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Belgrade Media Report 14 June

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LOCAL PRESS

• Vucic surprised by Montenegro’s reaction (Tanjug)
• Dacic: Does someone really think that they will also occupy Ostrog (RTS)
• Kuburovic: Constitutional amendments do not include Kosovo (Novosti)
• Markovic: Summit in Paris opportunity for setting framework for resumption of dialogue (Beta)
• Djilas: Palmer did not ask us to take part in elections (Beta)
• Keefe: I wish Serbia energy and courage in facing challenges (Beta)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• B&H Presidency member Dzaferovic: ANP is first step towards NATO integration, Dodik knows that talk of dissolution would only lead to disappearance of RS (Oslobodjenje)
• SNSD and its coalition partners from RS announce they will boycott urgent session of B&H HoR (TV1)
• MEP Soltes disappointed that the European Parliament’s Resolution on Srebrenica was not widely accepted; Many obstacles to an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia (Dnevni avaz)
Croatia
• Plenkovic condemns assault on Serb workers on Brac (Hina)
Montenegro
• The government of Montenegro responded to Vucic (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Zaev’s government says Merkel promised him EU accession talks in September (Republika)
• VMRO calls on Zaev to resign after his failure to open EU accession talks in June (Republika)
Albania
• Parliament votes resolution against President Meta (ADN)
• Basha warns that Albania is near coup d’etat (ADN)
• OSCE urges for dialogue after President cancelled municipal elections (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Montenegro’s attack on church property will create lawless society (BIRN)

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LOCAL PRESS

Vucic surprised by Montenegro’s reaction (Tanjug)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic stated on Thursday evening that “he is surprised with the reaction of the government of Montenegro because he never meddled into their internal affairs”. “I never gave them any advice. I just asked them to reconsider once again certain initiatives. I asked them that because it involves the interests of the Serbian people and the Serbian Church”, Vucic declared in a telephone statement to Tanjug, later conveyed by all pro-regime media as top news. “I never had a problem when Podgorica mentioned the situation of Montenegrins in Serbia and when they brutally meddled into our internal affairs, on the topic of territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country and when they gave their opinion on how to resolve the Kosovo problem, which is our problem, and is no concern of theirs”, Vucic declared. “I fully understood the message of the Montenegro government and Serbia will behave in accordance with it in the future”, Vucic concluded.

Dacic: Does someone really think that they will also occupy Ostrog (RTS)

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has told the morning news of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that Montenegro has been building for the past years its position and international identity on anti-Serb stands. He says that more than 30 percent of Serbs live in Montenegro and that they are seen as an anti-state element there. He says there had been many decisions of the Montenegrin authorities in that light, and one of them was recognition of independence of Kosovo when Montenegro didn’t go only against Serb interests but also against Montenegrin interests. Dacic assesses an inappropriate the response of the Montenegrin government to the request of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic not to endanger the property of the Serbian Church in Montenegro. “This can cause huge problems,” Dacic says. “Does someone really think that they will occupy Ostrog and seize it from the Serbian Orthodox Church. From whom to seize it and take it? I advise everyone not to go against sanctities, nobody passed well who went against sanctities,” said the Minister. When it comes to the meeting in Paris, Dacic notes that President Vucic has pointed out several times that Belgrade is ready to talk if the taxes are abolished. He says that great pressure is being exerted and that the Germans say it is not true that they haven’t exerted pressure on Haradinaj. However, not everyone in the world is excited with the initiative of Paris and Berlin, for Washington to look from the side and to get involved if it fails. The EU is waiting for the new High Representative. Dacic says that Serbia will take part at the meeting but the question is whether Macron can allow again for his word not to mean anything in relation to the ‘greatness of one Haradinaj”. “Trump, Merkel, Macron, Mogherini, everybody is trembling and no one can do anything to one Haradinaj. And everyone expects us to believe in this fairytale,” said Dacic.

Kuburovic: Constitutional amendments do not include Kosovo (Novosti)

Serbian Justice Minister Nela Kuburovic denied claims that the proposed changes to the country’s constitution include changes to the preamble section on Kosovo and Metohija. “The changes to the constitution are absolutely not about Kosovo. The proposed amendments are meant to strengthen the independence and responsibilities of judges through changes to the process of electing judges and prosecutors and members of expert bodies,” Kuburovic told Novosti. The Serbian parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Issues and Legislature is scheduled to debate the government’s proposal to amend the constitution amid claims that the preamble to the constitution, which says that Kosovo is a part of Serbia, will be changed.

