On May 21, 2006, Montenegro renewed its statehood at the referendum that was administered in a democratic manner, with full observance of the recommendations of the international community. By that democratic act, it regained its international status recognized in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin. The Parliament of Montenegro at its session on June 3, 2006 adopted the Declaration of Independent Montenegro after which the Government assumed responsibilities for pursuing and developing its foreign policy.
The Montenegrin Government has established a military and a Ministry of Defense. Further reform and transformation of both institutions is underway. The Montenegrin military operates under the joint authority of the Security and Defense Council, which consists of the president, prime minister, and the speaker of parliament. Parliament also maintains oversight through its Security and Defense Committee. Montenegro officially entered NATO's Partnership for Peace in November 2006 and in April 2008 was invited to join an Intensified Political Dialogue with the Alliance.
In its first years of existence Montenegro overcame or avoided many of the self-destructive tendencies of its neighbors. It maximized the attraction of its Adriatic coast with a thriving tourist trade and the infrastructure to support it. If the Montenegrin government manages to keep its economy on track, the Armed Forces of Montenegro should achieve its modernization and professionalization goals. Qualifying for NATO integration is attainable, providing national sovereignty guarantees not achievable by a standalone Montenegrin Army.
NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs decided 04 December 2009 to grant Montenegro's request to join the Membership Action Plan (MAP), a NATO program of assistance and practical support tailored to the individual needs of the aspiring members of the Alliance. The Allies agreed that Bosnia and Herzegovina would join MAP as soon as they achieve progress in reform. "I congratulate Montenegro on their success. It's the result of hard work. And with a sustained effort at further reform, today's invitation to join the MAP will be a stepping stone to the ultimate goal: full membership in the Atlantic Alliance," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The Allies agreed that Bosnia and Herzegovina will also find its home in NATO adding that it was only a question of time.
NATO membership is one of the strategic foreign policy and security priorities of Montenegro. Montenegro sees the NATO as a guarantor of Euro-Atlantic security and as a key partner in strengthening regional and national security. Montenegro actively participates and contributes to the stability and security of the region and in Euro-Atlantic community through active engagement in regional initiatives and processes, as well as through its bilateral and multilateral cooperation with partners and allies.
Since the June 3, 2006 declaration of independence, the European Union, Serbia, and all permanent members of the UN Security Council have recognized Montenegro. The UN General Assembly voted on June 28, 2006 to admit Montenegro as a new member state. Montenegro joined the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on June 22, 2006, and the Council of Europe on May 11, 2007.
The United States recognized Montenegro on June 12, 2006 and formally established diplomatic relations on August 15 of that year. The U.S. maintains an Embassy in Podgorica. There are a variety of U.S. assistance programs in place in Montenegro to help improve the economic climate and strengthen democracy. These include initiatives to promote local economic growth and business development and strengthen rule of law and democratic institutions.
In order to further develop commercial ties between the U.S. and Montenegro, the first American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham Montenegro) was launched on November 19, 2008, and as part of the strategic partnership between Montenegro and State of Maryland, the U.S.-Montenegro Business Council was formally opened in Podgorica on December 16, 2008. President Vujanovic met U.S. Secretary of State Rice on May 1, 2007 during his visit to Washington, DC. Speaker of the Parliament Ranko Krivokapic visited Washington in November 2007 and met with Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Montenegrin military also established a partnership with the Maine Army National Guard, and efforts are underway to broaden this relationship to include cooperation in the civilian sector.
Montenegro signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU in October 2007, concluded a World Trade Organization (WTO) bilateral agreement with the EU in April 2008, and was invited to join an Intensified Political Dialogue with NATO at the April 2008 Summit in Bucharest. On December 15, 2008, Prime Minister Djukanovic formally submitted Montenegro's application for EU membership to French President Sarkozy, whose country held the rotating EU presidency. On December 9, 2009 in Brussels, Prime Minister Djukanovic submitted Montenegro's answers to the European Commission (EC) questionnaire, which will be reviewed by the EC before it recommends to member states whether to grant Montenegro candidate status in 2010. As of December 19, 2009 Montenegrin citizens were permitted to travel without visa to the Schengen area for up to 90 days per six-month period.
Sanitation varies with location but is generally well below US standards, particularly outside major urban areas. Diarrheal diseases can be expected to temporarily incapacitate a high percentage of personnel within days if local food, water, or ice is consumed. A small number of cases of hepatitis A could occur among unvaccinated personnel consuming local food, water, or ice. Additionally, viral gastroenteritis (e.g. norovirus) may cause significant outbreaks. Widespread outbreaks of food poisoning (e.g., Bacillus cereus, Clostridium perfringens, Staphylococcus) may also compromise mission effectiveness.
Montenegro is wedged between the East and the West, it belongs both to the Balkan and the Mediterranean region and represents a part of the region that was subject to dynamic changes in the previous period. Apart from being the youngest state, Montenegro is also one of the smallest European states in terms of its geographic size and population.
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