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Montenegro's parliament approves new minority pro-EU government

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By Euronews  with AP
Montenegrin PM Dritan Abazović speaks to the media after the parliament session in Cetinje on 28 April 2022
Montenegrin PM Dritan Abazović speaks to the media after the parliament session in Cetinje on 28 April 2022   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Risto Bozovic

Montenegrin lawmakers on Thursday approved a new, pro-Western government that promised to speed up European Union integration and make an effort to bridge a deep political divide in the small Balkan nation.

The government of Prime Minister Dritan Abazović won support from 45 lawmakers in the 81-member parliament, with three votes against. Pro-Serb groups did not attend the session.

The vote came after the previous, pro-Serb government was ousted in a no-confidence motion in February.

The election of the pro-Western government in Montenegro is seen as a boost to US and EU efforts at maintaining stability in the region amid the war in Ukraine. 

The Balkans are a Russian area of interest and Moscow has sought to maintain a strong influence there.

“I am a great optimist and I believe in the bright future of our Montenegro,” Abazović told parliament. 

“We all must make an effort so that Montenegro becomes the next member of the European Union. And we should not wait long.”

Minority government promises European future

Despite at first being open to Russian investments since it declared independence from a union with Serbia in 2006, Montenegro has distanced itself from Moscow's influence, joining NATO in 2017. 

But the country of 620,000 inhabitants still remains split between groups favouring pro-Western policies and those seeking closer ties with Serbia and Russia.

Pro-Serbian parties also have enjoyed support from the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.

Abazović served as a deputy prime minister in the previous, pro-Serb administration formed after a 2020 election that removed the long-ruling Democratic Party of Socialists or DPS from power.

Abazović, however, later cited stalled EU integration and internal disagreement between the coalition partners -- ranging from Serb nationalist Future of Montenegro, to Abazović's liberal-green Black and White -- to initiate the government's ouster through the no-confidence motion. 

His new government is a minority Cabinet supported in parliament by the opposition DPS party of President Milo Đukanović, who ruled Montenegro for 30 years until the 2020 vote. 

Đukanović has maintained his position as a key political figure in Montenegro, but his party's popularity plunged over the years, mainly over allegations of corruption.

The Socialist People's Party or SNP, a centre-left party whose former leader Momir Bulatović was the main ally of Serbian nationalist strongman Slobodan Milošević during the bloody dissolution of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, received the most seats for any single party in the coalition cabinet: with six out of 20. 

Opening the first session of the new government on Friday, Abazović thanked the ministers, stating he understood that the task ahead -- of uniting the country after years of divisive politics and going ahead with EU reforms -- will not be easy.

Abazović, however, promised a commitment to transparency during his government's reign. "People sitting here don't owe anything in particular to anyone, except the citizens," he said.