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Another new country for Europe

Montenegro voted to break from Serbia, with 55.4 percent in favor.

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The joyful fireworks and street parties that exploded in the streets of Podgorica on Sunday night, as Montenegrins celebrated a vote in favor of independence, found few echoes Monday in other European capitals.

Europe's lack of enthusiasm for the imminent birth of a new nation on the shores of the Adriatic is prompted by its unease at seeing another small Balkan state emerge on its edges, reminding the EU of its failure to prevent the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

"There is a feeling of reluctance at having yet another country to deal with," says Nicholas Whyte, European program director at the International Crisis Group.

The last of five Balkan republics to break away from Serbia, Montenegro's vote is also seen as a harbinger of Kosovo's independence.

"Kosovo is on its way to independence," Kosovo president Fatmir Sejdiu said in a message of congratulations to Montenegro, where official preliminary results gave pro-independence forces in this tiny mountainous Balkan state 55.4 per cent of the vote - marginally above the 55 percent majority that the EU had demanded for recognition of the new country. At press time, about 5 percent of the vote was still to be counted.

The results were met with grudging acceptance from the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana. "It seems that the process was orderly and we have to congratulate everybody for that," he said. "We will fully respect the results of the referendum."

Mr. Whyte says that although "fans of Montenegrin independence are not numerous in Brussels," the EU headquarters - partly because a plethora of microstates joining the EU, each with the same official political weight as giants such as Germany, France, and Britain, would make the union increasingly hard to manage - "there will be relief that there was a clear answer to the question" of independence.


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