Diplomacy & Commerce Montenegro #3

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MONTENEGRO

EVENTS

ACT NOW FOR A SUSTAINABLE TOMORROW

ESG ADRIA SUMMIT 2024 FROM APRIL 24TH TO 26TH

MONTENEGRO AT THE TOURISM FAIR IN NEW YORK, BELGRADE AND BERLIN

ITALY HAS ALWAYS STRONGLY SUPPORTED THE EU

ENLARGEMENT POLICY IN THE WESTERN BALKANS

H.E. ANDREINA MARCELLA

MĂRȚIȘOR - OLD TRADITION

CELEBRATED ALL OVER ROMANIA EVERY YEAR ON MARCH 1ST

KALAČ: BETWEEN WORDS AND CLICKS

9772466380002

DEMOCRACY IS OF FEMININE GENDER

ALEKSA BEČIĆ

Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro

EXHIBITION OF ERRO OPENED AT PETROVIĆ PALACE AND PERJANIČKI DOM

VLAOVIĆ: "ERRO'S EXHIBITION HAS A DUAL SYMBOLISM FOR ME"

MARTINOVIĆ: MORE THAN € 30 MILLION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION PROJECTS

ISSUE 3 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2024

Contributors: Sandra Nikolić

Miloš Dragaš Robert Čoban Žikica Milošević Print BIROGRAF COMP D.O.O.

Atanasija Pulje 22

Zemun

Republika Srbija

Dear readers,

At the outset of the third issue of our magazine "Diplomacy & Commerce Montenegro", I am pleased to welcome you on behalf of the Editorial Board and personally. As the new Editor-in-Chief, I proudly assume the leadership of the Magazine, which you are holding in your hands or reading on your screen. The goal remains the same – to continue with dedication in our genuine exploration, analysis, and promotion of the most important topics from the world of diplomacy and business in Montenegro.

In this issue, we continue our mission to be an indispensable source of information, inspiration and analysis for you, our

readers. We present you with a diverse and informative content that will inform you about the latest trends, events, and initiatives shaping the diplomatic and business scene in Montenegro. Additionally, this issue brings exclusive interviews with leading figures from the world of diplomacy and business, in-depth analysis of the most important challenges we face, as well as inspiring stories of success and innovations shaping our society's everyday life.

Through the work of the entire team of our Editorial Office, we strive to stimulate dialogue, exchange of ideas, and building connections to contribute to the strengthening of our diplomat-

ic and business sector, both in Montenegro and beyond.

As Victor Hugo, the great French writer, wrote once: “What drives and leads the world are not locomotives, but ideas!” Therefore, we hope that this issue of our magazine will provide you with useful insights, inspire new ideas, and encourage you to continue on the path towards achieving your goals.

With respect,

3 Payment Instructions: www.diplomacyandcommerce.rs/subscription Call us or send us request on: e-mail: pretplata-dc@color.rs Phone: +381 11 4044 960 IN PRINT AND ONLINE SUBSCRIBE NOW! ONLY 34 € PER YEAR CIP – Katalogizacija u publikaciji Nacionalne biblioteke Crne Gore, Cetinje ISSN 2989 – 2481 = Diplomacy and Commerce Montenegro (Print) COBIS.CG-ID 26760708 International Copyright 2016-2023 Color Media Communications, Novi Sad, Serbia Copyright for Montenegro: 2023 The Media doo, Podgorica, Montenegro Published by: The media d.o.o. 81100 Podgorica, Montenegro Karađorđeva 18 VAT: 03542041 Reg. No: 51128768 Office: Karađorđeva 18 81100 Podgorica Phone: + 382 69 220 275 DARKO ŠĆEPANOVIĆ Editor-in-Chief darko.scepanovic96@gmail.com SANDRA NIKOLIĆ Journalist journalist@diplomacyandcommerce.me MILOŠ DRAGAŠ Advertising Director dragasm@themedia.capital Design and prepress ZORAN DRAGIĆ zoran.dragic@color.rs
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FOLLOW US TO STAY UPDATED FOREWORD
Editor-in-chief, Darko Šćepanović

The first congress of women of democratic Montenegro

Aleksa Bečić: Democracy is of Feminine Gender

The first Congress of Women of Democratic Montenegro was held in the crowded hall of the Hilton Hotel in Podgorica under the slogan "Democracy is of Feminine Gender." At the congress, which gathered over 500 female delegates and guests, Dr. Valentina Minić was elected as the President of the Women's Forum.

President of Democratic Montenegro, Aleksa Bečić, highlighted the party's ten-year struggle through various challenges and emphasized support for women in politics. He particularly emphasized the challenging position of women in Montenegro's political scene and his successful cooperation with them.

Bečić also highlighted a significant change in Montenegro's political scene regarding the representation of women in key positions in the state apparatus.

Dr. Valentina Minić, the elected President of the Democratic Women's Forum, emphasized the importance of love, empathy, freedom, and solidarity in the women's movement. She stressed the need for every woman's voice to be heard and valued.

Jovana Duković, International Republican Institute (IRI) representative, recently expressed her satisfaction with the level of cooperation with the Democratic party. She emphasized the program's importance in strengthening the political skills of women and young leaders.

The importance of women's active participation in politics and support for their rights in a society that fights against injustice and discrimination was emphasized during the congress.

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PEOPLE & EVENTS
CONGRESS OF WOMEN OF DEMOCRATIC MONTENEGRO Hotel Hilton, Podgorica

Connecting towards a sustainable future: ESG Adria Summit propels regional projects

Act Now for a Sustainable Tomorrow: ESG Adria Summit 2024 from April 24th to 26th

The second annual ESG Adria Summit brings together regional business leaders, political officials, and specialists to discuss the growing importance of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) issues. This Summit is organised by Sustineri Partners, the top sustainability agency in the region. It will serve as a key platform for supporting sustainable development in the Adria region through innovation, dialogue, and activities.

Biljana Braithwaite, CEO, Sustineri Partners, founder of ESG Adria Summit for Diplomacy & Commerce Montenegro Magazine

The adoption of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards is increasingly crucial for the Adria region and has a significant impact on enterprises’ operations. How prevalent is the awareness of ESG in our region in comparison to the member states of the European Union, and how important is for companies to embrace these standards?

