America is helping Montenegro’s democracy mature – Washington Examiner

Posted By on August 2, 2017

This week, Vice President Mike Pence is visiting Montenegro. His historic visit signals a new chapter not only in bilateral relations, but also strengthen the overall trans-Atlantic alliance.

Most importantly, the visit will celebrate just how far the Montenegrin economy has come due in large part to quiet American leadership and a growing Montenegrin commitment to Western values.

When 97 senators voted on March 28 to add Montenegro to NATO, a clear message was sent across the Atlantic. Senators made clear to this young multiparty parliamentary democracy, no bigger than a congressional district, that its years of painstaking judicial, economic, and military reforms were worth it.

NATO is a military alliance. Much has been written about the Montenegrin military and the overall future of NATO. Sen. Marco Rubio alluded to the forgotten benefit of NATO enlargement in a floor speech before the vote, saying the "alliance helps advance our economic interests." The vote, CODELs beforehand and, most certainly the VP's trip all advance American economic interests.

Indeed, the Preamble of the NATO Treaty articulates that the alliance was "founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law." Furthermore, Article 2 makes clear that members "will seek to eliminate conflict in their international economic policies and will encourage economic collaboration." These NATO precepts are American values and have helped transform the American economy following World War II.

According to the Heritage Foundation's 2017 Index of Economic Freedom, Montenegro ranks significantly ahead of its neighbors, Croatia and Serbia. Indeed, the journey to NATO has fostered a commitment to free market and capitalist economic principles. In just 11 years of independence and only 25 years after the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia, Montenegrin officials have discovered the ingredients to a dynamic economy. These are a robust private sector engaged in international trade with a defined, but not burdensome, regulatory and legal framework. This is what Pence has championed throughout his entire career. The vice president will find a country that appreciates the importance of a strong private sector economy.

Visitors from Washington matter. In November 2014, perhaps not coincidentally one month after the visit of Sen. Chris Murphy, the Montenegrin Parliament passed legislation to reform the judicial sector, including the establishment of a special prosecutor's office for organized crime and an anti-corruption agency.

Currently, the Montenegrin government has welcomed investors from 107 different countries. The high point of foreign direct investment, 2009, included over $1.2 billion of capital coming into this country of less than 650,000 residents. Last year, Norway remained the largest investor in private sector projects with $189M. American companies invested $5.6M in the economy in 2016.

Surely, Pence's trip will prompt additional American investment and tourist visits.

The words of Prime Minister Dusko Markovic during his June visit to Washington ring true in the days leading up to the vice president's trip, "This is a small day for the United States and its allies, but a great day for Montenegro." It was American leadership which ended two ethnic wars in the region. It will be continued American government leadership and fostering of American values which will continue this positive momentum.

In 1979, my family fled the brutality of Soviet Communism to celebrate our Jewish faith and embrace the freedoms of America. America has only grown stronger since the height of the Cold War by embracing the freedoms articulated by our Founding Fathers and the principles outlined by NATO.

So too, can Montenegro grow stronger, as it aligns with America and shuns a past defined by despotism and government bureaucracy.

Neil Emilfarb, a native of West Hartford, Connecticut, has lived and worked in Montenegro since 2006. He is CEO of Stratex Group which has developed and managed properties throughout Montenegro.

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America is helping Montenegro's democracy mature - Washington Examiner

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