Croatia PM to seek ‘new relations’ with Montenegro

Croatia’s Prime Minister called on Friday for “new relations” with neighbor and former foe, Montenegro, the latest former Yugoslav republic to become independent.

Prime Minister Ivo Sanader arrived here to open Croatia’s embassy in the capital Podgorica, pledging his country’s support for Montenegro’s bid to join the European Union.

“We will not forget the past, but we will not live in it,” Sanader said. “We must live in the present and for the future, building new relations based on mutual respect and partnership.”

“Croatia will offer its full support to the Euro-Atlantic ambitions of Montenegro,” he added.

Relations between Croatia and Montenegro were strained for years over Montenegro’s participation in Yugoslav army attacks on the Croatian city of Dubrovnik during the 1991 war.

The conflict erupted when Croatia declared independence from former Yugoslavia, triggering a rebellion by its minority Serbs who were backed by the federal military.

Montenegro, which historically has close ties with Serbia, sided with Belgrade, remaining in a joint state until last year, when the authorities called a referendum to break away.

Sanader said Montenegro’s independence was an important step in the process of stabilization of the Balkans after years of conflict. He added that European integration of the region was the “best response” to the past.

Montenegrin Prime Minister Zeljko Sturanovic said that “the strongest friendship between the states is the one built on mutual economic ties.”

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