PODGORICA, Serbia and Montenegro, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Montenegro President Filip Vujanovic called for a special February 7 session of parliament on Wednesday to schedule a referendum by the end of April on independence from Serbia.
Vujanovic made the request in a letter to parliamentary speaker Ranko Krivokapic and the speaker promptly complied.
A minimum of 45 days must elapse between setting a date and holding a vote, and the vote must take place before local elections due at the end of April, Vujnaovic's office said.
That leaves a five-week period in which the date can be set.
Montenegro's ruling coalition is intent on holding an independence vote this year to break away from the loose union it formed with Serbia in 2003 under European Union pressure, replacing what was left of Yugoslavia.
The EU would rather not see Montenegro become independent, in order to avoid further messy fragmentation of the Balkans. It has grudgingly acknowledged the Adriatic republic's right to hold the plebiscite, but wants clear, internationally accepted rules so there is no dispute about the outcome. Brussels has appointed Miroslav Lajcak of Slovakia as special envoy to help negotiate the terms of the vote with the Montenegrin government and opposition, which favours preserving the union with Serbia.
The staunchly pro-independence government is certain the result of the vote would be a majority "Yes" for breaking up the state union, despite polls which suggest the republic is split almost down the middle on the issue.
Serbia's 7.5 million people have separate laws and currency from Montenegro's 650,000 and the EU is negotiating separate economic terms for an association agreement, although it says a final deal would be signed with one country - Serbia-Montenegro.
The EU warns that a split would inevitably interrupt Stabilisation and Association Agreement talks on eventual EU membership, a first phase that is supposed to be concluded by the end of the year.
The EU also worries that a divorce between Serbia and Montenegro could complicate talks on the status of United Nations-run Kosovo province, formally a part of Serbia, which started late last year and are expected to end this year.