Markovic: Summit in Paris opportunity for setting framework for resumption of dialogue (Beta)

An MP from the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Vesna Markovic said on June 13
that the summit in Paris, if it was held, would be an opportunity for formulating the framework for the resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. Markovic told Beta that the inclusion of the US in that process would be significant, as the guarantor of a future agreement. “We had the opportunity to see on the example of the implementation of the Brussels Agreement, that the
European Union, which was supposed to be the guarantor of its implementation, had failed in that, unfortunately. The EU has not succeeded in influencing Pristina regarding the forming of the Community of Serb Municipalities and has perhaps not exerted the right influence regarding the abolishing of taxes, either,” Markovic said. In her words, the inclusion of the US is necessary because of the influence it has in the region and because we need a much stronger guarantor of what would be agreed upon at some future summit or during some forthcoming phase of the dialogue. Markovic added that the stance of the US and France differed from that of Germany, which was categorically against any changing of borders. According to Markovic, Washington and Paris have expressed readiness to support any solution that would be the result of an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina. Markovic reiterated that the abolishing of import taxes on Serbian goods was Belgrade’s condition for the
resumption of the dialogue with Pristina.

Djilas: Palmer did not ask us to take part in elections (Beta)

The leader of the Party of Freedom and Justice Dragan Djilas said on June 13 that Matthew Palmer had not asked that the opposition participate in the next election, during a talk in Belgrade. “Matthew Palmer did not ask the opposition to participate in elections and I do not understand the reason for the publication of such disinformation,” Djilas told Beta, denying reports by Danas. He said that during the discussion, opposition representatives reiterated that the authorities were using violence in all spheres of social life. Opposition leaders, according to Djilas, conveyed their absolutely united stance to Palmer that in accordance with the Agreement with the People, they would not participate in elections under these conditions. “Our interlocutor voiced no requests regarding participation in elections,” Djilas underscored.

Keefe: I wish Serbia energy and courage in facing challenges (Beta)

Outgoing British Ambassador to Serbia Denis Keefe said on Thursday he said he wanted Serbia to have enough strength and courage to deal with many challenges like the parliament’s work, the judiciary reform and the media, Beta reported. In his Belgrade residence, on the occasion of Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II 93rd birthday, Keefe wished his host country to be brave “in facing the past and building a good future.” “Serbia has many challenges ahead, and I wish you all the energy needed for the economic, social and political progress and for joining the EU,” Keefe said.

REGIONAL PRESS

B&H Presidency member Dzaferovic: ANP is first step towards NATO integration, Dodik knows that talk of dissolution would only lead to disappearance of RS (Oslobodjenje)

Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) and SDA official Sefik Dzaferovic said that the three members of the Presidency of B&H were off to a good start at the beginning of their mandate, especially since Zeljko Komsic and he opposed the attempts of Milorad Dodik to cause disturbance with his talks about state and entity flags. “We held two regular and 27 extraordinary sessions. If we convened every two weeks, if there were no attacks and negative rhetoric, the results of the work of the Presidency of B&H would have been seen differently by the public. We must learn a lesson from this. It is necessary to stabilize political atmosphere” said Dzaferovic and noted that B&H can start moving forward by respecting the principles on which the EU was founded, and the elected politicians must form the authority as soon as possible in accordance with the existing laws and decisions. Dzaferovic rejected allegations that SDA is obstructing the formation of the Council of Ministers of B&H.
“Results of the 2018 general elections must be implemented as soon as possible in accordance with the principles of the rule of law.” Asked about blockade of the Parliament of B&H, he said that it is completely unreasonable and unjustifiable. “Those blocking the Parliament do not deserve any compensation and this situation will have to be resolved in the future… Those blocking the work of the Parliament are saying that if the Presidency of B&H decides to ignore the rule of law, then they will start to do their job. I say that is unreasonable.” Commenting the issue of the activation of NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) and the fact that SNSD-led coalition is refusing to accept adoption of the Annual National Program (ANP), Dzaferovic said that it is not a question of someone wanting it or not, because the ANP must be submitted as it is B&H’s international obligation. “Dodik’s threats about dissolution of B&H are nothing but nonsense. That is never going to happen. Any move that would lead in that direction would endanger the Dayton Peace Agreement and the peace, and Dodik must know that” said Dzaferovic and explained that it would mean abolishment of the entity of Republika Srpska (RS). He also noted that Dodik is not hiding the fact that his goal is to condition the NATO road with the stances of Russia and Serbia. Asked about the issue of the amendments to the Law on Elections, Dzaferovic said that HDZ B&H should not be conditioning formation of the Federation of B&H-level authorities with the amendments to the Law on Elections, as that is the double-standard policy and violation of the rule of law principles. He noted that HDZ B&H should offer their amendments, but first they need to make sure they are in accordance with the European standards. In conclusion, Dzaferovic said that he expected an EU candidate status for B&H, when the country would be able to meet all the necessary conditions imposed by the European Commission; however, he noted that now B&H will first have to meet the 14 obligations before taking any step closer.

