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18th May 2022

Montenegro hopes to apply for EU membership next year

Montenegro is hoping to lodge an official application for EU membership in the first half of 2008, the country's prime minister Zeljko Sturanovic said on Monday (15 October).

Mr Sturanovic made the announcement during a press conference after having signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU earlier in the day in Luxembourg.

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Montenegro is the fourth country of the so-called Western Balkan region – including Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Albania – to sign a SAA after Macedonia and Croatia in 2001 and Albania in 2006.

"Montenegro is much closer to Europe today than it was yesterday and our future is more certain than ever", Mr Sturanovic said welcoming the signing of the agreement, which constitutes a first step towards EU membership.

"For the first time ever in its history Montenegro has institutionalised its relations with the EU and has provided proof that it belongs to Europe not only in terms of geography, history and civilisation, but also because we share the same values and the same goals", he added.

The Montenegrin premier also expressed hope that his country would officially apply for EU membership as early as the first half of next year, under the Slovenian presidency.

The Slovenes, who will be at the head of the EU for six months from January to July 2008 have already stated their wish to push for further Balkan integration during their presidency.

Macedonia, which is currently an EU candidate country, also hopes to open accession talks during that period.

Mr Sturanovic said that he hoped his country would get all the "help and support" from the EU in order to achieve the ambitious goal.

Montenegro is still lagging behind in many fields and its EU membership is not planned to happen in a very near future.

Among other issues, it needs to reform further its public administration, its judicial system and to make more efforts as regards the fight against corruption – problematic areas common to all Balkan states.

While acknowledging the need to implement more reforms, EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn welcomed the signing of the SAA calling it "an important milestone" and a possible "inspiration" for other countries of the region.

The days preceding the signing of the agreement were full of drama for the small Adriatic state as Bulgaria had threatened to block the signing unless the translation of the text contained the Cyrillic spelling of the euro - namely "evro".

A temporary compromise on the issue was reached during the weekend, however.

Montenegro has a population of some 650,000 people and has been an independent state for only a year and a half. It split from Serbia in May 2006, after a majority of Montenegrins voted in favour of the move in a popular referendum.

Its SAA has now to be ratified by all EU member states.

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