|The Montenegrin and NATO flags.|
If a referendum was held immediately on NATO membership, 36 per cent of Montenegrins would vote in favour and 37 per cent against, a survey published on Tuesday suggested.
The survey, conducted this month by a local watchdog organisation called the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, CEDEM, sampled the views of 1,009 people and suggested that 26 per cent remain undecided on the issue.
CEDEM’s director Nenad Koprivica said that the number of NATO opponents is in decline – compared to September last year, the proportion of people who don’t want Montenegro to join has fallen from 44.5 to 37.3 per cent.
“If a referendum about joining NATO was held tomorrow, 74 per cent of voters would come out and vote,” Koprivica also predicted.
On Tuesday, an anti-NATO campaign group called No to War – No to NATO accused the government of releasing “false information” about public support for NATO.
“As the regime’s campaign for NATO has failed and a growing number of politicians from the ruling parties insist that a decision on NATO should be made in parliament and not at a referendum, Montenegro is being ‘flooded’ with opinion polls serving to legitimise that action,” said a representative of the campaign group, Gojko Raicevic.
The government insists that support for NATO member is significantly higher than before and is increasing.
According to its own data, about 46 per cent of the population now support joining the Western military alliance.
The government has been pushing to join the alliance ever since Montenegro restored its independence in 2006. It was given a NATO Membership Action Plan in 2009, which is regarded as a final step before joining the alliance.
But ministers of NATO countries did not offer the country membership at the alliance’s summit in Wales this year, saying they would reconsider Montenegro’s bid by the end of 2015.