construction of the second wind farm and we are about to build the first solar power plant; we are building the first section of the highway; we are developing numerous projects in tourism; we are strengthening the banking and telecommunication sectors, etc.

CE: Which fields do you find priority in order to develop economic cooperation between Azerbaijan and Montenegro? What potential do you see for Azeri investors and vice versa?
Milo Djukanovic: Azerbaijan and Montenegro have very good friendly relations. Mutual respect, a clear vision of future cooperation, willingness to learn from each other and mutual political support provide a good basis for strengthening the economic cooperation that we have started with the project in the field of tourism. “Porto Novi” not only represents a modern tourist complex in the Bay of Kotor, which is under the protection of UNESCO, but has significantly raised standards that much developed tourist destinations look up to.  This project represents modern Azerbaijan in the best possible way.
I do believe that, in addition to tourism, there is a lot of room for new investments in the field of energy, industry and food production. It is important that we continue strengthening direct flight connectivity, which will not only facilitate the exchange of tourists, but will also contribute to a better connection between business communities. But, in addition to economic cooperation, we have significant cooperation in the field of education, culture, art and sports. These areas additionally strengthen our friendship and ensure better understanding among ordinary people. I believe that it is precisely the policy led by distinguished President Aliyev and me, as well as by the two Governments, that  allows everyone to benefit from the cooperation of our countries.

CE: To what extent are such transport projects as North-South and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars, initiated by Azerbaijan, attractive for Montenegro?
Milo Djukanovic: We are very pleased to see that Azerbaijan has such a clear vision. In today’s world it is very difficult, while in the future world it would be almost impossible, to go forward without being connected with the neighbours and strategic partners. New railway routes North-South and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars shorten the travel route, reduce costs and create conditions for a new economic momentum. Both projects are outstanding examples not only of a strong political will, but also of a determination, hard work and high technological standards that promote the achievements of Azerbaijan in the best possible way. We would like to see that the experience gained in the implementation of these projects is transferred to the Western Balkan region.

CE: What is the EU’s vision of Azerbaijan’s current and future role in the energy map of the continent? Which projects are of particular importance to Montenegro? 
Milo Djukanovic: I can tell you about Montenegrin vision. It is very clear. Being aware of the role of energy for future development, we want to become a strong energy hub in the Balkans. Our aim is to strengthen the position of Montenegro as a bond with Western Europe through neighbouring Italy and to provide better technological conditions for the export of electricity. We put particular focus on the development of renewable energy sources: water, wind and sun, and modernization of transmission capacities. Therefore, all projects that support this vision are important to us.

CE: Is Montenegro a member of the single economic market of the EU, and to what extent has Montenegro’s energy security been ensured?
Milo Djukanovic: Montenegro has made a significant progress in the negotiation process on its path towards the full EU membership. We opened 32 of 33 negotiating chapters and closed 3 chapters. We have, thus, become leaders among the Western Balkan countries. Political negotiations opened up space for Montenegro to become a part of the European single market, while visa-free regime with EU countries made it easier for business people from Montenegro to establish contacts with the partners from other countries in a faster way. All of this resulted in larger investments.
When it comes to energy security, Montenegro produces enough energy to meet  its own needs. Recent investments in this sector have created conditions for generation of additional amounts of electricity, while the connection with Italy creates technical prerequisites for export. Montenegro is highly interested in a project that would enable greater use of gas, especially in the industry, as well as for the construction of the first offshore gas power plant.

CE: Azerbaijan and Montenegro have been scaling up their tourist potential in recent years. In your opinion, which prospects do both countries have in the field of tourism?
Milo Djukanovic: As long as our two countries are committed to continuous raising of standards in tourism and hotel industry, we have good prospects. A rich history is behind us, and a clear vision of the future is ahead of us. All we have to do is make it come true. Knowledge, continuous improvement of skills, respect and appreciation of all people who come to our two countries as tourists are, certainly, essential. It is true that competition is stronger, but I see it as a challenge that we are up to. Therefore, with dedicated and committed work, new projects and investments, I believe that we have good prospects. I would also like to take this opportunity to invite the citizens of Azerbaijan to visit Montenegro and experience firsthand the natural beauty of our country, good food and newly built hotels and marinas. At the same time, I think that it is necessary to reinforce the promotion of tourism potentials of Azerbaijan on the source tourism market of Montenegro. Moreover, a permanent direct flight between our two countries would significantly improve tourist turnover.

CE: CASPIAN ENERGY international economic journal which reaches 70 countries of the world will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in May 2019. We would really like to hear Your Excellency’s congratulatory wishes to the journal.
Milo Djukanovic: Twenty years of dedicated work is, indeed, a very significant achievement. Therefore, I extend my sincere congratulations on your jubilee, with best wishes to continue, in the coming decades, to inform your readers clearly, objectively and professionally about all developments in the energy field, as well as about other topics of their interest. If any of such topics might be related to Montenegro, we would be pleased to join and give our contribution.

Thank you for the interview

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