Tuesday

19th Jun 2018

EU wins Montenegro's support for its referendum formula

  • "Nobody doubts it is the Montenegro's right to decide which way to go from now on" (Photo: Slovak representation to the EU)

The EU will accept any result in the Montenegro referendum - be it independence or federation with Serbia - but the vote must be legitimate, the bloc's envoy to the region Miroslav Lajcak told EUobserver on Monday (27 February).

"I don't believe that the Montenegro government would choose to step into contradiction with the EU over this issue," Mr Lajcak said of his proposal to require a 50 percent threshold for participation and 55 percent for approval for any result to be deemed valid.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

During the interview, Mr Lajcak was informed by telephone from Podgorica of Montenegro's approval of the model, which was also given unanimous support by EU foreign ministers on Monday.

Montenegro's parliament is set to vote on the plan on Wednesday and if it is given the go-ahead, the referendum campaign can start preparations for the vote in mid-April immediately.

While the Montenegro majority is expected to support independence - possibly acquiring just around 50 percent of the vote - the Serbian minority opposes the idea and prefers the federation with Belgrade to continue.

No common rules on direct democracy

The EU referendum blueprint has sparked some controversy in recent days.

Montenegro's prime minister Milo Djukanovic, an advocate of the country's independence, indicated the thresholds were "undemocratic," while some European NGOs argued the same popular vote rules would have prevented some member states from joining the EU.

Mr Lajcak argues he was appointed to come up with rules acceptable for both the government and the opposition, as well as responding to the specific needs of the Balkan state.

"We don't have clearly defined EU rules on this issue, while both parties in Montenegro did find enough practical examples from different European countries to support their case - but this is not the right way to solve this problem," he explained.

"But what we do have is a generally accepted model that the qualified majority is needed for key state decisions, and this condition is provided for in our proposal," Mr Lajcak added.

Different routes to EU

Mr Lajcak argues that although there are different approaches towards the possible separation of Serbia and Montenegro across EU member states, the union will accept any referendum result so long as it is achieved democraticaly.

He admitted that at times his role as an envoy on behalf of the foreign policy chief Javier Solana was difficult, as it is commonly assumed in the region that the EU does not favour the break-up of the ex-Yugoslav federation of Serbia and Montenegro.

"But we made clear that after 4 February 2006, the issue of Montenegro's independence has become legitimate and the EU admits that," he noted, referring to the end of the three-year moratorium on the issue, as adopted in the federation's constitutional charter.

"Nobody doubts it is the Montenegro's right to decide which way to go from now on," he said.

He points out that if the Montenegro people eventually decide to break away and set up their independent state, the union will have to adapt its stabilisation and association agreements for both Belgrade and Podgorica.

"Both countries would then be in slightly different position in terms of closer links with the EU, as they have quite different economies."

"While the Serbian economy is based on production, industry, agriculture and its internal market needs some protection, Montenegro's economy is quite open and based mainly on services," explained Mr Lajcak.

'Connectivity' trumps enlargement at Balkans summit

At the first summit in 15 years with Western Balkan leaders, EU chiefs made it clear that enlargement is not at hand - but offered economic incentives to keep the region close to the bloc.

Analysis

Beyond macho: Turkish-EU ties

Turkey has belittled the EU in a week of macho posturing, but strategic relations go deeper than the rhetoric.

EU tells Moldova it is still corrupt

In an annual progress report, European Commission says "independence of justice, law enforcement as well as national anti-corruption authorities need substantial improvement".

Opinion

Appeasement will not work with Erdogan

As EU leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker meet president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Bulgaria, their reluctance to use their diminishing leverage with Ankara means his dismantling of Turkey's democracy only speeds up.

News in Brief

  1. Report: Audi CEO arrested over Dieselgate
  2. EU-Australia trade talks kick off in Brussels next month
  3. France and Germany moving closer to eurozone reform
  4. Merkel to meet Conte to find migration compromise
  5. Seehofer gives Merkel time to strike EU migration deal
  6. Schroeder and Sarkozy appear with Putin at World Cup
  7. Tennis champ and 'EU diplomat' claims immunity
  8. Italy threatens to ditch EU-Canada free trade deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  2. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. Orban to EPP: turn 'Christian democratic' or face challenge
  2. Is EU retail sector equipped for 21st century?
  3. Tear gas bodes ill for Macedonia name deal
  4. EU asylum claims drop, Germany registers most
  5. EU summit: migrants get a 'vote' too
  6. Basque threat of 'second front' for independence
  7. Progressive regulation needed now for 21st century finance
  8. Greece and Merkel's fate top This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us