In recent years, there has been a notable rise in environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing. Incorporating ESG principles into business strategies has become essential for all companies and a key factor in establishing longterm sustainable business success. European regulations have been in effect in the countries of the European Union for quite some time. Now, these regulations are becoming a reality in our region as well. This is particularly important for companies in our region that are part of international groups or involved in the supply chain and global markets. For instance, all prominent banks in our country, to varying degrees, incorporate ESG standards and provide loans that adhere to those standards, as they are obligated to disclose in com-

pliance with ESG legislation. We must adhere to EU rules regarding the ESG reporting component (EU Corporate Sustainable Reporting Directive - CSRD) and its taxonomy (EU Taxonomy Regulation) in order to gain access to European markets, as the EU is our region’s most important investor and trade partner. To put it into practice, this means that every European company verifies that their supply chain is free of any partners that could harm the environment, human rights, corporate governance, or renewable energy. This presents significant challenges for our companies that aim to maintain this level of business and integrate with European markets, as foreign companies will not tolerate reputational risks. Companies that align their operations with ESG criteria attract investors and banks alike, who then fund these companies’

projects. Thus, responsible businesses enjoy significantly simpler access to capital, as they attract investors who prioritise sustainable and responsible investments and clearly established ESG strategies and objectives. Every business that is serious about being profitable in the long run has to include the ESG agenda into their operations, since implementing ESG standards is like making an investment. The region’s awareness of ESG is lower than that of the European Union member states, despite the fact that a focus on the ESG agenda can result in substantial savings and cost reductions. With noticeable progress in the last year, ESG standards are becoming increasingly popular, both within the business sector and at the regional economic level. We, the Sustineri Partners, recognised the need to start a conversation and dialogue about the

importance of applying ESG principles in the Adria region, so in 2023 we launched the ESG Adria Summit to raise awareness of these principles, prioritise sustainable development, share the best global practices, and more. The ESG Adria Summit has grown into the preeminent regional gathering for responsible corporate governance, sustainable development, and the green transition.

The ESG Summit in Tivat is being organised for the second year running by Sustineri Partners. The Summit’s execution has the backing of both the Montenegrin Government and President Jakov Milatović. Can you tell me what new things the Summit offers to Montenegro and who of the attendees caught your eye?

We are particularly delighted that this meeting is being organised in Tivat, Montenegro, for the second year running, in collaboration with Porto Montenegro, and with the backing of the President and Government of Montenegro. More than 500 participants, including regional media representatives, academics, and representatives from financial institutions, businesses, and international organisations, civil society, as well as global experts will gather at the ESG Adria Summit from April 24–26, 2024, with the slogan “Act Now for a Sustainable Tomorrow,” to talk about innovations and solutions for sustainable development, renewable energy, AI, new platforms, initiatives and investments that can speed up the shift towards a more sustainable future and an ESG agenda in the Adria region and beyond. Along with Montenegro’s top officials, including President Mr. Jakov Milatović and Prime Minister Mr. Milojko Spajić, Slovenia’s President Ms. Nataša Pirc Musar will also be attending the ESG

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BUSINESS INTERVIEW
BILJANA BRAITHWAITE CEO, Sustineri Partners

Adria Summit. This is an invitation extended by President Milatović, and it will also mark Ms. Musar’s first official visit to Montenegro. It is with great pleasure that we welcome Ms. Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, and Ms. Federica Mogherini, the Rector of the College of Europe, and former High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission. Several regional ministers and representatives from the regional governments will be present at the Summit. Among them are Mr. Saša Mujović, the Minister of Energy and Mining of Montenegro, Mr. Edin Forto, the Minister of Communications and Transport of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ms. Nasiha Pozder, the Minister of Ecology and Tourism of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ms. Slavica Grkovska, the Deputy Prime Minister of North Macedonia, and many more. As a first-time representative visitor of the UK Export Finance to the Western Balkans region, Mr. Tim Reid, the Executive Director, will also be attending this year’s Summit. We are pleased to announce important partnerships with key international financial institutions, namely the International Finance Corporation (IFC, as part of the World Bank group), as well as the presence of regional representatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The ESG Adria Summit will be attended by prominent figures from various business associations for the second year running. These include Ms. Irena Radović, the first woman to head the Central Bank of Montenegro, Mr. Marko Čadež, President of the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia, Ms. Nina

Drakić, President of the Chamber of Commerce of Montenegro, and many more. Also, we’ll be hosting in Montenegro Ms. Anina Emuwa, founder of the 100 Women@Davos initiative, Ms. Yasmine Mahmoudieh, a world-renowned architect, Ms. Bojana Femić Radosavović, Executive Director of the Innovation Fund of Montenegro; Ms. Brankica Janković, Serbian Commissioner for Gender Equality Protection; Ms. Ramona Liberoff, the Executive Director of the PACE Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy; Mr. Rikard Scoufias, Chair of HEREMA - Hellenic Hydrocarbons and Energy Resources Management Company; and Mr. Artur Lorkowski, Director of the Secretariat of the Energy Community. Notably, the ESG Adria Summit will bring together representatives from Plug and Play, the world’s largest innovation platform, as well as prominent business leaders like Mr. Mihajlo Janković, CEO of MK Group, and experts in artificial intelligence and investments from the region and beyond.

How important is the ESG Adria Summit for Montenegro, as well as the region?

Montenegro is widely acknowledged as a key proponent of regional efforts, particularly in the areas of green transition, sustainable finance, and circular economy. These projects hold significant importance in light of Montenegro’s aspirations to join the European Union. In April 2023, Montenegro and Tivat demonstrated their exceptional hosting abilities for the ESG Summit. We are pleased to announce that, with the assistance of the Municipality of Tivat, Porto Montenegro, the President of Montenegro, and the Government of

Montenegro, we will be hosting a multitude of distinguished guests from both the region and the world this year. The event’s geographical scope offers a substantial chance for state officials and company representatives to engage in conversations about potential collaborations that go beyond industry or national borders. Furthermore, this event serves to portray the region in a favourable manner, thereby enhancing its global positioning and facilitating access to investment opportunities. The region’s larger market makes it more appealing as a whole, and it demonstrates a willingness to address the needs of our key economic allies. The EGS Adria Summit serves as a regional event that facilitates the establishment of partnerships and connections. We are delighted to announce that over 150 companies from various sectors, including energy, banking, finance, IT, tourism, law, consulting services, the real estate market, and the food and processing industry, will be attending the Summit.

What are the topics in the focus of the ESG Adria Summit this year?

The ESG Adria Summit additionally functions as a forum for the initiation of regional projects. The Women on Boards Adria (WOBA) regional project was officially launched last year as part of the ESG Summit. Its objective is to enhance the presence of women in managerial roles and corporate boards within enterprises in the Adria region. This year, our primary objective is to enhance our attention towards the domains of sustainable finance, innovation, artificial intelligence, and start-up development. In April 2024, I anticipate enhancing the regional growth platform in these specific areas. The incorporation of energy transition and decarbonisation has become an essential component of responsible business practices. Consequently, the subjects of green transition, renewable energy sources, solar power plant construction, recycling, deposit systems, and investment in “clean energy” hold significant importance and are thoroughly addressed throughout the entirety of the Summit. The energy sector has garnered significant attention due to its profound influence on the climate across its entire lifecycle, encompassing production, raw material processing, and ultimate use. It is crucial to prioritise sustain-

able finance on the ESG agenda, and we are working closely with our strategic partner, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), to achieve this. This year, we are placing special emphasis on sustainable finance and the transformative power of government partnerships, including collaboration with regional banks. We see a significant opportunity for collaboration between governments, international organisations like IFC and EBRD, central banks, and commercial banks. By working together, we can develop policies, frameworks, and incentives that promote sustainable investment and financial practices. The advancement of artificial intelligence has significantly expedited the progress of technology, rendering it a pivotal subject within the realm of regional development and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations. During the Summit, the focus will be on examining the role of artificial intelligence in expediting the green transition, as well as its implications for the labour market and the on-going development of enterprises’ operations. Aside from a multitude of start-ups, the Summit this year will also attract a significant number of venture investors and business angels. Allocating resources towards low-carbon urban development is increasingly crucial for mitigating detrimental emissions and tackling the issue of climate change. Cities play an increasingly significant role in the green transition due to their local infrastructure and efforts. During the ESG Adria Summit, there will be a particular emphasis on the notion of “smart cities” and the utilisation of smart technology, digitisation, and sustainable practices by cities in the Adria region. The objective is to enhance the general welfare of inhabitants and foster a more resilient and environmentally friendly urban future. The Adria region, although not widely explored on a global scale, has garnered recognition for its potential as a desirable tourist destination. Consequently, sustainable tourism has gained significant importance and has been identified as a topic of this year’s Summit. The development of economies holds significant importance, as does the strategic management of tourism growth and development, while simultaneously safeguarding the distinctive ecological and cultural resources of the region.

