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news 12 Dec 15

NATO Opponents Plan Rally in Montenegro

Foes of NATO membership plan a rally in Podgorica on Saturday, which the former President of Montenegro and Yugoslav Prime Minister, Momir Bulatovic, is expected to address.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
Pro-Russia opposition partiesdemanding a national referendum on Montenegro's memebrship in NATO | Photo:IN4S.

Opposition groups are planning an anti-NATO rally on Saturday, demanding a referendum on Montenegro's upcoming membership of the Western alliance.

Click here for live updates from the protest in Podgorica.

On December 2, Montenegro received a long-awaited invitation to become the 29th member of NATO. The government called it a "historic moment".

Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic also hailed the invitation as the result of the government's hard work on reforms, which he said would continue.

"The invitation is not understood here as a token recognition but as a strong impulse for continuous work on the implementation of reforms," he said.

Podgorica has pushed to join the alliance after it split from a loose State Union with Serbia in 2006. It obtained a Membership Action Plan in 2009, which was regarded as a step before membership - but the expected invitation to join failed to materialise at last year's alliance summit in Wales.

While the pro-Western government sees joining NATO as a strategic priority, Montenegrins remain bitterly divided about membership.

Many in the large Serbian community are still angry about NATO’s bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in the 1990s, which forced Belgrade to withdraw from what was then
the Serbian province of Kosovo.

Russia has described NATO's extension into the Balkans, where Moscow enjoys historically close relations with fellow Orthodox Christians, as a "provocation".

The Kremlin has called the membership invitation to Montenegro a blow to European security and to relations between Russia and NATO.

Meanwhile media reports on Thursday said that the former President of Montenegro and Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic will give a speech at the ant-NATO rally.

Bulatovic, a longtime ally of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, quit politics in 2001, so this would be his first public political appearance in almost 15 years.

One of the organizers of the rally, the pro-Serbian NOVA party, said it was very important for all those who oppose membership to NATO to unite in resisting the dangerous intentions of Prime Minister Djukanovic "who only seeks to extend his uncontrolled power.

"Djukanovic and the NATO promoters obviously want to have a decision on this important issue made without consulting the citizens, and we don't accept it," the party said.

NATO opponents will gather at 6pm on Saturday in front of parliament where NOVA party supporters will be joind by other opposition forces, the Democratic People's Party, the Movement for Pljevlja, and a network of anti-NATO non-governmental organizations.

However, the Movement for neutrality, the main anti-NATO organization in the country, said on Wednesday that it would not participate because the rally organizers had refused to accept their key demand.

"We demanded that the protest be without flags, religious and party symbols," the movement said, explaining its planned absence.

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