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Belgrade Media Report 30 December 2019

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Monday 30 December 2019

LOCAL PRESS

• Brnabic: “Serbia 2025” project (Tanjug/RTS/Beta)
• Vucic: Serbia to experience rebirth by 2025 (Tanjug/Beta/RTS)
• Vucic: A main prerequisite is to preserve peace and stability in the region (TV Prva/B92)
• Djuric: Moraca and Ostrog the same as Gracanica and Decani (RTS)
• Djuric: Gathering around five principles of national policy (Politika/RTV/Tanjug)
• Vucic: Both Sarajevo and Dodik criticized us because of Serbia’s national defense strategy (RTS)
• Vulin: I expected Sarajevo’s gratitude to Serbia’s Defense Strategy (Tanjug/Novosti)
• Fabrizi: Continuation of Kosovo negotiations top priority for EU (Blic/Beta)
• Parliament passes army act (Beta)
• Serbian parliament ends regular session with incidents (Beta)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• B&H Presidency split on Serbia’s new National Security and Defense Strategy (Fena/Srna/N1)
• Dodik to ask Serbia to remove RS from their Defense Strategy (N1)
• Becirovic: Vucic revealed his true plans with adoption of Defense Strategy, he is on road that leads to The Hague (Oslobodjenje)
• Bosnian political parties slam Serbia’s Defense Strategy as anti-Bosnian (N1)
• OHR spokesperson: Serbia agreed to respect B&H’s sovereignty (Fena)
• Dodik: Law on Freedom of Religion and Legal Status of Religious Communities does not do credit to state which claims that it advocates rights of all its citizens (FTV)
• Gatherings of citizens held in Pale, Banja Luka and Trebinje to protest against Law on Religious Freedoms in Montenegro (O kanal)
Montenegro
• Djukanovic signs Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief (CDM)
• Parliament adopts Law on absolute freedom of use of national symbols (CDM)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Outgoing Prime Minister: The interim government must organize free and fair elections and continue working for the benefit of citizens (Republika)
• Government accepts VMRO-DPMNE’s proposal for early ratification of NATO Treaty (Republika)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• Freedom to plunder? Russian Church slams contentious religious law approved in Montenegro (TASS)
• Hundreds protest in Serbia against new Montenegro church law (Euronews/AP)
• Montenegrin Police Says Four Officers Injured in Clashes With Anti-Church Law Protesters (Sputnik)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Brnabic: “Serbia 2025” project (Tanjug/RTS/Beta)

 

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic presented on Saturday the “Serbia 2025” program, which contains a plan of investment projects for the further development of the country over the next five years. Brnabic, in the presence of members of the government and representatives of international financial institutions, said at the Palace of Serbia that these projects will accelerate economic growth and make our country a much better place to live. She specified that the program is worth slightly less than 14 billion Euros, and it will be financed from the budget, but also from loans from international financial institutions, with which we will continue cooperation. Today we are entering a new project, which is why we need to liberalize the legal framework a little so that more money can enter the country, which is important for small, micro enterprises, startups and innovation companies, Brnabic emphasized. Brnabic said that education reform must continue, recalling that programming, digital classrooms, dual education, entrepreneurship and financial literacy have been introduced. She announced investments of 100 million Euros for science and education, equipment, research, to make Serbia a leader in the science and technology revolution. Also, 90 million Euros will be invested in the development of artificial intelligence because we want to be among the leading countries in Europe, said Brnabic, and announced further reforms of public companies with the aim of increasing their efficiency and competitiveness, as this can bring serious growth. Serbia also has potential in renewable energy sources, she said, pointing out that if we work smart we can be a worldwide center for the production of batteries and electric vehicles because we have 10 percent of the world’s lithium reserves. At the same time, Brnabic stressed that no step in the plan would endanger macroeconomic stability and public debt, with the government forming a body to monitor the implementation of the plan. In 2025 Serbia will be a country of leading salaries and pensions in which unemployment will be like in the Eurozone, a country of modern education and infrastructure, Brnabic concluded.

