Montenegro, Serbia relations are improving

24/12/2013

Serbia and Montenegro are overcoming the political issues from the past that impeded progress in the two countries' relationship.

By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Podgorica -- 24/12/13

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Montenegro Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic was in Belgrade on December 10th. [AFP]

A recent visit by Montenegro Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic to Belgrade showed that the relationship between Montenegro and Serbia is improving, experts said.

Djukanovic was in Serbia on December 10th, his first visit to Serbia since March 2003 when he attended the funeral of slain Serbia Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. He met with Serbia Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.

"There are not any serious problems in the relations between the two countries," Djukanovic told reporters after the meeting with Dacic.

Milivoje Mihajlovic, spokesman for the Serbian government, told SETimes that Djukanovic's visit marked a new beginning in the countries' relations.

"It is in our mutual interest to co-operate. We have a lot of joint infrastructure projects, like the Belgrade-Bar Railway, and we could more easily apply for money if we work together," Mihajlovic said.

Experts said that this visit is proof that the countries are able to leave the past behind and look to the future.

"We want to build the best possible relations with Serbia, as with all countries of the region. There is no question that can be resolved through discussion and dialogue. Our cultures, history and people are similar. Of course, there is always room for improvement," Miodrag Vukovic, president of the Montenegro parliamentary committee on international relationships, told SETimes.

The two countries were unified under the name Yugoslavia until 2003 when the name was changed to the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. In the new constitution, an amendment allowed either state to hold an independence referendum after three years. That clause was exercised by Montenegro in 2006.

On May 21st 2006, more than 55 percent of Monterego citizens voted to leave the union, and the country became independent in June 2006.

Following Montenegro's recognition of Kosovo's independence in 2008, Serbia expelled the country's ambassador to Serbia as relations deteriorated.

Zoran Stojiljkovic, a professor at Belgrade's political science faculty, said that this visit is a positive signal for relations between the two countries.

"We might also say that this represents the relaxation of relations in the whole Balkan region. The EU administration seeks quality of regional relations and that is the task for all countries looking to join the EU," Stojiljkovic told SETimes.

Some citizens are urging the countries to co-operate.

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"I have an apartment in Kotor [Montenegro], and I have gone there on summer holidays with my family every year for more than 20 years, and it will never change. Wouldn't it be idiotic for me to argue and fight with my neighbours because of some political decision that were brought in some cabinet? Ordinary people are way over those official standpoints. If those who run our states acted like us, there would never be any misunderstanding," Bojan Rajkovic, an engineer from Novi Sad, told SETimes.

According to a survey conducted by marketing agency NINA from Belgrade on December 11th, about 48 percent of the countries' citizens rated the quality of relations between the two countries as above average.

"I think Serbia was hurt when Montenegro made some decisions, such as the recognition of Kosovo's independence, but I think people understand the reality now. When we enter the EU, there will be no boundaries between us and we will pay more respect to each other," Nenad Stevovic, a 27-year-old sociology student from Niksic, north Montenegro, told SETimes.

What can be done to further improve relations and co-operation between Serbia and Montenegro? Share your thoughts below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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