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Montenegro accepts EU plan for independence vote, delays referendum

[JURIST] [JURIST Europe] The Montenegrin government [official website] agreed Tuesday to delay the republic's independence referendum from Serbia originally scheduled for April 30 [JURIST report] and accept a controversial formula proposed by the European Union (EU) [official website]. The EU said earlier in the week that it would consider the referendum to be valid only if there is a 55% majority, a turnout of at least 50% of eligible voters, and a clear and simple question to be voted on. Although supportive of Montenegro's independence, Montenegrin Prime Minister, Milo Djukanovic [BBC profile] had criticized the formula as "undemocratic".

The referendum is set to take place on May 21, 2006, one week later than recommended by European Envoy for the Montenegro Referendum Miroslav Lajcak. Regular local elections, which were initially to be held at the same time as the referendum, will now be held in the fall along with parliamentary elections. The Montenegro Parliament [official website] is expected to adopt the bill containing the referendum in a session to be held Wednesday. Montenegro was incorporated into the loose union of Serbia-Montenegro in 2003. Serbian nationalists within Montenegro have warned of a civil war if the referendum passes. Recent opinion polls show that 55% of the population favors independence. EUObserver has more.

Angela Onikepe is an Associate Editor for JURIST Europe, reporting European legal news from a European perspective. She is based in the UK.

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