The 21st century market knows no borders, and thus, Montenegro cannot stay on the fringes, without investing efforts in finding the most efficient response to changes that are happening on the global economic scene. It is enough of a challenge to do well in good circumstances, let alone bad ones. In the past year we were faced with the challenge of surviving in circumstances and an environment which were not stable or promising and which, unfortunately, still exist together with weaknesses and uncertainties. While the main powers in the European Union are deliberating on their, not only monetary, but every other future, other member states are forced to change governments and adopt the most unpopular measures in order to try to avoid financial and social collapse.
Previous efforts in this area have brought tangible results. Montenegro succeded not only in achieving economic stability, but even managed to improve its credit rating and remain within the zone of the Maastricht criteria, unlike most of the EU member states. The achieved stability gives us the right to claim that we have developed significant capacities that guarantee that we will overcome the challenges of the crisis successfully, and further strengthen those capacities. Overcoming the crisis in this way involves the contribution of all of us, respecting each other as partners who share a common goal.
We are aware of the fact that credibility takes a long time to develop, and that it can be lost very fast; for that reason, I believe that it is better to be cautious and conservative in giving promises, but also responsible and accurate in fulfilling them. This, of course, does not mean that there is a lack of enthusiasm and ambition, but rather that we wish to prove ourselves as a reliable partner internationally, which can be trusted with good reason.
We have demonstrated that we are learning fast, that we can quickly apply what we have learned, and not only that – Montenegro serves as an example from which a lot can be learned.
We were committed to the attainment of our national interests and creation of prerequisites for the economic prosperity of our country. On 9 December, with the decision of the European Council to open negotiations with the EU in June 2012, Montenegro took a large step forward in the integration process. This is a decision of historic importance for Montenegrin society and a confirmation of the efforts that the Government has invested, through a comprehensive, participatory approach, in order to meet the demanding requirements set by the European Commission. We continue the activities to efficiently implement the projected reforms, fully aware that even the best legislation and strategies cannot guarantee success, and now we have to define the negotiating structures and undertake other steps regarding careful preparations for the initiation of the negotiation process. This is the basis of our democratic and sustainable economic development, our internal needs, and not an instruction imposed externally.
The discussion regarding the 2012 Budget of the State of Montenegro is taking place at a time of numerous, complex challenges. Europe is changing right before our eyes, and the direction of the change is far from certain. Every day we witness changes, mostly negative ones regarding reputation, ranking and assessments of the situation in some of the until-recently very rich and stable economies. The biggest states in Europe, unfortunately, are faced with huge debt, while, to our satisfaction, data shows that we have mostly managed, so far, to avoid the negative consequences of the crisis and to ensure the stability of the Montenegrin economy. The challenge that remains is to improve the economic and social situation. The main characteristic of the macro-economic environment this year is the increase in economic activity, but also a high level of caution, due to a possible new recession in the Euro zone. It will take years for Europe to overcome the crisis, and this process cannot be realized through attractive measures, involving positive short-term effects, but negative long-term ones. This process requires solutions that are neither simple, nor can be adopted hastily. For that reason, the Government aims to have Montenegro among the most developed countries that will accept the market game, to strike a balance by responding to the crisis in a way that will not endanger long-term fiscal and financial stability, and to create an institutional framework and competitive economic system that will attract sound investment and increase employment. This mission requires systemic changes, sacrifice and understanding by all, without exception, and in the Government we are doing all that we can and all that is necessary to achieve that goal and improve the quality of life of all citizens in Montenegro.
The financial crisis is not over. In this respect, Europe is still suffering and will continue to suffer consequences. We planned the 2012 Budget precisely to protect ourselves, as far as possible, from external effects, while assisting the citizens at the same time, to manage all the impacts of the crisis until it ends. Look at the current situation in Europe: Great Britain is laying off half a million employees in the public sector. France made the decision to increase its revenues by EUR 18.6 billion through an increase in taxes and a reduction in expenditure, in order to finance its deficit. We have seen similar examples in this region, as well: it is very likely that in Bulgaria the trade unions will go on strike, while Romania is freezing wages and pension benefits; not to mention the Greek example.
Finally, it is important to know that this is only the beginning of the final stage on our road to Europe. This road is not easy, nor fast. The most difficult and the most complex work is yet to come.
The greatest burden of work and responsibility lies still with the Government. However, neither the Government, nor any other institution or individual can do the work on behalf of society overall. Thus, it is only if the participation and active approach of all factors in the society are ensured, if everyone does his/her part in the work that we can count on success.
Igor Lukšić, PhD
Prime Minister of Montenegro