Montenegro gets new government, promises to unblock EU integration as EU Commissioner visits

Montenegro’s new Prime Minister Milojko Spajic speaks during a parliament session in Montenegro’s capital Podgorica, Monday, Oct. 30, 2023. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is scheduled to hold talks with the new Montenegrin prime minister on Tuesday in the capital, Podgorica, as a part of her tour of the Western Balkan states seeking EU membership.

Parliament approved the new Cabinet with 46 votes in favor and 19 against after a session that lasted all night. Montenegro’s assembly has 81 members but not all were present at the vote.. The centrist Europe Now party of Prime Minister Milojko Spajic won the election, but without enough support to form a government on its own.

To form the government, the winning coalition received backing from staunchly anti-Western groups under the condition that one of their leaders, Andrija Mandic, was elected as the speaker of parliament — an influential political position.King Charles III is in Kenya for a state visit, his first to a Commonwealth country as kingSpajic said his government will be pro-European despite Mandic’s election.

“We can’t wait to make a result for our country,” Spajic told reporters. “We hope to unclog the European integration, move forward quickly and become the next member of the European Union.” Spajic spoke shortly before EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was set to hold talks in the capital, Podgorica, as part of a tour of Western Balkan nations aspiring to join the 27-nation union. Von der Leyen visited North Macedonia and Kosovo before Montenegro and is slated to travel to Serbia later on Tuesday.As the war rages in Ukraine, EU officials recently have sought to push the process forward and encourage Balkan nations to boost reform in order to join.

Recent violence and tensions between Serbia and Kosovo have been high on von der Leyen’s agenda as the EU seeks to negotiate a solution for the dispute. Kosovo split from Serbia in 2008 but Belgrade has refused to recognize the former province’s independence.

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