7

Durmitor - The Natural Beauty of Montenegro

Durmitor, the gem of Montenegro, mesmerizes visitors with its natural beauty and unique landscapes that leave them breathless. Situated in the northwestern part of the country, it is part of the Durmitor National Park, also protected by UNESCO. With its spectacular peaks, crystal-clear lakes, deep canyons, and lush forests, Durmitor is a paradise for nature lovers and adventurers.

The summit of Durmitor, Bobotov Kuk, reaching a height of 2,523 meters, dominates the surrounding landscapes and offers unforgettable panoramic views.

Climbing this peak presents a challenge and adventure that rewards brave visitors with spec-

tacular vistas. For those who prefer to explore natural beauties at lower altitudes, there are numerous trekking trails leading through untouched nature, allowing for encounters with diverse plant and animal life.

The lakes are another jewel of Durmitor. Black Lake, the largest among them, with its mystical beauty, leaves every visitor speechless. Surrounded by forests and mountain peaks, this lake exudes tranquility and serenity. Other lakes like Zminje, Sušičko, and Barno are also extraordinary destinations for exploration and enjoyment of natural wonders.

The deep canyons carving through Durmitor further con-

tribute to its spectacularity.

The Tara River Canyon, known as the Tara Canyon, is one of the deepest canyons in Europe and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Boating down this wild river provides an unforgettable experience and an opportunity to feel the power of nature.

Durmitor is not just a natural wonder but also a home to diverse plant and animal species. Rare endemic species of flora and fauna can be found here, making this national park even more unique and valuable for preservation.

The Durmitor National Park is not only a destination for adventurers and nature lovers;

it also offers opportunities for relaxation and enjoyment in a peaceful environment. Traditional mountain houses and restaurants offer authentic cuisine based on local products and recipes, while the tranquil atmosphere allows visitors to unwind and connect with nature.

In summary, Durmitor represents the natural wonder of Montenegro that leaves every visitor breathless with its spectacular beauty, rich biodiversity, and numerous activities it offers. Whether you're an adventurer or a lover of serene landscapes, this national park offers an unforgettable experience that will last a lifetime.

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MONTENEGRO BEAUTY

Mărțișor

is an old tradition celebrated all over Romania every year, on March 1st

The name Mărțișor is a diminutive of March (Martie in Romanian).

It is believed that the person who wears the red and white string would enjoy a prosperous and healthy year. Not long ago, in the countryside, people used to celebrate the Martisor by hanging a red and white string at their the gate, window, cattle's horn and shed to protect against evil spirits and to invoke nature's regenerative power. In eastern Romania (Moldova and Bucovina), the red

and white string was complemented with a small - gold or silver - coin. After wearing the coin for twelve days, the women would buy fresh cheese with it hopping that their skin would be healthy and beautiful the entire year.

According to archaeological research, the Mărțișor traces its history more than 8,000 years ago. Some ethnologists believe that the Mărțișor celebration has Roman origins, others support the theory that it is an old Dacian tradition.

In ancient Rome, the New Year's was celebrated on the 1st of March. March ('Martius') was named in the honor of the god Mars. Mars was not only the god of war but also the god of agriculture, which contributes to the rebirth of vegetation.

The Dacians also celebrated the New Year's on the first day of March. Ample spring celebrations were consecrated to this event.

In the old times, Mărțișor were made of small river pebbles, colored in white and red, stringed

on a thread and worn around the neck. They were worn, to bring good luck and good weather, from March 1 until the first trees would bloom. When the first trees were flowering the Mărțișor were hanged on tree branches.

Nowadays, on March 1, Romanians buy silky red-white threads (șnur) tied into a bow to which a small trinket is attached and offer them to their (female) family members, friends and colleagues to show friendship, respect or admiration.

DIPLOMATIC EVENTS

Interview with the member of the Management Board of Hipotekarna banka Nikola

Špadijer: I am glad that citizens are associating Hipotekarna banka with digital innovation

Hipotekarna banka is an advocate of change, keeping itself abreast of the latest global technological banking trends. It is deeply committed to sharing its knowledge with clients and partners to ensure a seamless and successful digital transformation, said Nikola Špadijer, a member of the Board of Directors of HB for Diplomacy and Commerce Montenegro magazine. During the conversation, he expressed his satisfaction with the fact that aside from security, Hipotekarna banka is primarily associated with digital innovation by its customers, as a significant portion of their investments is dedicated to the development and improvement of these services.

What are the main strategies of the Mortgage Bank of Montenegro to improve financial services and increase market share?

The bank's main strategies for improving financial services and increasing market share are mirrored in the diversification of innovative products and services, significant investment in the development of digital services and technologies, personalized services carefully focused on clients' needs, proactive and dedicated employee approach to clients, sustainable operations, and enhanced marketing and communication activities. Hipotekarna banka supports the achievement of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and thus takes a leading position in the banking market in the environmental protection, social responsibility, and corporate governance segment. The aforementioned strategies aim to improve the bank's competitiveness and continue its continuous growth in the Montenegrin market.

STABILITY, SECURITY, AND A DEDICATED APPROACH TO CLIENTS ARE CRITICAL FACTORS IN THE SUCCESSFUL OPERATION OF HIPOTEKARNA BANKA.

BUILDING ON SUCH A FOUNDATION, AND WITH CAREFUL STRATEGIC MOVES, WE CREATED A SYSTEM THAT ADAPTS PROFESSIONALLY AND QUICKLY TO ALL CURRENT CHANGES.

How does Hipotekarna banka plan to deal with challenges and changes in Montenegro's banking sector?

Stability, security, and a dedicated approach to clients are critical factors in the successful operation of Hipotekarna ban-

ka. Building on such a foundation, and with careful strategic moves, we created a system that adapts professionally and quickly to all current changes.

Over the years, we have made a conscious effort to invest in our employees' education, diver -

sify our business to minimize risks while driving growth, stay updated on regulatory changes, and adapt our operation to new regulations and standards. When the most important international financial institutions, in this case, the EBRD, recognize you as the most active bank seven years in a row, that speaks volumes of our capacity to deal with all the changes and challenges that follow. Our esteemed ownership structure, coupled with an excellent portfolio, stable and strong management, and exceptional professionalism of our employees, guarantees security for all our clients—both existing and potential. These attributes have only helped Hipotekarna banka to maintain its competitiveness and ensure its sustainability for years to come.