SNSD and its coalition partners from RS announce they will boycott urgent session of B&H HoR (TV1)

An urgent session of the B&H House of Representatives (HoR) will be held on Friday. Representatives of SNSD and its coalition partners from Republika Srpska (RS) will not attend the HoR’s session which will be dedicated to the situation in the B&H judiciary and escalation of the migrant crisis in B&H with an emphasis on the Una-Sana Canton (USC). Speaker of the B&H HoR Borjana Kristo (HDZ B&H) scheduled the urgent session at the request of eight parties. SDP B&H representative in the B&H HoR Sasa Magazinovic claims that sufficient number of representatives from both entities will attend Friday’s session and that there will be quorum. “We will have quorum prescribed by the Rules of Procedure and I really do not see reason for the Parliament to not convene tomorrow (Friday)” Magazinovic said. Head of the Serb Caucus in the B&H HoR Nenad Stevandic (United Srpska) said that representatives of SNSD and its coalition partners will not attend Friday’s session of the B&H HoR because it was initiated by representatives who were the first to violate the law by not allowing formation of commission for appointment of the Chairman of the new B&H Council of Ministers (CoM). Stevandic also accused Croat and Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency, Zeljko Komsic and Sefik Dzaferovic respectively, of blocking this process. “Serb Caucus, together with SNSD Caucus, will not come to the session. Culprits for inactivity of the Parliament and inactivity of institutions are those who caused the blockade by not allowing first formation of the commission for appointment of the B&H CoM Chairman and those who were supposed to submit a harmonized proposal for the B&H CoM Chairman. Everything was agreed, the parliamentary majority is known, but they are not allowing formation of the commission for appointment,” Stevandic underlined. He stressed that the B&H Parliament will start functioning once this process is completed.

MEP Soltes disappointed that the European Parliament’s Resolution on Srebrenica was not widely accepted; Many obstacles to an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia (Dnevni avaz)

The Green Party official and Member of the European Parliament Igor Soltes who is about to receive the ‘Potocari Charter’ award for protection of victims of genocide in Srebrenica said “I am extremely proud to have won the Potocari Charter. It is a great recognition of me, my work, especially my work as the parliamentarian in charge of the Western Balkans.” He said that unfortunately there are still those who deny genocide in Srebrenica, underlining that acknowledgment would be great for the reconciliation process in the region. Soltes underlined that he is extremely disappointed with the fact that the European Parliament’s Resolution on Srebrenica was not widely accepted, adding that the EU now has a difficult task ahead, as it must deal with nationalism in its own ranks first. Asked about the place of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the rest of the Wester Balkans in Europe as it is, Soltes said: “I have always been a great promoter of the EU enlargement. I have said numerous times that the peace in the Balkans means peace in Europe. A saying ‘Peaceful Bosnia’ is not for nothing, as it has proven to be justified saying throughout the years.” He went on to say that both the Western Balkan region and the EU must work on the integration process in order for the progress to become visible. In conclusion, Soltes said that there are many obstacles to an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, as both sides continue to hold their positions, introducing countermeasures.

