Montenegro to proclaim independence

Montenegro was poised to proclaim independence following a referendum in which the state voted in favour of separation from Serbia.

india Updated: Jun 03, 2006 17:47 IST

Montenegro was poised to proclaim independence on Saturday following a referendum in which the tiny Balkan state voted in favour of separation from Serbia.

The Montenegrin Parliament was due to meet at 8:00 pm to be presented with a final report on the vote by the referendum commission's chairman, EU-appointed Slovak diplomat Frantisek Lipka.

According to official results 55.5 per cent of some 420,000 voters on May 21 supported independence -- narrowly above the EU-set 55 percent threshold -- compared to 44.5 per cent who wanted to retain the union with Serbia, the last vestige of the former Yugoslav federation.

Following the report, the parliament is to adopt a declaration on independence that will effectively proclaim a new sovereign state of Montenegro.

A draft copy of the declaration shows the biggest priority of independent Montenegro will be membership of the European Union and NATO.

It says Montenegro is determined to build its state policy by respecting the principles of the United Nations, EU, Council of Europe and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Following the proclamation of independence in front of the Parliament building, Montenegro's national anthem will be played, the state red flag bearing a two-headed golden eagle will be raised, and a firework display will begin.

Minor opposition parties who were in favour of the state union have already said they will boycott the session because they do not recognise the results of the referendum.

It is not known whether the main opposition group, the pro-union Socialist People's Party will attend.

Serbia and Montenegro were the last two republics to remain allied after the bloody break-up of communist Yugoslavia in early 1990s.

Under EU pressure Belgrade and Podgorica formed a loose union in 2003 with a few joint ministries such as defence, foreign affairs and human rights, but their economies remained separate, including different currencies, customs and tax system.

Under that agreement, each republic had the right to hold a referendum on independence after three years.

According to the constitutional charter of the vanishing state union, Serbia will inherit membership of the UN and other international and financial organisations.

EU officials have urged the Serbian government, whose Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica firmly backed the pro-union bloc in Montenegro, to open talks as soon as possible with their counterparts in Podgorica on a "velvet divorce".

However, none of Serbia's top officials has yet confirmed a trip to Podgorica for the celebration.

Serbia's President Boris Tadic, who had already visited Montenegro following the referendum and to offer his congratulations, will probably not attend thge ceremony, sources in his cabinet said.

Kostunica, who was reluctant to accept the referendum result and has said Serbia has better things to do than to congratulate Montenegro or to rush to establish diplomatic ties, was also unlikely to attend.

First Published: Jun 03, 2006 17:47 IST