Magazine article Europe-East

Serbia and Montenegro : Eu Gets New Potential Member with Montenegro Independence Vote

Magazine article Europe-East

Serbia and Montenegro : Eu Gets New Potential Member with Montenegro Independence Vote

Article excerpt

The EU was facing up to life with an extra potential member on its doorstep as Montenegrins voted on 21 May for independence from Serbia. Early referendum results said that 55.4% of voters backed independence for the small Balkan republic, a whisker over the 55% needed, marking another step in the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia.

The prospect of Montenegrin independence had been on the cards for some time, and as a referendum was always likely to be hotly contested, EU officials were above all keen to see a fair vote and an undisputed result either way. The EU helped broker the decision to set 55% as the winning margin for independence. That this threshold seemed to have been exceeded avoided what many feared would be the messy scenario of a vote for independence of between 50 and 55% - a "grey zone" where there would be a majority in favour of splitting from Serbia but not enough to secure independence.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana congratulated the Montenegrins on the successful and seemingly orderly organisation of their referendum. He said the high turn-out - just over 86% - confirmed the legitimacy of the process, and - with final results still to be confirmed - made clear the EU would respect the outcome. He called on the for' and against' camps to do the same. The OSCE said the referendum was in line overall with international standards.

All Western Balkan states are seen as potential EU members and Montenegrin independence, once legally confirmed, would add a new one to the list, giving the EU some extra logistical work to do. …

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