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Southeast European Times: Montenegro's Djukanovic calls for overcoming divisions, moving ahead

Published date: 23.05.2006 18:56 | Author: Kliping inostranih medija

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By Antonela Arhin and Igor Jovanovic
23 May 2006

One day after Montenegrins voted to make their republic Europe's newest independent state, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic held a press conference Monday (22 May) and said the time has come to heal divisions and move forward.

"Ahead of us is a phase of healing wounds due to political divides ⦠not only on the referendum issue but generally on political issues," Djukanovic said, adding that Sunday's vote had resolved a dilemma hovering over Montenegro for nearly a century. "Yesterday we received the democratic response from our citizens, and now we have to overcome our differences and tensions and develop Montenegro as a politically homogenous society on its path to Europe."

"I am certain that Montenegro has that democratic potential," said Djukanovic. He also said the step towards independence had not been taken to the detriment of Serbia, but rather to take full rein of Montenegro's responsibility for the future within Europe and to better its relations with Serbia.

Resuming Stabilisation and Association Agreement talks with the EU -- broken off over Belgrade's failure to arrest and extradite war crimes indictee Ratko Mladic -- will be the government's first priority, Djukanovic said.

On Tuesday, Republic Referendum Commission president Fratisek Lipka announced the latest official results: 55.5 per cent of voters backed independence -- half a percentage point over the threshold set by the EU.

Voter turnout was 86.49 per cent out of a total 484,718 eligible voters, the Slovak diplomat said.

Independence was backed by voters in Podgorica, Niksic, Bijelo Polje, Cetinje, Bar, Budva, Danilovgrad, Kotor, Plav, Rozaje, Tivat and Ulcinj. The pro-union bloc, meanwhile, won mainly in the north and in one coastal city -- specifically, in Berane, Zabljak, Kolasin, Mojkovac, Pluzine, Pljevlja, Andrijevica, Savnik and Herceg Novi.

Croatian President Stipe Mesic was the first foreign head of state to congratulate Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic on the result, which he described as a turning point. The voters' decision would define Montenegro's future path as well as enable the definition of relations between Montenegro and its neighbours, including Serbia, Mesic said.

A stable and progressive Montenegro, committed to democracy and European values and standards, is in the best interest of Croatia and in keeping with the concept of the region as an area of peace, security and stability, Mesic added.

Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski said the Montenegrin people had freely expressed their will. The results of the vote, he added, could "sober up" Serbia and persuade it to focus on its Euro-Atlantic future.

Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, meanwhile, said the outcome would make the region "freer, more stable and secure on the road towards Euro-Atlantic integration". He predicted that Montenegro's independence would be followed by that of Kosovo.

The Serbian government indicated it was waiting for the final tally before making an official response. However, federal Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, who heads the Serb Renewal Party, congratulated Montenegro, saying "Serbia has to accept the result of the referendum, welcome it and turn to itself." He urged Serbia to "return to its roots" and consider restoring the monarchy.

Congratulations also came from Serbia's G-17 Plus Party and its leader, Mladjan Dinkic, who said Serbs now had an opportunity to take charge of their own destiny. Former Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus urged the Serbian government to recognise Montenegro's independence, and said Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica should hold talks with Djukanovic immediately.