What innovations, new services, or investment strategies does Hipotekarna banka plan to introduce to meet the needs of its clients?

Hipotekarna banka offers its clients the convenience of accessing a wide range of services through its online platform and mobile applications. As part of our digital transformation, we are committed to further digitizing our services in accordance with legal requirements. A critical business segment that we are intensively working on is improving the safety and security of our clients through the implementation of the SCA (Strong Customer Authentication) system. This system will additionally provide a high level of security when accessing bank accounts and performing transactions. By complying with PSD2 regulations, Hipotekarna banka will enable cli-

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Špadijer BUSINESS INTERVIEW

ents to share their banking data with other financial institutions in order to provide personalized services. The partnership with Mastercard continues with the introduction of digital Mastercard cards that will enable customers to access their funds faster and facilitate online payments. As always, we are prepared to accommodate any changes in the banking market. When the law mandates the provisions, Hipotekarna banka will allow customers to open bank accounts online, providing them with simplicity and convenience. The transfor-

services. I am proud to say that Hipotekarna banka is known for being the first to introduce innovative banking services in Montenegro. Contactless payment cards, mobile and electronic banking, My Wallet, Google and Apple pay applications, and the latest generation ATMs, where you can perform traditional banking services 24 hours a day, are just some of the digital services we offer our clients. We prioritize services and products that will provide clients with complete comfort and save time with a guarantee of the best quality and safety. Hipotekarna

HIPOTEKARNA BANKA, AS THE THIRD BANK IN THE SYSTEM, CURRENTLY HAS EUR 921 MILLION WORTH OF ASSETS ON ITS BALANCE SHEETS. HIPOTEKARNA BANKA RANKS FIRST IN MONTENEGRO IN TERMS OF INVESTMENT IN SECURITIES. AT THE END OF THE YEAR, THE VALUE OF THE SECURITIES PORTFOLIO WAS AROUND EUR 356 MILLION.

mation towards a digital bank requires a comprehensive strategy that will ensure competitiveness and client satisfaction. Hipotekarna banka is determined to maintain its leadership position in digital banking, offering innovative products and services that will meet all the needs of its clients in the digital age. This business type is known for its outstanding collaboration with international financial institutions. In this regard, we take pride in being the only bank in Montenegro that has established lines with American banks. Also, we have the largest network of international partners for concluding transactions on the international financial market.

How does the bank plan to use technological innovations to improve user experience and business efficiency?

I am glad that citizens' first association with the Hipotekarna banka, besides security, is precisely "digital and innovative". Our bank has always invested heavily in the development of digital services and technological innovations to enhance the user experience. Our goal is to save our clients' most valuable resource, time, and improve the efficiency of managing banking

banka was the first to "transfer" part of the process to a robot a few years ago. Namely, a software robot processes several mass, template-type tasks that are error-free. In addition to the software robot, we implemented software based on AI (artificial intelligence) that processes around 500 documents daily. We continue to invest in the automation of similar processes using the most modern global tools. In this way, we protect human resources from redundant work, which significantly contributes to greater competitiveness and employee satisfaction.

How is Hipotekarna banka positioned in relation to the competition in the Montenegrin market?

Hipotekarna banka, as the third bank in the system, currently has EUR 921 million worth of assets on its balance sheets. Hipotekarna banka ranks first in Montenegro in terms of investment in securities. At the end of the year, the value of the securities portfolio was around EUR 356 million. We are the leading provider of investment services in Montenegro, with the highest portfolio value in clients' custodial accounts, which amounted to around 310 million euros at the end of 2023. This makes us the largest custodial

bank in Montenegro. In addition, our turnover with international bonds exceeded 800 million euros last year, placing us among the most active regional banks on the international financial market. Last year's operations also marked the constant growth of deposits, which currently amount to EUR 789 million. As the absolute leader in the card industry, it is important to note that in addition to 24% of turnover in Montenegro taking place through our bank's cards, Hipotekarna banka also owns a quarter of the POS terminal market.

How does the bank plan to support its clients and partnerships in digital transformation?

In addition to all digital tools and services, which facilitate business and provide a better experience to users, a vital segment is customer support through education on digital technologies and their application in business and financial management. From very understandable "how-to" content disseminated through our communication channels to organizing workshops, seminars, and conferences on digital transformation, investment, and banking trends, we strive to provide adequate education to all our clients continuously. We are the only bank in Montenegro that has a large banking conference within its own organization. This provides the opportunity for all members of the public to learn about the latest banking trends from the most eminent interlocutors from around the world. As a confirmation of dedicated work, the bank has also cultivated many partnerships and loyalty programs for decades with large companies such as Crnogorski Telekom, Tehnomax, Voli, and technology companies and startups. Through such partnerships, we see new perspectives and ideas for improving business and creating new values for our clients. We are open to changes and informed about all global techno-

logical banking trends; we transfer knowledge to our clients and partners, all with the aim of successfully implementing digital transformation.

What are the bank's forecasts and plans for further growth and development in the coming years?

As stated before, constant investments in the improvement of services and innovative services, the development of a digital bank, sustainable operations, and the preservation of the trust of clients are priorities on which we will continue to work. We participate in all world fairs and follow trends in the financial industry so that clients have the best user experience, which is what we are recognized for in Montenegro. We are dedicated to constant education and the introduction of services focused on protecting banking processes, effective risk assessment, and increased business efficiency. The strategic partnership with Master card is something we are particularly committed to. The plan is to expand the branch office network and continue renovating the existing ones so that clients can perform their services in a comfortable environment. I am confident that we will continue to uphold our reputation as a bank that fosters strong relationships with its clients, just as we have always done. The entire business strategy of our bank is adapted to sustainable development and due attention to our direct and indirect impact on the environment. In today's world, it is not just an option but a responsibility of ethical business conduct to integrate environmental protection, society, and management principles. We firmly believe that considering ESG factors in our operations and strategic initiatives is essential to our commitment to promoting a harmonious balance between financial prosperity and the greater well-being of our ecosystem.

11

President of Montenegro visits Netherlands

Milatović: Historic high-level visit opens new chapter in MontenegroNetherlands relations

President of Montenegro Jakov Milatović met with Dutch King Willem-Alexander at the Royal Palace in The Hague, marking the beginning of his working visit to the country. In an open and cordial conversation, strong friendship was reaffirmed, emphasizing the significance of the first visit at such a high level, marking the opening of a new chapter in the relationship between the two states.

President Milatović briefed the Dutch king on the current situation in the country, highlighting the key foreign policy priorities of our state and inviting him to visit Montenegro.

During his stay in The Hague, President Milatović also held a meeting with Prime Minister Mark Rutte, during which excellent and allied interstate relations were noted.

On this occasion, he emphasized the importance of the Netherlands' support for our European path, expressing the expectation that Montenegro, as a leader in the negotiation process, will be-

come a full member of the Union by 2028.

He reminded of the results Montenegro has achieved in strengthening the rule of law and the independence of institutions, demonstrating the country's readiness to take significant steps to accelerate the European integration process.

Furthermore, the meeting underscored the importance of the intensive cooperation between Montenegro and the Netherlands within NATO in conditions crucial for broader global security.

