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Montenegro adopts first constitution after independence
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09:23, October 20, 2007

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The parliament of Montenegro adopted on Friday evening with the two-thirds majority the country's first constitution since it regained its independence last year, said reports reaching Belgrade from the Montenegrin capital Podgorica.

In the 81-seat parliament, the new constitution was supported by 55 MPs, while 21 voted against and the rest abstained. The parliament also adopted a law on implementing the constitution.

The new constitution, which was backed by the ruling coalition headed by Prime Minister Zeljko Sturanovic and a part of the opposition, is the second in Montenegro's history as an independent and sovereign state, after the one adopted in 1905 under the reign of King Nikola Petrovic.

Following months of deliberations in the parliament, the ruling coalition managed to secure the two-thirds majority required for the adoption of the constitution to avoid a referendum.

In addition to the governing Democratic Party of Socialists and Social Democratic Party, the document was approved also by the opposition Movement for Changes, the Liberal Party and by parties that represent Montenegro's Bosniak Muslim, Albanian and Croat communities.

Montenegro has a population of some 650,000, of whom 43 percent are Montenegrins, 32 percent Serbs, 12 percent Bosniak Muslims, 5 percent Albanians and 1 percent Croats.

Parties that represent Montenegro's Serbs vehemently opposed the text of the constitution, which was prepared by Montenegrin experts with the support of experts from the Council of Europe and the European Union.

According to the constitution, the official language of Montenegro will be Montenegrin, which is a dialect of Serbian. Serbian "proper" and Bosniak, another Bosnian Muslim dialect of Serbian, along with the Albanian language have the equal right of use in the tiny Balkan republic.

The pro-Belgrade Serb parties insisted that Serbian should be Montenegro's official language, and objected to the adoption of the red flag with the Montenegrin royal eagle, instead of the red, white and blue standard that is similar to the Serbian flag.

The new constitution was one of the crucial missing elements for Montenegro's progress toward membership of the European Union, with which the republic signed a stabilization and association agreement on Monday.

Montenegro separated from its former federal partner, Serbia, in June 2006 after a referendum on independence.

It was an independent state until 1918 when its leaders opted to join the newly-formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes that later became Yugoslavia.

Montenegro was the smallest among the six republics in federal Yugoslavia and it was the only republic to stay in a federation with Serbia after 1992.


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