Montenegrin lawmakers elect pro-EU government after crisis – KIRO 7 News Seattle

PODGORICA, Montenegro — (AP) — Montenegrin lawmakers on Thursday approved a new pro-Western government that has vowed to speed up European Union integration and work to bridge a deep political divide in the small nation of Balkans.

Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic’s government won the support of 45 lawmakers in the 81-member parliament while three votes were against. Pro-Serbian groups did not attend the session.

The vote came weeks after the previous pro-Serb government was overthrown 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 to maintain stability in the volatile Balkans amid war in Ukraine. The Balkan region is a traditional Russian hotspot 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,” Abazovic told parliament. “We all have to make an effort for Montenegro to become the next member of the European Union. And we shouldn’t wait long.

Montenegro challenged Moscow in 2017 to join NATO. But the country of 620,000 people still remains divided between groups favoring pro-Western policies and those seeking closer ties with other Slavic countries, Serbia and Russia.

Abazovic served as deputy prime minister in the previous pro-Serb administration formed after the 2020 elections that ousted the long-ruling Democratic Party of Socialists.

Abazovic, however, later cited stalled EU integration to initiate the ousting of the government through the motion of no confidence. His new government is a minority cabinet backed in parliament by President Milo Djukanovic’s opposition DPS party.

This party ruled Montenegro for 30 years until the vote in 2020. A Western ally, Djukanovic led Montenegro to independence from Serbia in 2006 and to NATO. But his party’s popularity has plunged over the years, mainly due to corruption allegations.

Djukanovic alleged that pro-Serbian parties in Montenegro wanted to restore the influence of Serbia and Russia. Pro-Serbian parties also enjoyed support from the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.

Abazovic said in his speech Thursday that he wanted to unite Montenegro’s opposing factions under a vision of a democratic, corruption-free and economically prosperous nation that is part of the EU27.

“We have an opportunity ahead of us that we must not miss,” Abazovic said. “Our future is European.

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