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NEWS | Nov. 29, 2010

State, federal leaders meet with Montenegro defense minister

By Courtesy Story

PORTLAND, Me., - The Bilateral Defense Consultation, a partnership between Montenegro and Maine through the Department of Defense, held its annual ceremony here on Nov. 15.

The annual joint consultation is a Department of Defense review of the status of defense reform in Montenegro.

“Maine is dedicated to assist Montenegro in the development of the collective security system in their region.

This effort involves cooperation in the areas of the military, emergency preparedness, education and infrastructure development and improvement,” said Brig. Gen. Brent M. Boyles, Maine’s assistant adjutant general.

The Maine Army National Guard hosted the Montenegrin and U.S. defense delegations in Portland to jointly review the previous year’s goals and objectives and to establish goals and objectives for the future.

The ceremony was attended by: Celeste Wallander, a deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia; Maine Gov. John Elias Baldacci; Boro Vucinic, the minister of defense from Montenegro; and Brig. Gen. Brent Boyles, the assistant adjutant general of the Maine Army National Guard.

In 2006, Montenegro declared independence from Serbia, formerly the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The country is located in Southeastern Europe on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, comprising the size of the state of Connecticut.

The State Partnership Program, part of the NATO Partnership for Peace program, links the Maine Army National Guard with the partner country of Montenegro for the purpose of promoting regional stability in the Western Balkans and eventual membership into NATO and the European Union.

“I will remind you that so far, within the State Partnership Program, since the establishment of cooperation in 2007, five plans of bilateral cooperation have been signed,” Vucinic said.

A few of the initiatives the State Partnership Program offers are:

-- Transformation. The Maine National Guard will advise the Montenegrin Armed Forces as it transitions from a conscript to an all-volunteer force which reduces its numbers and updates 30-year-old equipment.

-- Officer and Enlisted development. Members of the Montenegrin military may attend military professional development courses in Maine.

-- Emergency management. Montenegro will work with the Maine National Guard and the Maine Emergency Management Agency to enhance emergency response for civil emergencies and search and rescue operations. Montenegro is vulnerable to floods and earthquakes. Maine will model the National Guard’s relationship with civilian law enforcement agencies for Montenegro, which is developing similar relationships.

-- Civilian-to-civilian partnerships. Student exchanges between the University of Maine System and academic programs in Montenegro have emerged.

"Although, for now, partnership with Maine includes military to military cooperation and the coop, in the area of emergency management, our desire is to improve and expand it to other areas as well,” Vucinic said.

Vucinic also expressed special thanks to Baldacci and Libby for their personal engagement and contribution to establishing a good quality cooperation.

“We are pleased with the progress our partnership has experienced during the past four years and look forward to our partnership for years to come,” said Boyles.