The Situation in the Country

The enthronement of Metropolitan Joanikije of Montenegro and the Littoral will still take place in Cetinje on September 5, despite the flare-up of the situation in the country, Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia told the Tanyug news agency. [TASS, 4.09.2021; translated by the Russian Reader]

Ethnic tensions flare up in Montenegro over church ceremony
Predrag Milic
Associated Press
September 4, 2021

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Protesters clashed with hundreds of riot police in the old capital of Montenegro on Saturday, setting up blockades of tires and large rocks ahead of the inauguration of the new head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the small Balkan nation.

The ceremony planned for Sunday in Cetinje has angered opponents of the Serbian church in Montenegro, which declared independence from neighboring Serbia in 2006.

On Saturday, hundreds of protesters confronted the police in Cetinje and briefly removed some of the protective metal fences around the monastery where the inauguration of Metropolitan Joanikije is supposed to take place. Montenegrin state RTCG TV said the protesters broke through a police blockade at the entrance to Cetinje and threw stones at them, shouting “This is Montenegro!” and “This is not Serbia!”

Waving red Montenegrin flags with a double-headed eagle, protesters then set up road barriers with trash containers, car tires and large rocks to prevent church and state dignitaries from coming to the inauguration on Sunday.

Montenegrins remain deeply divided over their country’s ties with neighboring Serbia and the Serbian Orthodox Church, which is the nation’s dominant religious institution. Around 30% of Montenegro’s 620,000 people consider themselves Serb.

Thousands protested last month in Cetinje, demanding that the inauguration be held somewhere else. The church has refused to change its plans.

Since Montenegro split from Serbia, pro-independence Montenegrins have advocated for a recognized Orthodox Christian church that is separate from the Serbian one.

Montenegrin authorities have urged calm during the weekend ceremonies, which start with the arrival Saturday evening of the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Porfirije, in Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital.

Porfirije is set to attend Sunday’s inauguration of Joanikije, whose predecessor as the church’s leader in Montenegro, Amfilohije, died in October after contracting COVID-19.

Illustrating the deep ethnic divide, thousands of people waving Serbian flags gathered in front of the main Serbian Orthodox church in Podgorica on Saturday to welcome the patriarch. Many were bused to the capital from Serbia.

The Serbian Orthodox Church played a key role in demonstrations last year that helped topple a long-ruling pro-Western government in Montenegro. The new government now includes staunchly pro-Serb and pro-Russian parties.

Montenegro’s previous authorities led the country to independence from Serbia and defied Russia to join NATO in 2017. Montenegro also is seeking to become a European Union member.

The emphasis is mine. ||| TRR

New Montenegrin Gov’t Maintains Russia Sanctions, Deferring to EU
Samir Kajosevic
BalkanInsight
December 14, 2020

Disappointing pro-Russian parties in the new government, Foreign Minister Djordje Radulovic says Montenegro won’t lift sanctions on Russia, as the country must respect European Union rules if it wants to join the Union.

Montenegro’s new Foreign Minister, Djordje Radulovic, said the country will continue with sanctions against Russia despite the demands of some parties in the new majority to lift them.

On Monday Radulovic said the government won’t lift sanctions on Russia because Montenegro must respect European Union rules if it wants to join the Union.

“I believe that sanctions against Russia hurt the sentiments of a certain number of people to whom Russia is close, rather than Russia itself. I fully understand those people, but they must know that by imposing sanctions, we are not declaring war on Russia,” Radulovic told the daily newspaper Vijesti.

“We are not enemies of Russia. I informed the Russian ambassador that the sanctions remain in force, but we will seek cooperation in all areas that do not violate our European strategic priorities,” Radulovic added.

In parliamentary elections held on August 30, three opposition blocs won a slender majority of 41 of the 81 seats in parliament, ousting President Milo Djukanovic’s long ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS.

Montenegro has long had close ties to Russia, dating back to the reign of Tsar Peter the Great when Russia agreed to take the small Orthodox principality under its protective wing.

But these have faded since Djukanovic steered Montenegro towards the West. In March 2014, the government backed US and EU sanctions on Moscow for its perceived intervention in Ukraine and for its annexation of Crimea.

This sparked criticism, especially from the Serbian Orthodox Church, SPC, and pro-Serbian political parties who cherish ties to Russia. In August 2015, Russia added Montenegro to the list of countries from which it was banning food imports in retaliation to the Western sanctions imposed on it.

On September 13, an MP from the ruling majority, Marko Milacic, said that lifting sanctions must be the first move of the new government.

The new Prime Minister, and leader of the pro-Serbian For the Future of Montenegro coalition, Zdravko Krivokapic, on September 16 vowed to rebuild bridges with Russia.

“The current situation is absurd. Imagine that, as a small country, you impose sanctions on a large country like Russia. We will establish good relations with all countries of the world, including, of course, Russia,” he told the Russian Telegram channel Nazigar.

According to the new Montenegrin governing constitution, the government has the power to simply lift the sanctions, even if the EU was not impressed.

Candidates for membership are expected to align their foreign policy with that of the EU, but there is no legal obligation. Serbia, for example, has refused to join the sanctions despite negotiating to join the EU.

The emphasis is mine. ||| TRR

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