Plenkovic condemns assault on Serb workers on Brac (Hina)

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said at the start of his cabinet’s meeting in Zagreb on Thursday that he strongly condemned a recent assault on seasonal workers of the Serb background in the town of Supetar on the island of Brac, calling on relevant authorities to be agile and resolute when addressing such unacceptable and barbarian incidents. Calling for the application of tight sanctions against such occurrences which he labelled as unacceptable, Plenkovic said that he believed that “we have to do more both by preventive and repressive measures against such incidents”. He called for working on changing the climate in society which is obviously reaching a point of polarization and intolerance, which is absolutely unacceptable, Plenkovic said.
Split police said on Tuesday evening they arrested two men aged 22 and 19 who were involved in the physical assault on seasonal workers in Supetar, while they are still looking for the other perpetrators. The hate crime took place around 4 a.m. on June 9. The two men are suspected of attacking five persons aged 21 to 26 on ethnic grounds together with other as yet unidentified persons. A Supetar fireman was injured while defending the victims, three young men from the Slavonia region and a girl from the town of Varazdin, who sustained light injuries. Before the arrest, the 22-year-old perpetrator was given a restraining order not to come within 150 m of the fireman, while the 19-year-old was reported for breaking the law on public order and the law on the prevention of discrimination. Plenkovic underscored that “there is no place for such incidents in this present-day modern Croatia that has fulfilled all national strategic tasks and that wants to be an inclusive society that is tolerant and honors its traditional values”. Plenkovic also called on stakeholders in the society and political parties to contribute to efforts to create an attentive climate. On Monday, the government issued a press release in which the premier said that his cabinet unequivocally opposes all forms of violence and intolerance toward members of ethnic minorities and condemns in the strongest terms the recent hooligan violence in Supetar on the island of Brac, wishing the victims of that hooliganism a speedy and full recovery.

The government of Montenegro responded to Vucic (CDM)

The government of Montenegro said that nobody in Montenegro wanted to create legislative framework of any foreign state and, therefore, it wouldn’t allow anybody to create our own system. Representatives of the Montenegrin government thanked Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic for the advice he had offered, while adding that Montenegro renders decision by itself. Vucic, said that Serbia would insist on Montenegro not adopting the Proposal Law on Freedom of Religion. As he pointed out, that enactment wasn’t good for the Serbian people and added that its adoption would undoubtedly infringe stable relations between Serbia and Montenegro.
“I am asking them not to adopt such request. That’s my desire and my hope. Serbian Church has been there for centuries and it’s been the protection and the refuge for not only Serbian people but also for anybody who feels Montenegrin. That’s why I am asking the authorities in Montenegro not to adopt such law. If they do it anyway, that’s their right and we will understand it” said Vucic. He added that the adoption of the Law would significantly deteriorate the relations between Serbia and Montenegro. There’s no Metropolitanate or a patriarchy in Montenegro – it is Serbian Orthodox Church. “We respect Montenegro and want to cherish good and stable relations with it,” said Vucic. “We would like to remind Mr. Vucic that Montenegro is a sovereign state which creates its own legislative framework while taking into consideration of the interest of every individual and the entire community. We don’t want to meddle into the legislative activities of Serbia and, therefore, we won’t allow any state to influence our decisions,” reads the response provided by the Public Relations Service.

Zaev’s government says Merkel promised him EU accession talks in September (Republika)

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev concluded his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Government later informed that Merkel promised that Macedonia will open EU accession talks in September. According to PR service, Merkel said that Macedonia delivered what it was asked to do and that Germany looks on his government’s work very positively. Zaev faced opposition from France, the Netherlands and Denmark, and initially hoped that Germany can be counted on to pressure these countries to allow the opening of accession talks. But, after his previous meeting with Merkel, it became apparent that Germany is also delaying the approval, dragging it out through the Bundestag procedures, and Zaev urged Merkel to try and expedite the German parliament. He also said that Germany is reluctant to allow Macedonia to open accession talks before Albania, because that might spark a nationalist reaction among the Albanians. The SDSM party is supposed to hold a meeting on Sunday to determine the next steps – whether Zaev will call for early elections or will try to hang on. In a press release from Zoran Zaev, issued after his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he repeated his claim that Merkel promised him a September date to open EU accession talks with Macedonia. “Chancellor Merkel informed that the Bundestag will make its decision on opening EU accession talks with the ‘Republic of North Macedonia’ in September, in accordance with the established procedures which regard EU expansion. During the meeting, the Chancellor pointed out that ‘North Macedonia’ delivered on what was expected from it, and that Berlin looks very favorably on that,” Zaev said through a press release. The press release from the office of Chancellor Merkel, on the other hand, did not contain a similar pledge. It merely stated that Macedonia resolved the name issue with Greece and renamed itself. Zaev’s team insists that the German Foreign Ministry, led by officials from his sister party SPD, has endorsed the opening of accession talks and that all that remains in the Bundestag is a merely procedural matter. “During the meeting of the delegations of the two governments in Berlin, it was confirmed that Germany, as other EU member states, have acknowledged the results from the reforms noted in the European Commission progress report, and look favorably on the EC recommendation to open EU accession talks. We are strongly assured that this year we will begin our EU accession talks and we will join Serbia and Montenegro,” Zaev’s government said in its press release.