President Milatović stressed that the Euro-Atlantic orientation of the Western Balkan countries must be preserved and further encouraged, considering it a key precondition for the region's long-term stability and prosperity.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte praised the progress Montenegro has made in the European integration process, reiterating that the Netherlands remains a strong partner of Montenegro on the path to full EU membership. There was mutual interest ex-

pressed in advancing economic cooperation, particularly in the energy sector and tourism, with better air connectivity cited as a prerequisite, which will be a topic of future discussions between representatives of the two countries.

During his visit to the Netherlands, President Milatović also met with Senate President Jan Anthonie Bruijn, House of Representatives President Martin Bosma, members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the EU, as well as representatives of the Dutch economy.

12 www.diplomacyandcommerce.me PRESIDENT OF MONTENEGRO
President of Montenegro Jakov Milatović with the Dutch King Willem-Alexander President Milatović with the Prime Minister Mark Rutte

visits Romania

Milatović:

At

the most important addresses in Romania, it has been confirmed that we have serious potential for intense economic cooperation

After being welcomed with the highest state honors at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace in Bucharest, where a meeting was held with the President of the Republic of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, the President of Montenegro, Jakov Milatović, met with the President of the Romanian Senate, Nicolae Ciucă, and the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Alfred Simonis, at the Parliamentary Palace.

During separate meetings with representatives of the Romanian Parliament, it was noted that the relationship between the two countries is characterized by traditional friendship and excellent bilateral cooperation.

Also, the need for further cultural connectivity between the two countries was expressed in

order to better understand and strengthen interstate cooperation.

As part of the visit to Romania, President Milatović also met with Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu. On that occasion, he pointed out the most significant foreign policy priorities of our country, emphasizing Montenegro's commitment to achieving the most important goal - full membership of our country in the EU.

He also added that Montenegro has fully aligned its policy with the EU's common foreign and security policy. There was mutual interest expressed in strengthening bilateral cooperation, with an emphasis on the importance of establishing air connectivity between the two countries, which would be

a significant step in strengthening cooperation in the fields of economy and tourism. During his stay in Bucharest, President Milatović laid a wreath at the

monument to the unknown hero in Carol Park and gave a lecture at the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration.

13
President Jakov Milatović PRESIDENT OF MONTENEGRO President of Montenegro Jakov Milatović with the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis

Prime Minister Milojko Spajić met with a delegation of investors led by representatives of Bank of America, who are visiting the countries of the Western Balkans

Reforms and good results attract credible investors

During the meeting, discussions revolved around the reforms that have been initiated and further steps to align Montenegro with the European Union, as well as to become more accessible to credible investors.

The Government's agenda relies on three key elements: rule of law, accelerated EU integration, and balanced sustainable economic development. Rule of law is crucial as it enables the proper devel -

opment of the other two aspects. Further progress on the EU path is contingent on substantial reforms in the field of rule of law, as only after obtaining the IBAR for chapters 23 and 24 can we begin to close the remaining chapters.

You can already see from the reactions in Brussels that we have made serious strides in this area, emphasized Prime Minister Spajić.

He stressed the importance of appointments in the judiciary for continuing the decisive

fight against organized crime and corruption at a high level.

The plan for road infrastructure construction was also presented, as it often represents a bottleneck for economic development.

The importance of tax policy reforms was highlighted, to make the system sensible for investors, enabling them to stay and invest over a longer period, which is particularly important for raising citizens' standards and strengthening public finances. In the con -

text of shaping the image of a country desirable for investment, the significance of large investments from the European Union was emphasized, through the provision of grants, as well as NATO membership, which is a guarantee of stability.

International investors from London, Boston, and Helsinki, as well as economic analysts from London, Paris, and Dubai, will visit not only Montenegro but also Serbia, Albania, and North Macedonia.

14 www.diplomacyandcommerce.me
GOVERNMENT OF MONTENEGRO

The Bar-Ancona route is opening, the fastest connection to Western Europe

The Government of Montenegro will restore the maritime route with Italy, and a ferry between Bar and Ancona could resume operations as early as 2024, as concluded during a meeting between Prime Minister Milojko Spajic and Adria Ferries CEO Alberto Rosi.

The ferry will be the fastest connection between Montenegro and Western Europe.

It was noted that the opening of this route could positively impact tourism in both countries, with particular interest in visiting Montenegro among residents of Northern Italy.

Therefore, Ancona is an excellent starting point for reestablishing

maritime traffic, as residents from the north of Italy often waste significant time getting to Bari, whereas a faster ferry from Ancona could reach Montenegro in 10 hours, emphasized Rosi, whose company previously operated this route and is keen on revitalizing the entire project.

It was emphasized that it is crucial to involve Montenegrin companies in the project, with the Prime Minister noting that this could enable Barska and Crnogorska plovidba to bring additional value to Montenegro.

Initial analyses have shown that the line would function smoothly during the summer season, but further efforts are needed to promote traffic during the winter period.

The meeting was attended by the Italian Ambassador to Montenegro, Andreina Marsela, the President of the company, Mauro Maja, and the Director, Roberto Mataloni.

GOVERNMENT OF MONTENEGRO

Experiences, Challenges, and Truths about Journalistic Passion and Digital Activism

Between Words and Clicks: The Journalistic Journey of Damira Kalač

Throughout her illustrious career, Damira has worked in smaller communities, where she gained invaluable experience in various aspects of journalism, including print media preparation. Across all these positions, she emphasizes that openness and editorial support were crucial to her development as a journalist.

Finding her place in the "Vijesti" editorial team, Damira became recognizable for her articles on digitization and technological trends. Through her blogs, activism, and podcasts, she continued to explore topics of interest while simultaneously holding various positions within the editorial team.

While aware of the challenges faced as a woman in journalism, Damira underscores her concern about inequality concerning

knowledge and skills. "I am more concerned about inequality in terms of knowledge and skillsboth among the general public and within editorial teams," she emphasizes. She highlights the importance of employer support and open dialogue in the work environment, enabling journalists to express themselves and realize their full potential.

"I am aware that journalists are expected to be fast today, but behind that speed, context often lacks. When there's no passion, there's no quality product," Damira emphasizes, highlighting the importance of authenticity and a deeper understanding of the topics journalists engage with.

Damira also stresses the importance of diversity in journalism, emphasizing that "we are not all born to know and do everything,

nor can we all do everything equally well or with equal passion." Recognizing the unique talents and passions within a journalistic team, she believes, is crucial for creating a quality journalistic product. With all her passion and dedi-

cation, Damira Kalač continues to explore, write, and change the world around her through her journalistic work. Her articles not only inform but also inspire and provoke thought, leaving an indelible mark on the Montenegrin media landscape.

