Montenegro votes to break away from Serbia

The last remains of Yugoslavia were buried to the thunder of automatic gunfire and fireworks last night after monitors claimed that the pocket state of Montenegro had voted by a clear margin to break away from Serbia, 88 years after being forced into union with it.



CEMI, a respected monitoring organisation, said the pro-independence party appeared to have won 55.5 per cent of the vote, above the 55 per cent threshold demanded by the European Union. With more than half the results in, the Referendum Commission refused to issue a partial result. But minutes after the first projection was published, gunfire and fireworks exploded above the capital. Youths took to the streets blaring horns and waving red Montenegrin flags.

The leader of the Opposition, Predrag Bulatovic, vainly called on the government to order its supporters off the streets. "The results are not final until confirmed by the State Referendum Commission," he said. "Such a crucial decision must not be carried out by a trick." If confirmed, it will be a historic moment for the Balkans, signalling the final, long-deferred end of the Yugoslav experiment, and a personal triumph for Milo Djukanovic, the 6 feet 4 inch Montenegrin Prime Minister who has repeatedly re-invented himself since coming to power 16 years ago.

Montenegrins voted in unprecedented numbers, with more than 86 per cent turning out, easily clearing the minimum turnout of 50 per cent the EU had demanded. Now Montenegro looks forward to becoming the United Nations' 193rd member state and the first new state in Europe since Slovakia in 1993. Montenegrins number 650,000 people ­ but as they like to point out, eight European states are smaller, and two of them, Luxembourg and Malta, are already in the EU. And Montenegro has a proud memory of independence to drive it forward: for 40 years, from 1878 to 1918, it was an independent kingdom, until swept against its will into the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes after the First World War.

With independence, Montenegro hopes to become more prosperous than anywhere else in former Yugoslavia, except Slovenia, to race into the EU ahead of Serbia, and become once again one of Europe's most glitzy places for a seaside holiday.

If Montenegro were also to revive its picturesque royal capital, Cetinje, home to 14 crumbling pre-1918 embassies, and bring back the monarchy, it could become the first corner of the Balkans to restore the old Tintin image, a land of fancy dress and comical spies, formidable mountains and floppy moustaches.

The most dismal ghosts have already been laid to rest. In 1991 Montenegrin reservists accompanied the Yugoslav army as they descended on Dubrovnik, the walled city on the Croatian coast, and plundered at will. But in 2000 Mr Djukanovic met Stipe Mesic, the Croatian President, and apologised "for all the pain and damage inflicted by any member of the Montenegrin people".

Mr Djukanovic was once a close ally of Slobodan Milosevic but ditched him in 1997 and subsequently became the favoured interlocutor of British and American politicians trying to end the cycle of war. Thanks to his usefulness, charges of involvement with criminal gangs in cigarette smuggling ­ still under investigation in Italy ­ have done him little harm. Nor have claims that he covered up a scandal involving a Moldovan "sex slave". First a Communist, then a Democrat, Mr Djukanovic turned pro-independence only in 2000 after Milosevic was removed from power in Belgrade.

At a recent pro-independence rally, a girl in national dress presented him with flowers. "The iconography was exactly like in Tito's time," a local journalist observed. Some commentators in Podgorica ­ formerly Titograd ­ believe Djukanovic is already untouchable. If confirmed as master of his own state, he could become even more so.

Yugoslavia's end

* SLOVENIA: referendum on independence in December 1990, seceded in June 1991

* CROATIA: referendum in May 1991, war started in June 1991 and lasted four years, broke off all ties that October

* BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: referendum in March 1992, declared independence same month, war broke out in April that year and lasted until 1995

* MACEDONIA: referendum in September 1991, admitted to United Nations as Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in April 1993

* KOSOVO: under UN administration since June 1999

* MONTENEGRO: referendum on independence yesterday

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee