The FINANCIAL -- The United
States on Monday welcomed Montenegro's weekend parliamentary elections
as democratic and voiced hope the tiny Balkan state -- independent since
2006 -- will join the EU and NATO .
"We congratulate the people of Montenegro on their recent parliamentary and local elections," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said of Sunday's vote.
"We expect the new government will continue Montenegro's progress towards Euro-Atlantic aspirations, and we commend the progress since independence," Nuland said, adding that the United States was particularly pleased with the 70.3 percent turnout.
Montenegro's center-left coalition won the election. As EUbusiness announced, it faces the task of reviving an ailing economy and fighting graft to keep the tiny Balkan nation on the EU accession path.
The exit poll and other estimates put the ruling coalition led by political veteran Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists in a comfortable lead with more than 46 percent of the vote.
In its annual report, the European Commission has said that Montenegro must do better in consolidating the rule of law and fighting organized crime and corruption.
Of the six former Yugoslav republics -- Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia -- only the latter has joined the European Union, in 2004. Croatia is expected to gain membership next year.