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ACTIVISM

Experience something that is reliably different: voco Podgorica

Looking for the perfect blend of comfort, luxury, and relaxation? voco Podgorica is your destination. Located along the Sitnica River, this hotel is just 6km from the city center and 10km from the airport, providing a stress-free and relaxing stay. With 81 rooms and suites, voco Podgorica is perfect for business travelers, SPA and fitness enthusiasts, sports teams, and guests

looking for privacy and a peaceful environment. Indulge in the luxury of a comfortable and tranquil stay. The abundance of space in the rooms and bathrooms, coupled with the convenience of complimentary parking, creates a truly delightful experience. Moreover, voco Podgorica boasts a plethora of luxurious amenities guaranteed to cater to your every desire - a grand swimming pool, a restaurant, a tranquil spa center, a bar, and three conference rooms. Personalized service is guaranteed by our friendly and professional staff who will take care of all your requests.

The voco brand, part of the InterContinental Hotels Group, is characterized by a unique character and local charm, which include elements of local culture and tradition. Thus, the hotels

create an authentic experience for guests. Relaxed luxury is what makes it special. The fastest-growing IHG brand, with 60 hotels in 23 countries worldwide and more to come, voco has become synonymous with something new and different. But that's not all. The voco brand is renowned for its unwavering commitment to the environment, just as much as it is for its exceptional hospitality. By integrating eco-friendly practices, every stay at voco becomes a truly unforgettable experience. Not only does its commitment to sustainability preserve the environment, it also motivates others to protect it for future generations.

Come and discover what makes voco Podgorica special and why voco is truly different!

At a glance

At a glance

TECHNICAL SUPPORT Projector and projector screen

Sound system

Simultaneous translation system

Well connected

Well connected

17
HOTELS & TOURISM
Audio-video recording All-in-one MeetingBoard Super fast WiFi RESTAURANT & LOBBY BAR Capacity: 200 seats With a banquet setup: 250 seats Buffet A la carte cocktails, round tables, private events etc HEALTH & FITNESS SPA & Wellness Center Semi-Olympic pool Gym Saunas Experience showers Tepidariums Physiotherapist Personal trainer SPORTS HALL "VERDE" Capacity: 2100 seats Area: 1680m2 Multifunctional field: 47 30x35 50m 6 changing rooms 5 sports fields Underground garage
LOCAL ATTRACTIONS "Skadar Lake" National Park Crnojevića River The old Adži Paša bridge Hill of Gorica City centre AIRPORT Podgorica Airport (TGD) 10 km - 12 minutes drive LOCAL TRANSPORT The bus stop is a 2-minute walk from the hotel HIGHWAY Easily accessible by car via the M 2 3 M18 and E80 highways FREE PARKING Underground garage 84 spaces Outside parking BEDROOMS 81 CONFERENCE ROOMS 3 Capacity of conference rooms: Čelebić Verde Čelebić + Verde Sitnica
64 Banquet Square Class Room Theatre Style 42 64 120 U-Shape T-Shape Cocktail 36 42 100 32 42 44 80 36 34 50 110 50 100 250 48 42 200 - 24 28 30 20 -TECHNICAL SUPPORT Projector and projector screen Sound system Simultaneous translation system Audio-video recording All-in-one MeetingBoard Super fast WiFi RESTAURANT & LOBBY BAR Capacity 200 seats With a banquet setup 250 seats Buffet A la carte 179m2 106m2 285m2 63m2 Conference rooms are ocated on the ground floor of the hotel They are air-condit oned naturally lit equipped with modern audiovideo equipment and have super fast Wi-Fi Adaptable to the requirements of organizers: meetings, workshops, conferences, cockta ls round tables private events etc HEALTH & FITNESS SPA & Wellness Center Semi-Olympic pool Gym Saunas Experience showers Tepidar ums Physiotherap st Personal trainer SPORTS HALL Capacity 2100 seats
AIRPORT Podgorica Airport (TGD) 10 km - 12 minutes drive LOCAL TRANSPORT The bus stop s a 2-minute walk from the hotel HIGHWAY Easily accessible by car v a the M 2 3, M18 and E80 h ghways FREE PARKING Underground garage 84 spaces Outside parking BEDROOMS 81 CONFERENCE ROOMS 3 Capacity of conference rooms: Čelebić Verde Čelebić + Verde Sitnica
64 Banquet Square Class Room Theatre Style 42 64 120 U-Shape T-Shape Cocktail 36 42 100 32 42 44 80 36 34 50 110 50 100 250 48 42 200 - 24 28 30 20 -TECHNICAL SUPPORT Projector and projector screen Sound system Simultaneous translation system Audio-video recording All-in-one MeetingBoard Super fast WiFi RESTAURANT & LOBBY BAR Capacity: 200 seats With a banquet setup: 250 seats Buffet A la carte 179m2 106m2 285m2 63m2 Conference rooms are located on the ground floor of the hotel They are air-conditioned naturally lit equipped with modern audiovideo equipment and have super fast Wi-Fi Adaptable to the requirements of organizers: meetings workshops conferences cocktails round tables private events etc HEALTH & FITNESS SPA & Wellness Center Semi-Olympic pool Gym Saunas Experience showers Tep dariums Physiotherapist Personal trainer
connected AIRPORT Podgorica Airport (TGD) 10 km - 12 minutes drive LOCAL TRANSPORT The bus stop is a 2-minute walk from the hotel HIGHWAY Easily accessible by car via the M 2 3 M18 and E80 highways FREE PARKING Underground garage: 84 spaces Outside parking TECHNICAL SUPPORT Projector and projector screen Sound system Simultaneous trans ation system Audio-video recording All-in-one MeetingBoard Super fast WiFi RESTAURANT & LOBBY BAR Capacity: 200 seats With a banquet setup: 250 seats Buffet A la carte HEALTH & FITNESS SPA & Wellness Center Semi-Olympic pool Gym Saunas Experience showers Tepidariums Physiotherapist Personal trainer SPORTS HALL VERDE Capacity: 2100 seats Area: 1680m2 Multifunctional field: 47 30x35 50m 6 changing rooms 5 sports fields Underground garage Well connected LOCAL ATTRACTIONS "Skadar Lake" Nat onal Park Crnojevića River The old Adži Paša bridge Hill of Gorica City centre AIRPORT Podgorica Airport (TGD), 10 km - 12 minutes drive LOCAL TRANSPORT The bus stop is a 2-minute walk from the hotel HIGHWAY Easily accessib e by car via the M 2 3, M18 and E80 highways FREE PARKING Underground garage 84 spaces Outside parking
Well connected
Well
At a glance

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Minister of Foreign Affairs of India

Friend of the World

The idea of our foreign policy is to be a "Friend of the World", which, unfortunately, is not always possible

We believe that war is not the solution to any conflict and that this war will not be resolved on the battlefield but that there will have to be a negotiation. We respect the positions of Ukraine and the EU, but we also expect others to understand that India's position is different!

As soon as he entered the room, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (69), the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the world's most populous country, gave the impression of a serious diplomat and politician. He is a member of the ruling BJP party and has held this position since 2019.

He previously served as the Foreign Secretary from January 2015 to January 2018. Jaishankar became the second-ever

diplomat to be appointed India's Minister of Foreign Affairs, after Natwar Singh. He joined the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) in 1977. During his diplomatic career spanning over 38 years, he served in different capacities in India and abroad, including as High Commissioner to Singapore (2007–2009) and as Ambassador to the Czech Republic (2001–2004), China (2009–2013) and the US (2014–2015). Jaishankar played a key role in negotiating the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement. On retirement, Jaishankar joined Tata Sons as the President of Global Corporate Affairs. In 2019, he was awarded the Padma Shri, India's fourth highest civilian honour. On May 30, 2019, he was sworn in as the Cabinet Minister in the second Modi ministry. He was appointed the Minister of

Foreign Affairs on May 31, 2019. He is the first former Foreign Secretary to head the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the Cabinet Minister.

