While the enlargement is unlikely to top the next-year NATO summit agenda, expectations are looming large among aspirant countries. The highest come from Montenegro, where not all are convinced their country should join the Alliance.

Montenegro’s NATO and EU integration ambitions have become an integral part of the country’s political landscape and a foreign policy priority. Outside the official diplomacy realm, Podgorica administration and non-governmental sector work closely with international think-tanks and partner NGOs to achieve that goal.

The country still needs to fulfil four sets of criteria in order to be considered for invitation. Out of those, sufficient level of public support is crucial. However, according to latest polls, Montenegro’s citizens are still not firmly decided about the Euro-Atlantic future of their country. On top of that, the NATO integration debate in the country is rarely based on solid facts and is driven mostly by emotions. That applies to both the ‘for’ and the ‘against’ side of the argument.

Working closely with the Montenegrin government, the Slovak Atlantic Commission (SAC) organised three expert discussions aimed at experts who will further work with citizens explaining benefits that would result from the NATO membership and busting the most common myths. Starting on Wednesday 11 December in Podgorica, Jaroslav Naď of the SAC’s think-tank Central European Policy Institute (CEPI) led discussions with employees of several ministries which deal with this agenda and representatives of political parties.

„In terms of Euro-Atlantic integration, political parties, irrespective of their orientation and agenda, must unite and pursue the national interest vital for their country’s future together,“ said Jaroslav Naď to the parties’ youth members on Thursday in Podgorica.

The last group addressed were members of the communication team responsible for the implementation of the latest communication strategy. Marek Mračka from MEMO98, a Slovak media-monitoring NGO, shared his experience and offered the team practical advice on how to conduct the dialogue with citizens in the farthest regions of Montenegro.

The SAC has been active in Montenegro with its project Montenegro on the Way to Euro-Atlantic Family since 2009. Organised within the SAC’s international Transfer of Know-How programme, the Montenegro project relied heavily on the so-called speaking tours directly addressing thousands of Montenegro’s citizens. The projects were implemented thanks to the financial support of SlovakAid.