09 October 2008 Podgorica -- Montenegro has recognised Kosovo’s independence, leading Belgrade to expel the small Adriatic state's ambassador to Serbia.
"Montenegro's government has decided to undertake such a move in the best interests of Montenegro and the Montenegrin people," Podgorica's Foreign Minister Milan Rocen told reporters. The move was a unanimous decision by the government. "The decision is being coordinated with the Macedonian government," Rocen said. Macedonia's Parliament is set to adopt a resolution urging the government to recognise Kosovo's independence. Serbia's Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic has since told Serbia's state-owned news agency that Belgrade is expelling Montenegro's ambassador in retaliation. Read more:
A Serbian Foreign Ministry also meanwhile announced Belgrade will return all its ambassadors to countries that it withdrew after their recognitions of Kosovo's independence. (Previously Belgrade had returned ambassadors only to European Union states which had recognised Kosovo's independence). Read more:
Podgorica's decision comes despite Montenegro voting at the United Nations General Assembly in favour of Serbia’s resolution to seek the International Court of Justice’s opinion on whether or not Kosovo’s declaration of independence earlier this year was in accordance with international law. Read more:
Yet earlier this week, Montenegro's President Filip Vujanovic indicated the country will recognise Kosovo's independence despite bitter opposition from traditional ally Serbia. Vujanovic said Tuesday that the decision will have to be made soon because of Montenegro's desire to become an European Union and NATO member. He said recognition of Kosovo is an "obvious condition" for integration. Speculation had been rife for weeks that Montenegro, which was in a loose union with Serbia up until 2006, was to recognise Kosovo’s secession from Belgrade imminently. However the issue in Montenegro is contentious and the leader of the country’s biggest ethnic Serb party has warned of mass protests if Montenegro recognises Kosovo’s independence. Read more:
A large proportion of Montenegro citizens, about a third of the population, declare themselves as Serbs, while ethnic Albanians also make up a sizeable minority in the coastal republic.
Formal statement from the Montenegrin government:
9 October 2008
Government of Montenegro and Government of the Republic of Macedonia, as immediate neighbors of both Serbia and Kosovo and as countries with clear European and Euro Atlantic orientation, have agreed to make the following joint statement in the context of decisions made in relation to the recognition of Kosovo:
Montenegro and Macedonia have consistently supported the process of negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, and they consider the plan of UN Special Envoy for the Kosovo Status Settlement to be a good foundation for finding solution that would contribute to permanent stability and to the new European and Euro Atlantic perspective of the region. The declaration of independence of Kosovo came after the failure of the international community efforts for Belgrade and Pristina negotiations to result in solution for Kosovo status.
Montenegro and Macedonia are committed to permanent stability, peace, security and progress of all the countries of the region, with clear European and Euro Atlantic perspective. In this sense, Montenegro and Macedonia will strive for improvement of regional cooperation institutionalized through regional initiatives as well as for full implementation of the free flow of people, goods, capital and ideas.
Taking into consideration that Kosovo institutions made commitment to fully implement principles and provisions in the plan of UN Special Envoy for the Kosovo Status Settlement, the two countries support the building of democratic institutions in Kosovo with the aim to foster multiethnic society in which the rights of all ethnic communities on cultural, religious and language identity will be guaranteed.
The decision to recognize Kosovo by Montenegro, as a potential EU candidate country and Macedonia, as EU candidate country is a result of a careful political assessment and is based on conclusions adopted by the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council on February 12, 2007 and February 18, 2008, as well as on decisions made by European Council on December 14, 2007.
Montenegro and Macedonia, guided by core principles of their foreign policy for building good-neighborly relations with all their neighbors remain committed to further development and deepening of relations with the Republic of Serbia in all areas of common interest, as well as to maintaining traditional close ties among the three countries and their peoples. At the same time, the two countries will continue to render support the Republic of Serbia on its way to European integration. Montenegro and Macedonia are firmly convinced that the European integration of the countries of the region in the spirit of the Thessaloniki Agenda represent solid and stable basis for faster economic progress, social development and prosperity which will bring better life to all its citizens.
Done in Montenegrin, Macedonian and English.