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Photograph: Photo by Surreal Name Given, used under CC BY

Montenegro could soon join the European Union, which would further stabilise the Western Balkans, Croatian member of the European Parliament Ivan Jakovcic (IDS/ALDE) said at an initial meeting of the Friends of Montenegro group in Strasbourg on Thursday.

Jakovcic was the host of the first meeting of the Friends of Montenegro group, which was established in the European Parliament on his initiative, his office said in a press release.

The meeting was addressed by Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, who thanked Jakovcic for his initiative and for his commitment to encourage other MEPs to support Montenegro on its path towards EU membership.

"I am very encouraged by the number of MEPs, members of the Friends of Montenegro group, as well as by the quality of discussion at this first meeting. I think this will be an important contribution to the successes of Montenegro on the path to its full integration into the EU," Djukanovic said.

"In the last decade Montenegro has achieved good results and made major progress on the path to full membership. We need the additional and continued support of the European Parliament and I am confident that we will receive that support from members of the Friends of Montenegro group headed by MEP Jakovcic," he added.

Jakovcic stressed that of all candidate countries, Montenegro had made the greatest progress towards EU membership, closing 24 of 35 negotiating chapters to date. He said that Montenegro would have the full support of the friendship group, adding that he was confident that Montenegro would join the EU "at the start of the next term of the European Parliament beginning in 2019."

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