 

Vucic: Serbia to experience rebirth by 2025 (Tanjug/Beta/RTS)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Saturday at the presentation of the “Serbia 2025” program that since 2014 the face of Serbia has been changed, as it is now a successful country that is making the fastest progress in Southeast Europe. Vucic said that the increase in salaries and pensions would be one of the results of the new investment plan, which is worth a total of 14 billion Euros, with an estimate that in 2025 it could amount to 17 billion Euros. Our plan and our projection is that at the end of 2025, the average salary in Serbia will be 900 Euros, while the average pension will be between 430 Euros and 440 Euros, he said. According to him, the first goal of this plan is to fight for the young people to stay in the country, for which, in addition to the funds from the budget, a total of 700 Euros million will be allocated. He said that a total of 5.078 billion Euros will be allocated for investments in the road infrastructure. A little more than 3.5 billion Euros will be invested in the railway infrastructure, and a number of approximately 1.3 billion Euros is included in this figure. Vucic said that 274 million Euros will be invested in the water traffic investments, while funds for the continuation of air traffic development will be secured through the budget. Speaking about the agriculture sector, the President specified that a total of 300 million Euros will be invested for infrastructure in the area. Also 200 million Euros will be allocated for investing in infrastructure in the area of tourism, while an additional 500 million Euros will be allotted for investment in the field of energy. Funds from the program “Serbia 2025 ” will also be used for the Office of Kosovo and Metohija in the amount 150 million Euros, which will be earmarked for infrastructure projects in the southern Serbian province, Vucic said. He announced an additional 100 million Euros for cooperation with the Republika Srpska because it is our obligation to help connect Republika Srpska with the mother country, without endangering the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to him, as part of the Program, 1 billion Euros will be invested for construction of water supply and sewage in every village in Serbia, because it is of enormous importance to the life of citizens. Also, large funds will be set aside for the development of the sports infrastructure, he said, noting that an additional 600 million Euros will be invested in the next period in Serbian healthcare.

 

Vucic: A main prerequisite is to preserve peace and stability in the region (TV Prva/B92)

 

After presenting the “Serbia 2025” Program, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic spoke about political developments in the country and the region. “Main condition for fulfilling this is to preserve peace and stability in the region,” President Vucic said. “A few days ago, we were attacked by some politicians from Bosnia-Herzegovina for the National Defense Strategy. Yesterday, Dodik attacked us and said, ‘Why are you mentioning Bosnia and Herzegovina?’ We just respect the Dayton Agreement,” President explained. Vucic also referred to developments in Kosovo and Albania. “There are so many false lies and fabrications in Albania about me, and I am silent and waiting for them to do something, to form a government so we can talk”, Vucic said. “So it will take a lot of effort, energy, to be able to maintain peace,” he stressed. When it comes to incidents that happened in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, President does not see the similarity of the situations. “I don’t believe in a conspiracy theory so I don’t see the resemblance in those events”, Vucic said. “There was an inter-party conflict in the Republika Srpska, in Montenegro the only very serious reason for political turmoil stands in the fact that it is major issue. In Serbia, you had an incident because some are boycotting the work of the Assembly even though they are receiving a salary,” Serbian President said. “Those who caused the incident in the Serbian Parliament wanted to send an ugly picture from Serbia to the world, and did this help the Serbs in Montenegro? On the contrary. What was the reason for this and what else is there for them to do? The biggest mistake was made by the SNS representatives, who allowed a small fascist group to become visible”, Vucic added. Asked how all those plans and achieved results will affect European Union officials, Vucic says he is not in charge.

“Serbia is a candidate country, we are not an EU member. Ask Sem Fabrizi, EU Ambassador to Serbia, how to set up the EU”, Serbia’s President said. “As far as Serbia is concerned, we will do our job. When the fees are abolished, we will be ready to talk. And we achieved these results despite the fees”, Vucic was clear.

 

Djuric: Moraca and Ostrog the same as Gracanica and Decani (RTS)

 

The Kosovo Assembly has been constituted recently, yet new elections are already being discussed. “Our province resembles Belgium in the length of the constituting of institutions, but we are easily taking the fantastic results of the Serb List, but for me this is the news of the years that the Serbs agreed and anyone who wishes to form the government needs to knock on our door,” the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric told RTS on Sunday.