He patiently and very skillfully answered numerous questions from colleagues from Eastern Europe, which were mainly about Russia and the fact that

18 www.diplomacyandcommerce.me
IN TALKS WITH by Robert Čoban

Familiarisation Visit of Editors and Journalists from Central European Countries

From March 13th to 20th, 22 journalists and editors from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe were on a visit in India – from Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the north, through Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, to Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Albania and Cyprus in the south. The visit was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and during this time the guests had the opportunity to visit Agra and Hyderabad in addition to New Delhi.

India has not imposed sanctions on this country. "To begin with – we believe that war is not the solution to any conflict and that this war will not be resolved on the battlefield, but that there will have to be a negotiation. We respect the positions of Ukraine and the EU, but we also expect others to understand that India's position is different. Since 1955, India and Russia (then USSR) have had good relations. We want to maintain good relations with Russia and we do not want China to be its only big friend in Asia. Of course, this does not mean that we agree with Russia on everything, but we are trying,

just like the other side, to invest in our relations!", the minister said.

He also referred to the recent case of "trafficking" of people from India who ended up as Russian soldiers on the battlefield in Ukraine: "Some of them didn’t know at all that they were going to Russia, while some others knew but thought they were going to do some other work! These cases are something that we are seriously investigating and that must not be repeated!"

The minister was somewhat less "gentle" towards China, with which India has a disputed bor der in numerous places where, during the pandemic of 2020, a conflict broke out in which 20 Indian soldiers died while the number of victims on the other side was never reported: "With neighbouring countries, two matters are important – their strength and their behaviour. If the behaviour is problematic and the strength is small, it’s not a problem. But since the strength of this country is great and the behaviour is often problematic – it is something you will defi nitely pay attention to!"

India wants to be a "Friend of the World" and it conducts such di plomacy, but this is not always possible, especially with some of its neighbours. Minister Subrah manyam Jaishankar also spoke

WE BELIEVE THAT WAR IS NOT THE SOLUTION TO ANY CONFLICT

about the upcoming general elections that will be held this spring. "Currently, 940 million people have the right to vote, and the average turnout is 70%!". Due to such high number of voters and the turnout, the elections will last as long as 4-5 weeks. He also referred to the 2023 re

port on the state of media freedom in the world published by Reporters Without Borders: "On that list, Afghanistan (152) is ahead of India (161). I have nothing else to add. Those who prepared the report either had not visited Afghanistan or they had not visited India..."

19

Exhibition of Erro opened at Petrović Palace and Perjanički dom

VLAOVIĆ: Erro's art a form of social activism that opposes and criticizes global capitalism

An exhibition of Icelandic artist Erro opened at Petrović Palace and Perjanički Dom of the MSU Montenegro.

At the opening, speeches were given by the director of MSU Montenegro, Dr. Vladislav Šćepanović, and the exhibition curators, Ms. Maša Vlaović and Danielle Kvaran.

"Erro's exhibition has a dual symbolism for me – it is about an artist coming from a country that was the first to recognize Montenegro's independence in recent history, and also because it is about an author whose work impressed me when I was a young artist, dreaming

about how wonderful it would be for his works to be seen by the audience in Montenegro," said Šćepanović.

Curator of Erro's collection at the Reykjavik Art Museum, Danielle Kvaran, stated that the exhibition presents a selection of works from Erro's collection at the Reykjavik Art Museum.

"This collection, which comprises over 4000 works, is the result of the artist's donation to Reykjavik. The exhibition is conceived as a mini-retrospective, emphasizing Erro's major contribution to art history: the invention of 'painted collage,' i.e., pictures made from collage. The exhibition showcases var-

Vlaović stated that Erro's art represents a form of social activism that opposes and criticizes global capitalism, where the artist takes the position of an observer and critic of social trends, confronting the challenges of constantly questioning various phenomena.

"He is an engaged creator who, in a social and artistic sense, reacts and fights against the alienated world and consumer society, emphasizing primarily aesthetic, humane, and ethical values."

Vlaović highlighted that at the core of Erro's painting, there are always significant ideas for which he passionately fights, namely that the audience should not be passive recipients of a molded way of thinking and living.

"That is precisely why Erro emphasizes in his interviews that he is a critical artist who has never fit into prescribed molds. Great creative energy, a recognizable style, dedicated and committed work provide new insights into different events and classify Erro among those artists who are focused on the future and who have the courage to convey very significant messages through their visionary art, disrupting the observer from the fields of predetermined patterns and conformities, because, as Tolkien said, courage is found in unexpected places," concluded Vlaović.

ious series of works – collages, paintings, and graphics – that Erro created from the late 1950s until today."

Finally, Vlaović expressed gratitude to the MSU Montenegro team for their dedicated and exhaustive work on the realization of this significant project.

20 www.diplomacyandcommerce.me
CULTURE

Italy

- 2024Montenegro

Interview with the Ambassador of Italy to Montenegro

Marcella: Italy has always strongly supported the EU enlargement policy in the Western Balkans region

Italy has always strongly supported the EU enlargement policy in the Western Balkans region. In fact, we have always firmly believed in the political and strategic value of enlargement, even when there was a lot of skepticism from other political actors, said Italian Ambassador Andreina Marcella in an interview for Diplomacy and Commerce Montenegro magazine.

How does the Embassy of Italy in Montenegro support bilateral relations between the two countries?

Italy and Montenegro are friendly countries with deep historical, cultural, political, and economic ties. As an embassy, we are committed to strengthening bilateral relations by promoting exchange visits. At the beginning of February, the Montenegrin Minister of Affairs, the Minister of the Interior, and the Minister of Justice visited Rome for bilateral meetings with their Italian counterparts and a joint session with their delegations. In this way, we encourage commercial contacts, support business relations, and aid in the implementation of cultural initiatives.

In the context of economy, culture, and tourism, what are the main areas of collaboration between Italy and Montenegro?

In the economic context, the key areas of cooperation between Italy and Montenegro are energy, in all its different

branches, with special interest in renewable energy sources, commercial exchange, and tourism. To achieve this goal of attracting more Italians to Montenegro and vice versa, we need to focus on improving both air and sea connections. In the field of culture, we carry out numerous exchanges and initiatives. We work closely with the organizers of the Herceg Novi Comic Festival. With them, we brought the famous Zerocalcare to Montenegro last year, and Milo Manara is coming this year (March 15-17). We are also closely cooperating with the Capital City and the Secretariat for Culture on the implementation of other initiatives, which I do not want to reveal so as not to spoil the surprise!

What are the prospects for the further development of political, economic, and cultural cooperation between Italy and Montenegro?

