Montenegro cigaretes and so called savate goodbye. Did anybody mentioned Vuk Rajkovic, his close friend?
(AP) PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) - Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, who has led Montenegro for almost 20 years, resigned abruptly Tuesday but insisted it was not due to international pressure over his alleged criminal past.
Opposition parties swiftly called for new elections, claiming Djukanovic resigned under pressure.
Djukanovic, 49, led Montenegro through the turmoil of the 1990s Balkan wars and the postwar quest for independence from Serbia, which was finalized in a referendum in 2006. He said he is stepping down because he has fulfilled his task of bringing Montenegro closer to membership in the European Union and NATO.
"I have been in power for a very long two decades," Djukanovic told a press conference. "My decision is not sudden or hasty ... and it was not made under pressure."
Djukanovic said he will remain at the helm of his ruling Democratic Party of Socialists and proposed a close ally, Finance Minister Igor Luksic, as his successor. The proposal has to be approved by parliament.
Tuesday's announcement comes only days after Montenegro formally became the candidate for membership in the EU, a major step toward its goal of joining the 27-nation bloc.
Italian authorities have in the past investigated Djukanovic for allegedly being part of a Balkan smuggling ring in the 1990s that brought cigarettes on motorboats into Italy from across the Adriatic. Italian prosecutors dropped the probe in 2009 because of Djukanovic's diplomatic immunity.
He has vehemently denied the accusations, but said the cigarette smuggling helped Montenegro survive international sanctions imposed on the regime of late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic for fomenting the wars in the Balkans.
"I'm leaving the post with a perfectly clear conscience, without fear of any legal action against me," he said Tuesday. "Everything I have done can be judged by the public and history."
The tiny Adriatic nation of 670,000 people was a rare former Yugoslav republic that split peacefully from Belgrade, avoiding bloodshed that followed similar moves by Croatia, Bosnia or Kosovo. Montenegro has since introduced pro-Western reforms and pledged to root out the corruption that flourished during the war years.
Djukanovic - once Milosevic's close ally turned a bitter foe - became the youngest prime minister in Europe at the age of 29 in 1991. He was elected Montenegro's president in 1998, before again assuming the premier's job in 2002. He left in 2006, saying he has accomplished his task of leading Montenegro to independence, but came back and was elected premier for the fifth time in 2008.
He played a key role in destabilizing Milosevic's dictatorial regime by hosting exiled Serbian opposition leaders and other anti-Milosevic activists in the late 1990s.
Election monitors from Serbia who were trained by Western experts in Montenegro were instrumental in uncovering massive vote rigging in Serbia's presidential elections in 2000, which led to huge public protests and to Milosevic's ouster from office.