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article imageMontenegro: a small NATO member on the Adriatic Sea

By AFP     Jul 19, 2018 in Travel

Little-known Montenegro -- which Donald Trump attacked as "aggressive" enough to lead the NATO alliance into war -- is one of Europe's smallest countries with an army of under 2,000.

After the US president's outburst, here is some background about country with a reputation for tourism more than aggression.

- Across from Italy -

Perched on the Adriatic Sea across from Italy, Montenegro has a population of more than 600,000, a majority of whom are Orthodox Christian.

The eastern European country is 13,812 square kilometres (5,333 square miles) in size, making it among the smallest in Europe.

It borders Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo and Serbia.

- NATO's 29th member -

In June 2017 the tiny state -- with an army numbering under 2,000 personnel -- became the latest and 29th member of the NATO military alliance, and one of its smallest contributors.

Russia was bitterly opposed to its accession, saying NATO's steady expansion into the former communist states threatens its own security.

Montenegro also hopes to join the European Union by 2025, much to the dismay of President Vladimir Putin, but has been under pressure to deal with organised crime and poor media freedoms.

- Tourist attraction -

The bloody wars which followed the break up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s did not alter Montenegro's territory.

With an unemployment rate of some 20 percent and an average monthly salary of about 500 euros ($580), it counts on tourism and the appeal of some 300 kilometres (198 miles) of azure coastline to boost its revenues.

Holiday destinations such as Budva and Kotor draw the crowds, the latter appearing on the UNESCO world heritage list.

But Kotor is also a major stronghold for drugs traffickers. Organised crime and corruption are two issues plaguing the country.

- Independent for 12 years -

Following World War II Montenegro, which was briefly independent until 1918, became one of the six republics that merged into communist Yugoslavia.

During the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia in a series of wars, the republics of Montenegro and Serbia remained together as a federation.

In a May 2006 referendum more than 55 percent of Montenegrins voted for independence from Serbia; independence was declared in June that year.

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