Montenegro ratifies Nato membership in historic shift to western alliance
Politicians voted 46-0 in favour, but pro-Russian lawmakers boycotted session and outside parliament hundreds of anti-Nato protesters gathered
Montenegro’s parliament has supported the Balkan country’s membership in Nato in a historic turn toward the west amid protests by Russia and the pro-Russia opposition.
Politicians voted 46-0 to ratify the accession treaty with the western military alliance. They then stood up and applauded the decision.
The parliament has 81 members, but pro-Russia opposition politicians boycotted the session. Several hundred opposition supporters gathered outside the hall before the vote.
Montenegro has a small military of about 2,000 troops, but it is strategically positioned to give Nato full control over the Adriatic Sea. The other Adriatic nations – Albania, Croatia and Italy – are already in the alliance.
Russia has been angered by Nato’s expansion to Montenegro, which is in Moscow’s traditional area of interest. Russia’s foreign ministry denounced the Montenegrin parliament’s ratification of membership on Friday as “a demonstrative act of trampling all democratic norms and principles”.
The ministry took a dismissive swipe at the country’s size and military capability, saying that “given the potential of Montenegro, the north Atlantic alliance is unlikely to receive significant ‘added value’”.
Montenegro has accused Russia of being behind a foiled election day coup in October allegedly designed to throw the country off its path toward Nato. Russia has denied the accusation, but has actively supported the opposition.
Prime minister Duško Marković told parliament that Nato membership was a guarantee for Montenegro’s future security, economic progress and regional stability.
“This assembly and its members have a historic privilege to make a decision that will be remembered as long as there is Montenegro and Montenegrins,” Marković said. “This day will be marked among the brightest in our history.”
His predecessor, Milo Đukanović – who was the head of government during the alleged coup attempt that reportedly included plans for his assassination – said joining the organisation was the most important decision in recent history.
“After long suffering and roaming through history, [Montenegro] is finally in the position where it logically, historically, civilisation-wise and culturally belongs,” Đukanović said.
Anti-Nato demonstrators chanted “treason” and “thieves” and burned a Nato flag during the protest outside parliament before peacefully dispersing. A banner read: “Nato murderers, your hands are bloody!”
“I feel humiliated because others are making a decision in my name,” former Montenegrin president Momir Bulatović said. “What is happening now is triumph by force and lies.”
Opposition leaders said they don’t recognise the parliamentary ratification of the Nato accession and will call a referendum on the issue, if they come to power in the future.
The country of 620,000 has been historically divided between pursuing pro-western policies and sticking to an alliance with Orthodox Christian allies Serbia and Russia.
Both Russia and the pro-Russia opposition in Montenegro also have evoked the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, which included Serbia and Montenegro at the time, as a reason to stay out of the alliance.
Marković said Montenegro was drawn into Serbia’s war with Nato and that membership in the alliance would help prevent anything like that from happening again.
“Nato and the EU have always been and remain a guarantee of stability and security and cooperation and the main basis for peace in Europe,” he said. “It is about what kind of future we choose for us and generations to come.”
Montenegro was formally invited to join Nato in December 2015. Marković said 27 out of 28 NATO member states have ratified Montenegro’s entry protocol and Spain would do so in the coming weeks.
Montenegro gained independence from Serbia in 2006.