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Last Updated: Monday, 15 October 2007, 17:56 GMT 18:56 UK
Montenegro gets boost for EU bid
Montenegro map
Montenegro and the European Union have signed a key agreement that is the first step towards EU membership for the former Yugoslav state.

The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) opens up trade between the EU and Montenegro, which broke away from Serbia in May 2006.

EU-Montenegro talks picked up speed after the union with Serbia ended.

Montenegro - which has just 650,000 inhabitants - has to fulfil various reforms before entering the EU.

Significant judicial and constitutional reforms are required in the tiny country, which is plagued by corruption. It is not yet officially a candidate for EU membership.

The SAA with Montenegro had almost been scuppered by a dispute with Bulgaria, which had insisted that the Cyrillic spelling of "euro" be included in the text.

Bulgaria later backed down after EU envoys pledged to address the spelling issue.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, quoted by Reuters news agency, voiced hope that the SAA with Montenegro would "serve as an inspiration for the other countries of the region too".

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