The flag of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was burned by unidentified people in Montenegro after it was invited to become a member of the alliance, according to an official of the small Balkan nation.

NATO Flag Burned In Montenegro After Invitation To Join

NATO invited Montenegro to join the alliance despite the opposition of Russia. Many people in the small Balkan state have strong cultural and historical relationship with Russia, and they do not want Montenegro to become a member of the alliance.

In 1999, the alliance bombed Montenegro when it was still part of a union with Serbia. The incident was one of the reasons why many people oppose the country’s membership in the alliance.

On Monday, Cetinje Mayor Aleksandar Bogdanovic said some people took down the NATO flag from a pole at the town’s entrance. According to him, their action was “absolutely inappropriate.”

Pro-Russian opposition groups are planning to conduct a rally against the alliance on Saturday. They are demanding the government to conduct a national referendum on the issue.

Montenegro, NATO accession talks to start in early 2016

Earlier this month, NATO Foreign Ministers invited Montenegro to start accession talks to become the 29th member of the alliance. The accession talks will start in early 2016.

The alliance and the small Balkan nation have been working closely together through the Membership Action Plan since 2009. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg commented that the decision to invite Montenegro was “an important step in the Euro-Atlantic integration of the entire Western Balkans region.” He added that the alliance is keeping its door open to complete its vision of a whole, free, and peaceful Europe.

He added that Montenegro demonstrated its “unwavering commitment to our common values and international security.” Furthermore, he emphasized that it is important for the country to continue its “defense adoption, domestic reform, and the rule of law” and continue making progress in demonstrating public support for its membership in the alliance.

Montenegro armed forces will be stronger and better

Secretary General Stoltenberg also emphasized that they are not forcing any country to join the alliance. According to him, Montenegro is “freely choosing its own path as a sovereign state.”

The Secretary-General also stated that the armed forces of the small Balkan state will become stronger and better in protecting its people by working with the alliance.

Montenegro’s membership with the Alliance will also pave the way for its membership with the European Union, according to Stoltenberg. He expressed confidence that the country will continue to do what is necessary to join NATO.

Stoltenberg further stated, “Montenegro’s membership will also bring benefits for NATO. It will further reinforce the security and stability of the Western Balkans, a region long held back by instability and conflict. Montenegro has a proud military tradition and has expertise in areas such as mountain warfare and maritime security. And Montenegro’s membership will demonstrate to all those who aspire to the membership that if a country delivers, so does NATO. Our door remains open.”

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