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#Montenegro election: Opposition parties eye tiny majority

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Opposition supporters celebrate election results in Podgorica, Montenegro, 31 AugustOpposition supporters celebrated in the capital Podgorica

Opposition parties in Montenegro have between them won a wafer-thin majority in the ex-Yugoslav country's election, official results suggest, writes Guy de Launey.

The pro-Western party of long-serving president Milo Djukanovic won most of the vote on Sunday but fell one seat short of a majority.

His Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) has been in power for 30 years.

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With nearly all the votes counted, there is a possibility the opposition could form a technocratic government.

The Democratic Front (DF) is the largest opposition party but its right-wing policies and close relations with Serbia and Russia are not shared by other parties.

President Djukanovic says he and his party will respect the results and the "free democratic will" of Montenegro's people but will wait for the final outcome.

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What bolstered the opposition?

With 99.65% of the vote counted, the DPS had won 35.1% while the DF had 32.51%. Peace is Our Nation, an opposition alliance of centrist parties, was in third place with 12.5% and another alliance led by the green United Reform Action party had 5.53%.

Divisions over the powerful Serbian Orthodox Church dominated the campaign.

There have been months of protests since a law was adopted in December allowing the state to seize religious assets when their historical ownership could not be proven.

The Church urged people to vote against the DPS.

What's the background?

Montenegro remained allied in a union with Serbia until 2006 - long after the former Yugoslavia dissolved into independent states.

President Djukanovic, 58, has been in charge since 1990.

In more recent years, he was instrumental in securing Montenegro's accession to Nato in June 2017 and has been leading ongoing efforts to gain membership to the European Union.

Metropolitan Amfilohije, the Serbian Orthodox Church's top cleric in Montenegro, casts his ballotMetropolitan Amfilohije, the Serbian Orthodox Church's top cleric in Montenegro, called on people to vote against the ruling party

Montenegrins who identify as ethnic Serbs account for about a third of the country's 630,000 population, according to the latest census data.

And as the majority of Montenegrins are members of the Church, its influence is considerable.

The opposition has accused Mr Djukanovic and his party of having links to organised crime and running the country as an autocracy.

Mr Djukanovic has denied this and says the opposition, with the backing of Russia and Serbia, is seeking to undermine the country's independence.

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic speaks to the media after casting his ballot in MontenegroMilo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists has ruled Montenegro for 30 years

During the previous parliamentary vote in 2016, authorities said they had thwarted a planned coup orchestrated by Russian agents and a group of Serb nationalists.

A court in Montenegro last year handed five-year jail terms to two pro-Russian opposition politicians it found to be involved in the plot.

Russia called the inquiry absurd and Montenegro's opposition called it a "false-flag" operation - a fake act aimed at incriminating an opponent - to keep Mr Djukanovic in power.

European Commission

NextGenerationEU: European Commission disburses €231 million in pre-financing to Slovenia

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The European Commission has disbursed €231 million to Slovenia in pre-financing, equivalent to 13% of the country's grant allocation under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The pre-financing payment will help to kick-start the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Slovenia's recovery and resilience plan. The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the implementation of the investments and reforms outlined in Slovenia's recovery and resilience plan.

The country is set to receive €2.5 billion in total, consisting of €1.8bn in grants and €705m in loans, over the lifetime of its plan. Today's disbursement follows the recent successful implementation of the first borrowing operations under NextGenerationEU. By the end of the year, the Commission intends to raise up to a total of €80 billion in long-term funding, to be complemented by short-term EU-Bills, to fund the first planned disbursements to member states under NextGenerationEU.

The RRF is at the heart of NextGenerationEU which will provide €800bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across member states. The Slovenian plan is part of the unprecedented EU response to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, fostering the green and digital transitions and strengthening resilience and cohesion in our societies. A press release is available online.

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Cyprus

NextGenerationEU: European Commission disburses €157 million in pre-financing to Cyprus

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The European Commission has disbursed €157 million to Cyprus in pre-financing, equivalent to 13% of the country's financial allocation under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The pre-financing payment will help to kick-start the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Cyprus' recovery and resilience plan. The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the implementation of the investments and reforms outlined in Cyprus' recovery and resilience plan.

The country is set to receive €1.2 billion in total over the lifetime of its plan, with €1 billion provided in grants and €200m in loans. Today's disbursement follows the recent successful implementation of the first borrowing operations under NextGenerationEU. By the end of the year, the Commission intends to raise up to a total of €80bn in long-term funding, to be complemented by short-term EU-Bills, to fund the first planned disbursements to member states under NextGenerationEU. Part of NextGenerationEU, the RRF will provide €723.8bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across member states.

The Cypriot plan is part of the unprecedented EU response to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, fostering the green and digital transitions and strengthening resilience and cohesion in our societies. A press release is available online.

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Belgium

EU Cohesion policy: Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy receive €373 million to support health and social services, SMEs and social inclusion

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The Commission has granted €373 million to five European Social Fund (ESF) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) operational programmes (OPs) in Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy to help the countries with coronavirus emergency response and repair in the framework of REACT-EU. In Belgium, the modification of the Wallonia OP will make available an additional €64.8m for the acquisition of medical equipment for health services and innovation.

The funds will support small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in developing e-commerce, cybersecurity, websites and online stores, as well as the regional green economy through energy efficiency, protection of the environment, development of smart cities and low-carbon public infrastructures. In Germany, in the Federal State of Hessen, €55.4m will support health-related research infrastructure, diagnostic capacity and innovation in universities and other research institutions as well as research, development and innovation investments in the fields of climate and sustainable development. This amendment will also provide support to SMEs and funds for start-ups through an investment fund.

In Sachsen-Anhalt, €75.7m will facilitate cooperation of SMEs and institutions in research, development and innovation, and provide investments and working capital for micro-enterprises affected by the coronavirus crisis. Moreover, the funds will allow investments in the energy efficiency of enterprises, support digital innovation in SMEs and acquiring digital equipment for schools and cultural institutions. In Italy, the national OP ‘Social Inclusion' will receive €90m to promote the social integration of people experiencing severe material deprivation, homelessness or extreme marginalisation, through ‘Housing First' services that combine the provision of immediate housing with enabling social and employment services.

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In Spain, €87m will be added to the ESF OP for Castilla y León to support the self-employed and workers who had their contracts suspended or reduced due to the crisis. The money will also help hard-hit companies avoid layoffs, especially in the tourism sector. Finally, the funds are needed to allow essential social services to continue in a safe way and to ensure educational continuity throughout the pandemic by hiring additional staff.

REACT-EU is part of NextGenerationEU and provides €50.6bn additional funding (in current prices) to Cohesion policy programmes over the course of 2021 and 2022. Measures focus on supporting labour market resilience, jobs, SMEs and low-income families, as well as setting future-proof foundations for the green and digital transitions and a sustainable socio-economic recovery.

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