According to Djuric, regardless of how negotiations among the Albanians unfold, the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija have grown immune to pressures and threats but are ready for daily struggle and enjoy the support and assistance of their state Serbia to continue to work on remaining and surviving. Regarding the announced hearing to the suspects for the murder of Oliver Ivanovic, Djuric expects further politicization and propaganda by Pristina with new lies about the Serbs in the north and in Serbia. When it comes to events in Montenegro, Djuric says that the issue of religion and spirituality is an issue of centuries and that this should be outside of politics. “Decani, Gracanica, Banjska are for us the same as Moraca, Savina and Ostrog and we are breathing as one with the Serb people in Montenegro,” said Djuric.

 

Djuric: Gathering around five principles of national policy (Politika/RTV/Tanjug)

 

In an op-ed for Politika, the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric writes that the year 2020 should bring us less daily political issues and continuation of gathering around five priorities of the national policy. He notes as the first principle the preservation of stability and peace, then preservation of sovereignty of the country, territorial integrity and independence of the political system. As the principles of national politics he also underlines accelerated economic recovery and development as the key priority of national survival. He also notes the principles of demographic recovery and keeping young people in Serbia, as well as orientation of the Serbian society and politics towards the future, always based on careful cherishing of the awareness of the past, culture, tradition and Serbian identity. Djuric underlined that President Vucic has political and personal strength to reject enormous pressure on our country to de facto accept independent of Kosovo and its membership in the UN in 2012 and 2013. He stressed that Vucic at that time preserved the sovereignty of the country and managed to gain, with constructive and nationally responsible approach to the dialogue on Kosovo and Metohija, several valuable years for economic recovery, whose main architect he is as well. “He had the skill, better to say wisdom, to move the focus of the dialogue in the direction of satisfying the legitimate interests of Serbia and the Serb people, at the same time enabling our state to pull itself out, during all that time, from the living mud of decades-long downfall. One might like or dislike his style, but these are the facts,” concluded Djuric.

 

Vucic: Both Sarajevo and Dodik criticized us because of Serbia’s national defense strategy (RTS)

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic commented the Proposal Strategy of Defense and National Security of Serbia and he stated that it is not possible to abolish Republika Srpska (RS) contrary to the will of Serb people and Serbia cannot accept that. “That can happen only if that is the will of Serb people. Contrary to the will of Serb people to abolish the RS, Serbia cannot accept that”, said Vucic. He said that Serbia was criticized by some politicians from Sarajevo, as well as by Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Milorad Dodik, because of this document. According to Vucic, politicians from Sarajevo criticized Serbia for mentioning the RS in this document, while Dodik criticized them for mentioning B&H. “Dodik attacked us for the same thing. They (Sarajevo) attacked us for mentioning the RS and that is our international- legal obligation in line with Dayton Agreement and Dodik said: “Why are you mentioning B&H?” if you understood the meaning of his words. He even said: “We will ask for B&H to be removed from that” said Vucic. He emphasized that Serbia has only been doing its job and respecting the Dayton Peace Agreement and underlined that it advocates preservation of the RS within B&H. Vucic said that Serbia is keeping silent about the insults arriving from Sarajevo, such were statement that Kosovo is an independent state for them.

 

Vulin: I expected Sarajevo’s gratitude to Serbia’s Defense Strategy (Tanjug/Novosti)

 

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin gave a statement on Sunday to comment the reactions of B&H authorities to the adoption of Serbia’s proposal of Defense Strategy, which stipulates preservation of the Serb people no matter of their place of residence and in which preservation of the RS was listed as the priority of Serbia’s foreign policy. Vulin said that he is particularly surprised that such reactions come from Chairman of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic, since it is clearly stipulated that Serbia is to assist in preservation of RS within the Dayton B&H. “It is highly interesting that he minds that we are securing the Dayton B&H. Does he have an idea to change the Dayton framework? Everyone that would wish to change the Dayton framework would face severe opposition of the Republic of Serbia and our right to take care of Serbs no matter where they reside. To be straight, I expected more gratitude in Sarajevo because of our strategy. When you open up a factory in Drvar, in the Federation of B&H, which is the only investment since Serbs were exiled, and the only investment after the war, I thought we would have gotten gratitude,” Vulin said. “Perhaps we have expected for someone from the RS to get crossed with us because there are those who deem that the RS should not be part of B&H. Serbia and I deem that B&H is integral and that its borders are known and there are no changes there,” said Vulin. He said that all decisions have to be reached through consensus of two entities and three peoples: “Unlike Komsic who said that he recognizes Kosovo as an independent state, I respect Constitution of B&H. For such a stance he would have to ask the other two members of B&H Presidency, two entities and other two peoples, before saying stuff like that,” said Vulin.

