Wednesday, July 10, 2024
HomenewsMontenegro’s new government eyes EU membership as it finally takes power

Montenegro’s new government eyes EU membership as it finally takes power

Lawmakers in Montenegro have voted to form a coalition government that includes pro-European as well as pro-Russian and pro-Serbian parties, nearly five months after general elections that ended inconclusively.

Following an overnight debate, 46 MPs of the 81-member parliament voted for a government coalition formed by the centre-right pro-European Democrats, pro-Serbian Socialist People’s Party, and five parties representing the Albanian minority.

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Prime Minister Milojko Spajic, who will lead the coalition, said under his leadership the country – which joined NATO in 2017 – will continue its long pursuit of European Union membership, as well as targeting economic development and a stronger standing in regional affairs.

“Our four main foreign policy priorities are full membership … in the EU, active, credible membership in NATO, improvement of good relations with neighbours and strengthening of the country’s role in multilateral organisations,” Spajic told deputies.

He said economic policies would aim to improve the living standards of Montenegro’s population of 620,000 and include reforms enabling more fiscal revenues, investment, a better business climate and judiciary.

“Our vision is Montenegro as the Switzerland of the Balkans and the Singapore of Europe,” Spajic, 37, pronounced.

Since forming in 2022, Europe Now has quickly gained traction with its pro-European platform.

Spajic’s Europe Now party won the snap vote on June 11 with 25.6 percent of the vote. That came after the party’s candidate Jakov Milatovic defeated Milo Djukanovic, who had headed the country for three decades, in presidential run-offs in April.

“We can’t wait to make a result for our country,” Spajic told reporters. “We hope to unclog the European integration, move forward quickly and become the next member of the European Union.”

The alliance

The pro-Serb and pro-Russia alliance, For A Better Montenegro, led by Andrija Mandic, agreed to back Spajic’s cabinet in exchange for the position of parliament speaker. It will also gain four ministerial posts after a government reshuffle tentatively scheduled for the next year.

Mandic’s alliance stands in clear opposition against the pro-Western policies of the previous government. It is against the recognition of Serbia’s former breakaway province of Kosovo and international sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

Montenegro aligned with EU sanctions against Moscow and expelled a number of Russian diplomats last year. The Kremlin has placed Montenegro on its list of unfriendly states.

Mandic has previously called for close ties with Russia rather than the EU and criticised Montenegro’s NATO membership. But, upon his election as parliament speaker on Monday, Mandic said he is ready to “send some new messages”.

However, opposition supporters protested against the new government coalition in disapproval of its anti-Western tilt.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrived in Montenegro on Tuesday for talks with the new government as part of a tour of Western Balkan nations, all of which have grown impatient during a long wait to join the 27-nation union.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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