U.S., Republic of Montenegro Sign Status of Forces Agreement
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 1, 2007 America’s top diplomat and the president of the Republic of Montenegro today signed a status of forces agreement between the two countries during a ceremony at the U.S. State Department here.
“The United States welcomes Montenegro as a friend and a partner, a partner in the increasing stability in the Balkans,” said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, with Montenegro’s President Filip Vujanovic at her side.
The United States and Montenegro, a country located in southeastern Europe, also are strengthening their bilateral military ties through the agreement, Rice added.
A status of forces agreement defines the legal status of U.S. military members and their property in the territory of another nation. Such agreements delineate rights and responsibilities between the U.S. and host governments regarding criminal and civil jurisdiction, tax and customs matters, entry and exit of personal property, and resolving damage claims. The United States maintains SOFAs with many nations worldwide.
“The status of forces agreement that President Vujanovic and I will sign establishes a basis for United States military personnel to operate in Montenegro for mutually agreed activities,” Rice said before signing the document.
The agreement will enable the armed forces of the United States and Montenegro “to hold regular exchanges, training exercises and (engage in) other types of cooperation,” Rice pointed out.
Vujanovic hailed the agreement as a symbol of his country’s growing relationship with the United States.
“This signing of this agreement is a confirmation of the friendship between Montenegro and the United States and a major step towards enhancement of these relations,” Vujanovic said through an interpreter.
The Montenegrin president also thanked the U.S. government and its citizens “for the assistance they have provided to Montenegro in building democratic institutions, in affirming democratic values, and in reforming our economy.”
Montenegro’s neighbor Serbia signed a status of forces agreement with the United States on Sept. 7, 2006.
Montenegro is about the size of Connecticut with a population of 630,000 citizens. During the Cold War, it was a satellite republic of then-Warsaw Pact member Yugoslavia. Montenegro adopted its constitution on Oct. 12, 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Montenegro undertook political partnership with Serbia until 1996, when Montenegro established its own economic system and adopted the Deutsch mark (since replaced by the Euro) as the national currency. Montenegro and Serbia reached a new cooperative agreement in 2002. Montenegrins voted for independence through a nationwide referendum on May 21, 2006.
Montenegro declared independence on June 3, 2006. The United Nations voted to admit Montenegro as a new member state on June 28, 2006. The United States established formal diplomatic relations with Montenegro on Aug. 15, 2006, and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld traveled there to meet with the country’s leaders in September.
The United States maintains an embassy in Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital city. Montenegro has a robust tourism industry, particularly along its coastline on the Adriatic Sea.