By deciding to open an embassy in Pristina, Montenegro is signalling its role as a stabiliser in the region.
By Safet Kabashaj and Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Pristina and Podgorica -- 08/06/12
Bilateral relations between Kosovo and Montenegro are strengthening. [Reuters]
Montenegro's decision to open an embassy in Kosovo last week has drawn fire from opposition parties in Podgorica, who claim that the move will harm the country's relations with Serbia.
The move to further diplomatic ties was sparked by Kosovo's pledge to accept the Montenegrin community as a constitutional category in the country.
"We have good political, economic and trade relations with Montenegro. The opening of embassies will further enforce our relations," Artan Behrami, the Kosovo foreign minister's press adviser, told SETimes.
The last two countries to break away from the Yugoslav federation, Montenegro and Kosovo have since developed positive bilateral relations. Montenegro recognised Kosovo in October 2008, a decision that strained Montenegro's relations with its former union partner, Serbia.
Opposition parties in Podgorica protested, which eventually turned to violence in the streets.
Neven Gosovic, vice president of the Socialist People's Party (SNP) -- Montenegro's biggest opposition party, said the move will only worsen relations.
"Opening the embassy in Pristina is a consequence of the most shameful decision of Montenegro to recognise Kosovo independence and it will certainly spoil the relations with Serbia," Gosovic told SETimes.
"The public in Montenegro is still divided in terms of Kosovo's independence. However, public reaction is now more compliant to the news on the opening of the embassy than it would have been five years ago," Milan Popovic, professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Podgorica, told SETimes.
For Alban Bokshi, executive director of the Foreign Policy Club in Pristina, this is a positive development, According to him, Serbia lately has been trying to destabilise the region.
"Serbia's aim is to show that the current state of affairs in the Balkans is not stable and durable, namely that the independence of Kosovo has not contributed to the stability of the region," Bokshi told SETimes.
He thinks that establishing diplomatic relations with Montenegro proves the contrary -- that bilateral and regional relations are stable and improving.
Lazar Radulovic, the head of People's Montenegrin Party of Kosovo, told SETimes that by deciding to open the embassy in Pristina, Montenegro is setting an example of good neighbourly relations.
"That's ... a very important decision for the region, and I hope that Kosovo will rely on Montenegro's example in developing a multi-ethnic democratic society, in the spirit of European standards, which is the goal of both countries," Radulovic said.
He added the decision comes at the right moment for his community, and perhaps will push Pristina authorities to implement their pledge so that Montenegrins can become a constitutional category equal with other Kosovo communities.