 

Fabrizi: Continuation of Kosovo negotiations top priority for EU (Blic/Beta)

 

The Head of Delegation of the EU to Serbia Sem Fabrizi stated that the EU is encouraging the forming of Kosovo’s new government and the continuation of the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, with the union’s mediation. “The Union will continue to lead this process started by the United Nations and supported by the EU member states. The new EU High Representative has made it clear that it is a priority and has already announced he will be visiting, before long, Pristina and Belgrade. And yes, the taxes should be abolished,” Fabrizi told Blic. Commenting on the Serbian elections, he said that the EU “is encouraging all participants to return the political debate to where it belongs – in the parliament, a place for a democratic debate and representation of the people.” “The participation of parties in the elections is a necessary precondition that lends the citizens a legitimate right to express their will. It wouldn’t be right to say that the EU is not advocating for better election conditions. If you look at the report of the European Commission from previous years, you’ll see a request that the recommendations of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) should be applied,” explained Fabrizi. According to him, “the European Parliament is now fully engaged and has offered a more lasting involvement in the work of the Serbian parliament.” “The ODIHR intends to engage a full observation mission, which is in line with what the EU advocates,” concluded Fabrizi.

 

Parliament passes army act (Beta)

 

The Serbian parliament passed a set of laws to govern the defense sector. Among others, the Armed Forces Act has been passed to, as Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin explained, to make the Army of Serbia organized more efficiently. Serbia’s MPs also passed a Serbian defense strategy, “defining the country’s national interests.” The document lays out as Serbian top priorities efforts to protect regional peace, a neutral military status and cooperation with East and West. Minister Vulin said that for the first time the strategy included “the protection of Republika Srpska as an entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to the Dayton accords, as well as the need to improve the position of Serbs in the region and beyond.” MPs also passed a draft version of an Ordinance for using the Serbian military in multinational operations outside Serbia, so that when parliament allows for the participation of the Serbian army in a peacekeeping mission, it doesn’t need to do it again unless the mandate or the name of the mission change.

 

Serbian parliament ends regular session with incidents (Beta)

 

As the Serbian anthem played and with the salutes of the Guard of Honor, the parliament of Serbia ended its regular autumn session, with incidents and legislative violence between the Dveri movement and the Serbian Progressive Party marring its last day. The Alliance for Serbia, including the Dveri, have been boycotting sittings of the parliament for a year, but on Dec. 27 Dveri leaders joined the sitting that day to share their dissatisfaction over Serbia’s reaction to a controversial Religious Freedom Act that was recently passed by the Montenegrin parliament, seeking adequate protection for the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbs living in the

neighboring state. Two Dveri MPs, Bosko Obradovic and Ivan Kostic, were carrying signs reading: “Vucic and Milo (Montenegrin president) are Twin Brothers” and “Why is Serbia silent?” Standing in front of the MPs, Obradovic asked them if they perhaps “supported the seizure of Serbian holy places,” and the arrest of their Montenegrin peers. The Progressive party whip, Aleksandar Martinovic, approached the Dveri leader, followed by other MPs from the ruling majority, when an altercation commenced in which MPs began pushing and shoving each other. The situation calmed down after a while, and the Serbian speaker, Maja Gojkovic, condemned the Dveri’s action, describing it as “a fascist attack by the Alliance for Serbia’s MPs.”

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

B&H Presidency split on Serbia’s new National Security and Defense Strategy (Fena/Srna/N1)

 

Serbia’s Defense Minister, Aleksandar Vulin, presented on Tuesday the document which says that the preservation of Republika Srpska (RS), is among Serbia’s top foreign affairs priorities.

