Earlier in the day, Podgorica was invited to start accession talks to become the 29th NATO member.
"What we’ll do now is that we’ll sit down with the government of Montenegro and discuss the practical details around how we conduct and organize the accession talks. I expect them to start quite early and that they can finish by early next year. So the accession talks can go quite quickly. But then after we have agreed on the accession, then of course there’s a process with 28 parliaments, where all 28 parliaments in the NATO alliance have to ratify, and that will take some time," Stoltenberg said at a joint press conference with Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Igor Luksic.
Stoltenberg said it was impossible to name a date when Montenegro would become a full member, but could be around a year.
"I think it’s impossible to sit in Brussels and decide exactly how long this will take in 28 different capitals. So that will take the time it takes. The last time it took about one year, but I will not give any dates because it’s not possible to say with any certainty on about how long of a time this will take in different parliaments," the NATO chief said.
He added that Montenegro will now participate in meetings while its membership bid is ratified by NATO member states, but it will not have any voting rights until it officially joins the alliance.
"But after we have agreed on the accession and while we are waiting for ratification, then Montenegro will start to participate in our meetings without voting rights but they will be part of our meetings and that’s a first step towards membership," Stoltenberg said.
In September, the United States announced that it was ready to extend an invitation in December to Montenegro to join the bloc, with the announcement triggering a wave of protests in the Balkan country.