When Montenegro went to the polls last Sunday, it was expected to finally put an end to deep political divisions and years of instability that have hampered the small NATO member on its route to joining the European Union.
But instead, it seems Montenegrin politics is likely to remain as fraught as ever. The elections ended with no clear winner, meaning difficult coalition talks ahead.
Still, one issue where voters and politicians are largely in agreement is the country’s long-held dream of EU membership.
The outgoing Montenegrin prime minister, Dritan Abazovic, told Euronews on Friday that: “Most of the political parties have the same goal. And that goal is, until the end of the mandate of that new government and that new parliament in 2027, we will be fully ready for the joining of the EU.”
Montenegro applied for EU membership in 2008, secured candidate status in 2010, and accession negotiations started in the summer of 2012.
Abazovic was one of the guests at this year’s Prespa Forum, a platform set up by North Macedonia to bring together Balkan nations, organisations, and citizens to build long-term relationships and strengthen partnerships.
At this year’s forum, Western Balkan leaders had a message for Brussels: it is high time to move beyond words and start taking actions that will speed their countries’ path to membership.
Abazovic, though, wants to see fewer pleasantries and more movement.
“It’s not only enough to say ‘Yes, the door is open, please come, if you are ready, you are acceptable.’ Something needs to be done.”
Of all the Western Balkan nations waiting for EU membership, Montenegro is the most advanced. Unlike Serbia and Kosovo, it has no open political issues with neighbours and with a population of just over 600,000 is small enough to be easily absorbed by the bloc.
But tensions have been heightening between Serbia and Kosovo after Serbia detained three Kosovar police officers last week – the NATO peacekeeping force said it’s not clear which country the officers were in at the time, adding to the confusion. And, as Abazovic admits, such instability has a ripple effect through the region.
“This region is very small, and every negative impact of every negative news from some countries have the negative implication also in our countries,” he told Euronews.