The prospects are great! The political visits that commenced in early February are ongoing. We aim to reinforce political cooperation by finalizing specific agreements across various sectors, and also by boosting economic relations, both in terms of trade and investments. From a cultural point of view, I would like to point out that there are over 16,000 students of the Italian language in primary and secondary schools in Montenegro. Obviously, our commitment is to increase the number of students studying Italian, which is already the second

22 www.diplomacyandcommerce.me
AMBASSADOR'S INTERVIEW
ANDREINA MARCELLA H.E. Ambassador of Italy to Montenegro

most-studied foreign language in the country after English. Therefore, in this area as well, the cooperation we achieve with the relevant institutions is excellent!

What initiatives does the Embassy undertake to support the Italian diaspora in Montenegro and strengthen their connection with the mother country?

In fact, we don't have a real Italian diaspora in Montenegro, apart from an already autochthonous presence. In any case, we maintain ties with all those who are connected to Italy in one way or another by facilitating the cultural events that we organize and their participation in the Italian language courses offered in the country.

How does Italy support Montenegro in its efforts towards European integration and improvement of the rule of law?

Italy has always strongly supported the EU enlargement policy in the Western Balkans region. In fact, we have always firmly believed in the political and strategic value of enlargement, even when there was a lot of skepticism from other political actors. Namely, we were always confident that the EU's enlargement to the Western Balkans represents the best guarantee for the stability not only of the region but the Union itself. So, our support for Montenegro's accession process to the EU has always been unwavering, not only through words but also through our actions. We have provided financial aid for development and shared our expertise by participating in various programs such as IPA, Interreg, Twinning, Taiex, etc.

What are the embassy's current initiatives regarding tourism cooperation between Italy and Montenegro?

As I said, the first step in stimulating the development of tourism is connectivity. From December 2023, the Air Montenegro company made an important "bet" on the Italian market by opening direct flights between Italy and Podgorica twice a week. We are aware of the challenges and hence, we are committed to facilitating communication

ITALY HAS ALWAYS STRONGLY SUPPORTED THE EU ENLARGEMENT POLICY IN THE WESTERN BALKANS REGION. IN FACT, WE HAVE ALWAYS FIRMLY BELIEVED IN THE POLITICAL AND STRATEGIC VALUE OF ENLARGEMENT, EVEN WHEN THERE WAS A LOT OF SKEPTICISM FROM OTHER POLITICAL ACTORS.

between Montenegro and our affiliates in the tourism industry. This includes tour operators and trade associations. Our aim is to provide

support to Air Montenegro in every possible way. Restoring communication between the two countries in the maritime industry may be challeng -

ing. However, in line with our limited role, we remain determined to facilitate this process by creating connections between companies and institutions. After all, as an Embassy, we cannot force private companies to work per our wishes due to prevailing market aspects. But in any case, we are doing everything within our competencies to facilitate these relations. I strongly hope for further development in this sector.

23

Importance of international fairs for Montenegro

Montenegro at the Tourism Fair in New York, Belgrade and Berlin

The National Tourism Organization of Montenegro (NTO Montenegro), in cooperation with the relevant ministry, participated in the International Tourism Fair in Belgrade from February 22 to 25.

Montenegro's National Tourism Organization, along with local tourist organizations and the tourism industry, presents its tourist offer for the upcoming summer season.

The Montenegrin delegation was led by the Minister of Tourism, Ecology, Sustainable Development, and Northern Region Development, who emphasized the importance of performing at this fair.

"The International Tourism Fair in Belgrade is a significant event that plays a crucial role in promoting tourist destinations. It provides an excellent opportunity for networking with foreign partners, which ultimately leads to the growth of tourism and the attraction of foreign investments. The fair provides an excellent opportunity for travel agencies and businesses to promote their products to visitors," said Minister Vladimir Martinović.

The National Tourism Organization of Montenegro, together with the line ministry, participated in the International Tourism Exchange (ITB), which took

24 www.diplomacyandcommerce.me
CORPORATE

place in Berlin from March 5 to 7 this year.

ITB represents one of the two most important events in the world of tourism. Organized in a B2B format intended for business users, this fair is an exceptional opportunity to establish cooperation with representatives of the tourism industry of German-speaking countries and other markets.

On the inaugural day of the fair, the NTO Montenegro stand hosted an exquisite event that brought together esteemed German media and prominent economic representatives. The event provided an excellent opportunity to showcase Montenegro's unparalleled tourist offerings, and guests were treated to a tasting of Montenegrin cuisine and wine. The Minister of Tourism, Environment, Sustainable Development, and Development of the North, Vladimir

Martinović, opened the event by highlighting the significance of the German market for Montenegrin tourism in 2023, as it had a substantial proportion of tourists in the overall guest demographics.

The National Tourism Organization of Montenegro (NTO Montenegro), in cooperation with the relevant ministry and the tourism industry, showcased our country's tourism offerings for the first time at the tourism fair in New York. The event was held on January 27 and 28.

Known as the "Travel and Adventure Fair," it is one of. s of its kind in America. During the largest fair has connected millions of visitors with thousands of exhibitors from all over the world. Jonathan Golic, the vice president of the fair, has highlighted that more than 750 exhibitors participated in this year's event, stating that the

consumers who attend this fair are adventurous and have both the means and time to travel the world.

The Montenegrin delegation was headed by Vladimir Martinović, Minister of Tourism, Ecology, Sustainable Develop-

ment, and Northern Region Development. During the fair, Minister Martinović highlighted the significance of participating in such an event, particularly considering the increasing number of American tourists visiting Montenegro.

25

The Ministry of Tourism, Ecology, Sustainable Development, and Northern Development will support projects in the field of environmental protection with around 30 million euros available through various programs this year, announced the Minister Vladimir Martinović.

The projects will be implemented by the Eco Fund.

Minister Martinović: Around € 30 million for environmental protection projects

Minister Martinović, in an interview for the Diplomacy and Commerce Montenegro magazine, stated that funds collected from polluters under the "Polluter Pays" principle, as well as from the auction of CO2 credits, in the previous year, will result in financing projects that are already underway and contribute to environmental preservation.

"When we talk about continuity and readiness to invest in similar projects, this year we have planned to provide around €11,000,000 in direct non-refundable financial support to citizens, economy, and

the public sector from the same sources where funds are collected," said the minister.

According to him, when adding the implementation of the European Commission's support package for mitigating energy poverty through energy efficiency measures, citizens will receive direct support totaling €8,000,000, with a subsidy rate of over 50%, and the tourism sector will receive €3,500,000 for the same measures.

"With pride, we can say that this year's cycle has implemented, defined, and planned support for citizens, economy, and the public sector, with additional funds collected from international cooperation, totaling around €30,000,000, and I announce the continuity of

these measures and projects because our citizens deserve it," the minister emphasized. He reminded that preparations are underway for the second phase of the project called Solari 5000+, as a continuation of the successfully implemented first phase of the Solari 3000+ and 500+ project, initiated in cooperation with the Ministry, the Eco Fund, and EPCG.

"Of course, citizens have become pioneers of energy transition by installing photovoltaic systems on their roofs out of interest and decision. However, this is just one step when it comes to using the money the state collects from environmental fees, which will over time amount to tens of millions of euros annually," Minister Martinović concluded.

ECOLOGY
Minister of Tourism, Ecology, Sustainable Development, and Northern Development
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