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Hollande Statement On Halting NATO Enlargement Under Scrutiny

  • RFE/RL's Balkan Service
  • RFE/RL's Georgian Service

A statement by French President Francois Hollande about temporarily halting NATO enlargement process is being reviewed in Montenegro and Georgia.

Hollande said after his meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Paris on March 2 that "France's position for the moment is to refuse any new membership."

Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic told reporters on March 4 that in his opinion, Hollande's statement was likely influenced by current efforts to resolve the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and concerns about antagonizing Russia, which has been critical of NATO expansion plans.

Djukanovic added that the Montenegrin government will ask Paris for clarifications of the Hollande's statement.

The NATO coordinator at the Montenegrin Foreign Ministry, Vesko Garcevic, told journalists on March 4 that his team had "carefully analyzed" the original transcript of Hollande's statement, and concluded that the statement "was given during a segment of the talks which focused on the European crisis" and therefore cannot be considered as a change in NATO's policies regarding new members.

The secretary of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, Savo Kentera, told RFE/RL on March 4 that he could "accept that one of the 28 member states may be blocking our membership bid, until we meet certain conditions."

"This is uncontroversial, and perfectly legitimate. But if the key reason is to avoid offending Russia, at this moment, I cannot accept that as a reason," Kentera said.

Meanwhile, a representative of Montenegro's New Serbian Democracy Party, Slaven Radunovic, told RFE/RL that Hollande's statement was "good news" for Montenegro, adding that "it removes from discussion an issue on which the citizens of Montenegro do not agree with their government."

The majority of ethnic Serbs in Montenegro, who make almost 29 percent of the country's population of 650,000, oppose the government’s aspirations to join NATO.

In Georgia, which has also been working on closer ties and integration into EU and NATO structures, Hollande's statement has been discussed by the media as well.

Answering a journalist's question regarding Hollande's remarks, U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Richard Norland said in Tbilisi on March 4: "I am not going to comment specifically on the statement by the leader of a NATO country. I think the important thing is for Georgia to do everything it can to enhance its qualifications for NATO membership."