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On February 27, 2018, Predrag Boškovic, the Minister of Defence of Montenegro, spoke at The Institute of World Politics about current affairs and security issues in Southeastern Europe.
Dr. John Lenczowski, IWP Founder and President, began the lecture by introducing Ambassador Miomir Zuzul of Croatia. Ambassador Zuzul served as the former Croatian Ambassador to the United States and former Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Ambassador Zuzul currently works in government consulting in Washington D.C.
Ambassador Zuzul talked about how Dr. Lenczowski helped connect people from the former Soviet Union to the American halls of power. He also applauded the focus that many IWP students have in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Ambassador Zuzul discussed how Croatia and Montenegro worked to get past their differences because they are both a part of former Yugoslavia. He also stated that they have become good neighbors and excellent partners in the region. Ambassador Zuzul emphasized the key role that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) plays in the region by providing stability and security that then allows for economic growth and development. He also touched upon the Three Seas Initiative, a regional project to increase cooperation and work together. Ambassador Zuzul pointed out that the United States is involved and that it is key that the U.S. stays invested in the region. Finally, Ambassador Zuzul introduced Predrag Boškovic, the Minister of Defence of Montenegro, who Ambassador Zuzul joked was a walking government after holding seven different cabinet-level positions in Montenegro.
Minister Boškovic began by explaining that he lived in four different countries in the last 25 years without changing his city, testimony to the historical tumult in the region. Minister Boškovic explained which countries made up the region known as the Western Balkans: Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Slovenia, and Macedonia. Albania is the only one of these countries that were not an ex-Yugoslav country and all of the countries had been part of the now defunct Soviet Union. He also stated that Montenegro is the smallest country in the region and was to be the poorest in the former Yugoslavia.
Minister Boskovic emphasized the importance of NATO and discussed how Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, and Albania are members while Macedonia and Kosovo want to join. He also pointed out that Serbia wants to join the European Union (EU) but not NATO while Bosnia and Herzegovina are split. This makes establishing foreign policy priorities and goals for the region difficult.
Minister Boškovic then turned to the issue of how global political players affect the region. He explained how Russia was trying to affect the nations and how Russia even authorized a plot to assassinate former Montenegro Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic in December 2016. He stated that Russia will keep trying and will not stop. Thus, it is imperative that the Balkan countries provide a united stand against Russian influence and action. As part of this, a strong U.S. and NATO presence are needed to create the conditions of peace and stability for this cooperation.
Minister Boškovic concluded by saying that if Montenegro could undertake tough reforms, so could the other West Balkan countries. He stated that Montenegro is working to help its neighbors join NATO and the EU in an effort to support the region. If this effort succeeds the future of the Balkans if bright.
Predrag Bošković, MSc, Minister of Defence of Montenegro was born in Pljevlja (Montenegro) on March 12, 1972. He finished primary and secondary school in Podgorica. He graduated from the Faculty of Economics, the University of Montenegro, in 1996. He received his MA in Econometrics and Politics from the Faculty of Economics in Belgrade in 1999. He published numerous research papers and publications and participated in the implementation of major development projects in Montenegro. He started his professional career as a Teaching Assistant at the Faculty of Economics in 1996. Throughout his career, he held senior positions, including being a member of the Parliament of Montenegro and serving as the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia and Montenegro, Minister of Economy, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Minister of Education in the Government of Montenegro and the President of the Board of Directors of the Coal Mine in Pljevlja. He was part of IVP (international visitor program) in USA in 2003.