ATHENS – Wracked by corruption and with political infighting threatening to bring down the government, Montenegro still wants Greece’s support for its hopes to join the European Union, after becoming a member of NATO in 2017.
With his pro-Serbian, pro-Russian coalition bitterly divided, President Milo Djukanovic said, “We are taking important steps towards the European integration of our country, and we expect Greece to continue to support us,” during a meeting with Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the Chinese news agency Xinhua said.
She responded that, “Greece believes that in times of growing global challenges, such as the period we are going through, the European perspective of the western Balkans, their full membership of the European Union, is in the political and economic interest of the European Union itself, but also an incentive for these countries to make the necessary reforms.”
That was in reference to EU concerns about a number of issues in Montenegro, one of the most corrupt European countries in ratings by Transparency International – although Greece is almost as bad.
He was the first Montenegrin head of state to visit Greece since 2006, when the country declared its independence and the confederation of Serbia and Montenegro peacefully dissolved, the report added.
Djukanovic also talked about the EU integration when met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, according to the Greek national broadcaster ERT but it wasn’t said specifically what was said.
Montenegro’s government is on the edge of collapse after Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic, in a tweet, warned against the possibility of a long-ruling pro-Western party coming back to power.
He said that plans by his ruling coalition partners to install a new, minority government with the support of the opposition Democratic Party of Socialists would reinstate the party’s influence in Montenegro less than two years after it was ousted in an election.
The DPS president, Milo Djukanovic, ruled Montenegro for nearly three decades before it was replaced in the August 2020 vote by Krivokapic’s ideologically-mixed coalition, which includes pro-Serb and pro-Russian groups along with smaller parties.
Djukanovic led Montenegro to independence from Serbia in 2006 and defied Russia to win NATO membership in 2017, but his government’s popularity sunk over time amid corruption allegations.
Krivokapic warned his coalition partners that if his government failed, “the concentration of political power would transfer into the hands of the defeated DPS and its president.”
Krivokapic’s government in recent months has plunged into a political crisis. It is heading for a showdown in parliament this week when lawmakers will decide whether to support his bid for an early election or oust his government in a no-confidence motion.
A junior partner in the government, the United Reform Action, has proposed that a minority government replace the existing one in order to push forward Montenegro’s stalled European Union membership bid for now.
“I call on those who accuse me of defending my own position to return their mandates to the citizens and check the legitimacy of their new political platform at an early parliamentary election,” Krivokapic said in his Twitter post.
Montenegro – a Balkan nation of 620,000 people – remains deeply divided among pro-Serb and pro-Western supporters. Krivokapic’s government came to power following weeks of protests led by the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)