The Montenegrin government decided on Thursday to apply for candidacy to the European Union, which is a step closer to its dream of EU membership.
"The membership application will be submitted in line with the successful process of implementation of the Provisional Agreement, good communication with EU countries and the progress achieved on the country's road to European integration," the government said in a statement.
The statement didn't say when Montenegro would submit its candidacy, although its Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic has said his country would be ready to apply by the end of this year.
Montenegro, a tiny Balkan country of some 650,000 population, gained independence in June 2006 after a historic referendum to break up a union with Serbia. Serbia and Montenegro started the process of EU accession in November 2005, when negotiations over a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) began.
In October 2007, Montenegro signed the SAA with the European Union, which is seen as the first step towards membership of the 27-nation bloc for Balkan countries.
Macedonia was the last Balkan country to apply for EU membership formally in 2004, but it has not opened membership talks over its long-running name dispute with Greece. Other Balkan countries expected to follow Montenegro in applying for EU membership include Serbia and Albania.