The Montenegrin Parliament elected a new government led by Prime Minister Milojko Spajic on October 31, after an all-night debate that ended less than two hours before a scheduled meeting between European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and the country’s political leaders.
Speaking to von der Leyen on October 31, Spajic said the new government would strive to close the most important chapters of EU membership and accelerate necessary reforms. Montenegro is the Western Balkan state furthest along the path to EU membership, but progress has recently been blocked by political instability in the country.
The Spajic government has three deputy prime ministers who also hold ministerial seats, as well as two deputy prime ministers who will not have ministerial seats but will be in charge of specific policies. There are also 17 ministers, making it one of the largest governments in the small Adriatic state.
46 of the 81 deputies supported the election of the Spajic government, while 19 voted against and one abstained. The other opposition MPs did not participate in the vote.
During his speech in Parliament, Spajic said that the Europe Now 2.0 program would be implemented as promised. Spajic’s Europe Now (PSE) party was created by him and President Jakov Milatovic, and owes its name to the Europe Now program they created while serving as finance and economy ministers respectively in the government by Zdravko Krivokapic. The program provided for a set of reforms and a significant increase in income.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered outside Parliament to protest against the election of nationalist politician Andrija Mandic as Parliament speaker. Mandic, co-leader of the For the Future of Montenegro (ZBCG) party, which became a member of the ruling coalition, is known for his anti-NATO and pro-Russian aspirations. However, the ZBCG signed a document obliging it to follow Montenegro’s pro-Western foreign policy as a condition for joining the ruling coalition.
Spajic meets von der Leyen
After taking office at 8:30 a.m., Spajic met with von der Leyen at 10 a.m.
“Montenegro has a pro-European government and a stable political majority that would contribute to closing the most important negotiating chapters and accelerating the necessary reforms in all areas,” Spajic said during this meeting, quoted in a published statement on the government website.
Montenegro must urgently complete the appointment process in the judiciary, strengthen media freedom and the fight against corruption and organized crime, the statement said.
In the meantime, von der Leyen met with Milatovic and said the country could join the EU before 2030 if it met all conditions, according to Milatovic.
“Montenegro has long been the Western Balkan country furthest along the path to EU membership. And I’m happy to see that you are determined to maintain pole position. Congratulations also for your 100% alignment with the CFSP, and therefore with the foreign and security policies of the European Union. You are undoubtedly a valued member of NATO. We therefore discussed many positive topics,” von der Leyen was quoted as saying in a statement published on the European Commission website.
She added that EU enlargement was among the European Commission’s top priorities.