milo đukanović.jpg
Photograph: EPA/BORIS PEJOVIC

Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said on Saturday that he did not expect the relations with Russia to be strained further after the signing of a protocol on Montenegro's NATO accession.

Speaking to reporters at a reception in Podgorica on the occasion of Montenegro's Independence Day, he said Russia was generally against NATO's enlargement and that, since Montenegro was the only state to which it was expanding in this cycle, it was "understandable" that Russia was against Montenegro's NATO membership.

"We understand that Russia is an important factor of global peace and stability and we understand that it has its own interests and that sometimes those interests are strongly opposed to NATO interests," Djukanovic said.

"We believe that Montenegro has the right to choose its course, that it chose it and that Montenegro is very stably and reliably on the road of a stable integration into the European and NATO," he added.

Montenegro today marks ten years of independence. At a 21 May 2006 referendum, 55.5 percent of its population voted for independence from the state union with Serbia.

President Filip Vujanovic said on the occasion of Independence Day that Montenegro had shown a high level of maturity and evaluation of the effects of independence.

Djukanovic said Montenegro had gone from being the least developed Yugoslav Republic to the fastest growing Balkan state and leader in Euro-Atlantic integration in this region.

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