Montenegro has taken its first step toward European Union entry, as EU and Montenegrin officials initialed a stabilization agreement.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and Montenegrin Prime Minister Zeljko Sturanovic initialed the agreement Thursday in Podgorica, less than a year after the tiny Balkan nation gained independence from Serbia. The accord binds Montenegro to respect EU principles.
A formal signing is expected in the coming months, after all 27 EU member-nations and the European Commission approve the accord.
Thursday's ceremony comes just 10 months after Montenegrin voters approved a historic independence referendum.
Montenegro is the third country of the former Yugoslav federation to reach a stabilization agreement with the trade bloc. Croatia and Macedonia signed on in 2001.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.