Montenegro emerged as a sovereign state after just over 55% of the population opted for independence in a May 2006 referendum.
The vote heralded the end of the former Union of Serbia and Montenegro – itself created only three years earlier out of the remnant of the former Yugoslavia.
The EU-brokered deal forming it was intended to stabilise the region by settling Montenegrin demands for independence from Serbia and preventing further changes to Balkan borders.
The same deal also contained the seeds of the union’s dissolution. It stipulated that after three years the two republics could hold referendums on whether to keep or scrap it. Montenegro opted for the latter.
Montenegro last experienced independence nearly 90 years earlier. It was absorbed into the newly-formed Yugoslavia at the end of World War I.
There were fears that the 2006 independence vote could lead to unrest in the areas of Montenegro where ethnic Serbs, who make up roughly a third of the population, formed the majority and strongly opposed separation from Serbia.
There was backing for independence from most ethnic Montenegrins and ethnic Albanians living in Montenegro.
The pro-independence camp led by Prime Minister Djukanovic argued that the association with Serbia was holding the republic back, not least with its bid for EU membership.
As the successor state to the union, Serbia inherited its seat at the UN and other international organisations. The newly-independent Montenegro has since been admitted to the UN in its own right.
The country officially applied to join the EU on 15 December 2008.
Striving for EU membership
Another important milestone on Montenegro’s path to EU membership was reached towards the end of 2009, when Montenegrin citizens were granted the right to visa-free travel within the Schengen zone. Formal EU accession talks began in June 2012.
Only a few months earlier, Montenegro had taken another major step forward in full membership of the international community when it became a member of the World Trade Organisation in April 2012. It had applied for WTO membership in December 2004.
Montenegro, which means “Black Mountain”, borders Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Serbia’s breakaway province of Kosovo and Albania. About half of it is covered in thick forest.
The tiny republic encompasses an Adriatic coastline, lowlands and high mountain ranges. The Tara River canyon is the deepest and longest in Europe.