Serbia will have presidential elections before the summer and Norway will have parliamentary elections in September. Montenegro has a new government and Macedonia is in the process of getting a new one. We will all be affected by the new US administration as well as the elections in our European partners Germany and France.
Our friendship however remains regardless of governments and elections. It is deeply rooted in our societies. Government policies have an impact on our relationship and there have been "highs" and "lows", but we are currently enjoying a "high" with increasing trade, cultural exchange and cooperation. My ambition is to work hard to reach even higher.
Norway will continue to contribute to economic and social development in Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro as well as stability in the region. Our support Serbia joining EU, and both Montenegro and Macedonia joining NATO as well as EU is the most effective way Norway can help the peoples of the three countries to political stability and higher living standards.
We all belong to the European family of nations, being proud of our common heritage and values as well as our national particularities. By being part of the Internal Market, the Schengen area and NATO, Norway is an integral part of European cooperation without ambitions to join the EU. Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are because of different economic circumstances and policy choices still not fully partners in neither European nor Euro-Atlantic cooperation. Montenegro is soon a NATO ally and well on its way to EU membership despite violent efforts to derail the processes. Whoever planned or supported the failed coup in October is no friends of Europe, liberty or democracy. Macedonia has fallen a bit behind Montenegro, but if a government is formed, the opposition accepts the principle of democracy and the necessary reforms are undertaken, Macedonia will be back on track. For both EU and NATO membership. Serbia will probably see a number of new chapters opened this year and should be able to move with good speed towards EU membership if it continue the necessary reforms and harmonise its foreign and security policy with the EU member states. European as well as Euro-Atlantic cooperation is fundamentally solidarity based on shared values. It shouldn't be easy to join, but if the right policy choices are made Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia will soon be fully integrated into the European family of nations.
Norway will be there to give support on the way. Not only because we believe it is our national interest, but by solidarity and a deeply felt friendship.
Arne Sannes Bjørnstad