Europe and the economy. These are the issues dominating the early elections in Montenegro.
Milo Djukanovic, a veteran of political life in the country since 1991, understands this and has used them in his campaign for re-election. Djukanovic first led Montenegro to break its ties with Serbia in 2006. He is now trying to speed up the accession of this Balkan nation of 670,000 inhabitants to the European Union. In December, when France held the EU Presidency, Djukanovic met Nicolas Sarkozy and Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn to officially request that Montenegro become a candidate for membership in the bloc. But the European Union has set some pre- conditions to entry. Montenegro must first stamp out corruption and organised crime. Olli Rehn reiterated this demand recently: “I also want to encourage Montenegro to continue to work on strengthening its administrative capacity, the rule of law, as well as tackling organised crime and corruption,” he said. These are not the only problems Montenegro must face. The world’s financial woes have begun to make themselves felt in Montenegro’s developing economy. The economic growth in the country reached double figures in 2007, hitting 10.7 percent, one of the highest in Europe. But it fell to eight percent in 2008 and the forecast for this year is as low as two percent. Montenegro’s main source of revenue since independence has been tourism, thanks to its Adriatic Sea coastline. At its height, tourism brought in as much as a quarter of the country’s GDP. But analysts expect this season will be significantly poorer, amid the world economic crisis and cancelled foreign investments, such as a multi-billion dollar marina project.