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Montenegro voters back independence from Serbia

[JURIST] Election officials in Montenegro [government website; CIA backgrounder] said Monday that over 55 percent of voters in Sunday's referendum [CDT materials] endorsed seceding from Serbia [JURIST news archive] and forming an independent nation. Montenegro's State Electoral Commission said that 55.4 percent of voters supported independence in a majority vote that required 55 percent to win. Some Montenegrin leaders had criticized [JURIST report] the 55 percent threshold, which was set by the European Union [official website], as undemocratic. Montenegrins began to celebrate late Sunday night when it appeared as though Montenegro was likely to win the referendum [JURIST report]. The voter participation rate in the election was 88 percent, the highest turnout since the first democratic elections [summary] in 1990. Montenegrins voted for independence despite heavy resistance from Serbian nationalists within Montenegro, who argued that Montenegro was too small to survive as an independent nation. Conversely, the pro-independence camp argued that independence would boost the economy and accelerate Montenegro's path to joining the EU with former Yugoslav republic Slovenia. AP has more. B92 has local coverage.

Former Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus [BBC profile] called on the Serbian Government Monday to be the first to recognize Montenegro as an independent nation, stating that Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic [official website; Wikipedia profile] and Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica [official profile; Wikipedia profile] should meet immediately. According to the constitutional charter [PDF text] of Serbia-Montenegro, Serbia will retain all international rights and obligations as a result of the break, including the country's seat in the United Nations. All other issues will be left to resolution between the two nations. Although Montenegro hopes to join the EU quickly, it will now have to register for acceptance into all international organizations as a requirement for EU acceptance. However, Montenegro should not run into too many economic problems in its bid to join the EU because Serbia and Montenegro have been discussing EU acceptance independently. Serbia will not have to change its law to accommodate its newfound independence, and the Montenegrin Parliament [official website] will incorporate Sunday's referendum into a bill during a special session scheduled for Wednesday. B92 has more.

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