VMRO calls on Zaev to resign after his failure to open EU accession talks in June (Republika)

After the meeting in Berlin confirmed that Macedonia will not open EU accession talks in June, the date that the Prime Minister Zoran Zaev promised is cast in stone a year ago, VMRO-DPMNE called on him to resign. “Zoran Zaev and his associates celebrated the June date for accession talks while flying back from the European summit last year. And now we know that the Republic of Macedonia was unfortunately not allowed to open the talks. The reason for this is the lack of reforms, and the rampant crime and corruption. Macedonia will continue to suffer failures as long as Zoran Zaev is in power. He needs to go so that our country can go forward, VMRO-DPMNE,” said in a press release. Zaev announced he will resign if Macedonia is not given a date to open accession talks this summer, but his allies in the media were furiously spinning the outcome of the Berlin summit in his favor, indicating that the promise will not be kept.

Parliament votes resolution against President Meta (ADN)

Parliament approved with 100 votes pro, seven against and two abstain the resolution against President of the Republic Ilir Meta who days ago canceled municipal elections date. The decision was taken after more than six hours of debates in Parliament, where ruling majority MPs and those of the new opposition debated over the decision of the Head of State to revoke his decree for the local elections date on June 30. According to socialist MPs, President’s decree is anti-constitutional and absurd. While, ruling majority is going on with the electoral process.
Meanwhile, the Albanian Presidency made clear on Thursday that only Constitutional Court can refuse a decree of the President. That is why, this institution does not recognize the resolution voted this Thursday in Parliament by the ruling majority against the Head of State. Legal Advisor of the President, Bledar Dervishaj, clarified in a press conference that Parliament cannot overthrow a decree of the President, but only Constitutional Court can. This institution is actually out of function in Albania, as a result of vetting process. “The President considers that the rhetoric in the Parliament does not serve either to peace nor to political crisis resolution. President’s decree is a legal act in power and obligation for everyone. The President assures all the Albanians that they will vote soon and that he will decree another municipal election date under peaceful circumstances,” stated Dervishaj. Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama demanded apology by President of the Republic of Albania, Ilir Meta for the elections cancellation act. Rama said that date for the local elections of June 30 is sealed and that, neither the President of the Republic of Albania, Ilir Meta nor former Chairman of Democratic Party (DP), Sali Berisha can do anything about it. Furthermore, Rama suggested to the President to read the voted resolution against him calmly and patiently, also calls on him to reflect and apologize.

Basha warns that Albania is near coup d’etat (ADN)

Chairman of Democratic Party (DP), Lulzim Basha held a press conference on Thursday, in which he said that Albania is near a coup d’etat because of PM Edi Rama. During the conference, Basha said that PM Rama is the cause of this problematic situation, due to having been involved with criminal groups. “Albania is heading towards a coup, because of Edi Rama who is involved with drugs organizations. Under these conditions, there is no doubt that the 2017 parliamentary elections were dictated by organized crime, drug money, voting under threat and mass-buying of votes,” stated Basha.

