The European Commission’s top official on Tuesday urged Montenegro to push ahead with its European Union integration process after the small Nato member country elected a new government.
The confirmation brought an end to the political stalemate that has stalled its EU membership bid.
EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen met with Montenegrin officials just hours after parliament confirmed the new government following a heated session that lasted throughout the night.
Parliament approved the new Cabinet with 46 votes in favour and 19 against. Montenegro’s assembly has 81 members but not all were present at the vote.
“Montenegro has been for a long time the most advanced western Balkan country on the EU accession path and I am happy to see that you are determined to keep the … position,” Ms Von der Leyen said after talks with the president, Jakov Milatovic.
“My first message is that I welcome that you now should be fully focused on the task of the accession objective,” she added. “Together we should go now the last mile, bring it over the finish line.”
The government was formed after months of political bickering that followed an election in June.
The centrist Europe Now party of Prime Minister Milojko Spajic won the election, but without enough support to form a government on its own.
To form the government, the winning coalition received backing from staunchly anti-Western groups under the condition that one of their leaders, Andrija Mandic, was elected as the speaker of parliament — an influential political position.
Mr Spajic said his government will be pro-European despite Mandic’s election. He dismissed reports that his Cabinet will be influenced by neighbouring Serbia, from which Montenegro split in 2006 after an independence referendum.
“We can’t wait to make a result for our country,” Mr Spajic told reporters. “We hope to unclog the European integration, move forward quickly and become the next member of the European Union.”
Mr Spajic later met with von der Leyen who is on a tour of western Balkan nations aspiring to join the 27-nation union. Ms Von der Leyen visited North Macedonia and Kosovo before Montenegro and is slated to travel to Serbia later on Tuesday.
Six western Balkan countries are at different stages on their path to join the EU, in a process expected to take years.
As the war rages in Ukraine, EU officials recently have sought to push the process forward and encourage Balkan nations to boost reform in order to join.
Ms Von der Leyen was discussing details of the 6.0 billion-euro (£5.25 billion) package for western Balkan countries, along with tensions that still exist in the region long after ethnic wars of the 1990s.
Ms Von der Leyen said there are no fixed dates for the accession of any country but that the process depends entirely on the reforms and progress the countries themselves achieve.
Montenegro, she added, should “push forward with determination.”