OSCE urges for dialogue after President cancelled municipal elections (ADN)

In response to ongoing political turmoil in Albania, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President George Tsereteli reacted on Thursday urging for dialogue. “Despite previous recommendations by the OSCE, we are witnessing increased political turbulence in Albania, with recent developments threatening to turn political controversies into a constitutional crisis. The gravity of the present situation requires political stakeholders in Albania to engage in inclusive dialogue without preconditions and to sit at the table in good faith. Dialogue should aim at avoiding a detrimental escalation of the crisis while also addressing the legitimate concerns of the people. “As Albania prepares to chair the OSCE in 2020 and awaits a decision by the European Council for opening accession negotiations with the EU, it is imperative that all stakeholders live up to their responsibilities, which are important to Albania’s strategic goals that are shared by the vast majority of the Albanian society,” said Tsereteli. He added that the Albanian legal framework must be upheld and respected by the political leaders. The Parliamentary Assembly remains confident that, with the necessary political will, Albanian political actors possess all the skills needed to drive the country forward and to offer the best side of Albania to the OSCE, he said. Tsereteli stressed that the Parliamentary Assembly appreciates the attention that the Slovak Chairmanship is paying to Albania. “The PA will continue to follow developments in Albania closely and with sense of responsibility towards the ambitions and the wishes of its people,” he said.

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Montenegro’s attack on church property will create lawless society (BIRN, 13 June 2019)

If the government succeeds in its attempt to undermine the Church’s ownership rights over its ancient assets, it will only prove that Montenegro is a state without rules – which should worry everyone.
It can be hard for Western observers to follow all the upheavals, political, ethnic and historical dramas in the Balkans. Each story requires a lot of background knowledge, which, when acquired, creates a feeling of helplessness. One realizes that everything is clogged up with history to such an extent that no solution to any major issue is a good solution. However, life creates Gordian knots that have to be cut somewhere, somehow. The most recent Balkan Gordian knot is unravelling before our eyes – the one relating to the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro. Bishop Joanikije of Budimlje and Niksic made headlines a few days ago when he stated: “We will defend our property with our very lives. When it comes to that, there are no rules”. The bishop reacted after the government of Montenegro said it wanted to pass a law that will declare all ancient property belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church built before 1918 as the state property, without offering any valid reason for this in the public interest, or eminent domain (defence, energy, infrastructure) or any compensation. (Allow me to refer to the Serbian Orthodox Church, regardless of the reader’s creed or personal convictions as “the Church” throughout this article.) The reason for this radical move, legislators explain, is that this is cultural heritage was built by the Montenegrin people. The Church in Montenegro owns around 700 churches and other holy places that were built over a range of eras from the 4th century AD onwards. A bishop from the area of present-day Montenegro took part in the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, where the Nicaean Creed, relevant to all Christians, was born. The ancient Church in present-day Montenegro has two institutions that date back to it directly: The Roman Catholic Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church. These two institutions, regardless of their sometimes-tense relations, have always respected each other’s property; archaeological evidence proves this.
Church property has been guaranteed protection by law since the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 AD. This guarantee was since respected by the Byzantines, the early Slavic settlers, medieval Serbian rulers, the Ottoman Empire, the Venetian Republic, the French Empire under Napoleon, the Principality of Montenegro and then the Kingdom of Yugoslavia – all of which ruled here. The first challenge to the Church’s property rights came from the communist regime that took power in Yugoslavia after World War II. But the Yugoslav communists were more willing to compromise their Marxist ideology than their more rigid Stalinist Soviet counterparts. They were more prone to respond to Western criticism – and showcase a “third way”. They were respectful – relatively – of property rights. Since they allowed private citizens to own a place to live and property in order to earn a decent living, setting a maximum limit of 17 hectares per person, they also did not nationalise all the property of the traditional religious communities. They confiscated property that could make religious institutions economically and politically powerful, like lands and commercial buildings. But they left us our centuries-old holy shrines (the past was irrelevant in the new communist utopia), a little bit of land and living space for a few ministers and pastors who were brave or desperate enough to practice their vocations in conditions of total social exclusion. The menace to society, the opium of the masses – organized religion – was contained. Their reasoning was: “They have enough to limp on with”, so their brand of communism was presented as being humane and moderate (usually to obtain more Western financial backing), until the old religions died off naturally – because who would need religion in the new communist paradise? Their Soviet counterparts confiscated everything, because it was all built by the people – the proletariat. Ancient churches in the Soviet Union became museums while newer ones became many things: depots, schools or hospitals, and, to make a point, even abortion clinics. Even today, in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, the state owns the churches, which it leases out to politically favored religious groups. Freedom of religion at work! Unfortunately, the modern, otherwise pro-Western government of Montenegro cannot shake off its Stalinist roots as successfully as its predecessors. It needs total control.

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