While the Bosnian Croat and Bosniak members of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency argued that this breaches B&H sovereignty, the B&H Serb member said Serbia has every right to do so and that his colleagues should refrain from interfering in the neighboring country’s internal matters. The current Presidency Chairman and Bosnian Croat member, Zeljko Komsic, argued that the adoption of the Strategy would introduce new tensions in the Western Balkans and that it represents “open hostility towards the state of B&H.” Serbia’s President should immediately suspend the strategy before “it gets too late,” Komsic said, adding that the “wounds Bosnia has from the latest Serbian aggression and the committed (Srebrenica) genocide are still fresh.” “They can be sure we will not allow that to happen again” he stressed. Komsic also recalled that Serbia is a legal successor of the Socialist Republic Yugoslavia, one of the signatories of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) which ended the 1992-1995 Bosnian war and that with its signature, the country obliged itself to recognize and respect B&H’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity and agreed that it has no competencies over B&H. This is “completely opposite to the Strategy’s part concerning the military and defense aspect,” he said. The Presidency Chairman added that some top NATO states also signed the DPA and that B&H will also soon be a member of the alliance which will “put an end to Serbia’s fantasies.” Bosniak Presidency member Sefik Dzaferovic argued that Serbia has no right to declare part of B&H its special interest and that RS is not only the entity of Serbs. “Declaring part of B&H a special interest for the security and defense of the Republic of Serbia is an expression of an aggressive policy toward Bosnia. The entity of RS is part of the sovereign state of B&H and is not only the entity of the Serb people but also of Bosniaks, Croats and any other peoples who may live there, as is all of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Dzaferovic said. He stressed that no other countries, “especially not those who were signatories of the Dayton Peace Agreement because of their participation in the aggression on B&H” cannot be the protectors of any Bosnian territory.

Dzaferovic added that the statements coming from Serbian officials recently remind of the rhetoric which came from the country in the past. “When taking into account various arguments which came from Serbia recently on the ‘protection of the Serb peoples wherever they may live’ and that ‘RS does not have an army but the Serb people do’, it can be concluded that this strategy is nothing other than a repackaged version of the strategy which has in the 1990s of the last century tried to implement the criminal regime of Slobodan Milosevic,” Dzaferovic said.

Their Serb colleague in the Presidency, Milorad Dodik, has a completely different opinion. He said he does not understand the “hysteria which emerged from Sarajevo,” arguing that it “worsens the relations between B&H and its two most important neighbors, Serbia and Croatia.” “Serbia is a sovereign, independent and friendly country which has its sovereign right to decide on all important issues for the Serbian people and the Serbian state and we are extremely thankful that they see RS as a foreign affairs issue” Dodik said. “Persisting on the lies on the aggression and genocide, which never happened and which Serbs have nothing to do with, even 24 years after the war ended, is an act of deep hostility, so how can anyone who uses such rhetoric preach lessons on raising tensions?” he asked, arguing that Serbia cannot be used as a political tool among Bosniak parties and suggesting that “Komsic and Dzaferovic come to their senses.” Dodik argued that Serbia respects B&H’s territorial integrity and the Dayton Peace Agreement which secured the position of the RS, as well as the Agreement on Special Parallel Relations between B&H’s entities and the neighboring states. He urged Komsic and Dzaferovic, calling both the “Bosniak Presidency members”, to “respect Serbia’s sovereignty and the internal matters of a friendly neighboring country.”

 

Dodik to ask Serbia to remove RS from their Defense Strategy (N1)

 

Serbia did not have to write in their Defense Strategy that they would protect RS as their vital national interest, because only we decide on our fate, B&H, Serb leader and Presidency member Milorad Dodik said. “Not only was Sarajevo bothered by it, but I too was bothered by the fact that they wrote in the strategy they would support the RS which remains within B&H. I don’t think they had to write that. I’ll ask that they remove that if they can – not so we would cause a strife, but to show that we are the ones controlling our fate,” Dodik said. Of all the previous years, Dodik said he believes this was the year when they least wondered what would happen to the RS and that everyone is now convinced that this Serb-majority part of Bosnia is an “unavoidable political factor.”

 

Becirovic: Vucic revealed his true plans with adoption of Defense Strategy, he is on road that leads to The Hague (Oslobodjenje)

 

Bosniak delegate in the House of Peoples of the B&H parliament Denis Becirovic (SDP) stated that the response of the united forces that promote independent and democratic B&H to Serbia’s decision to adopt the Strategy for Defense and National Security cannot be mild. Commenting the actions of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Serbian Minister of Defense Aleksandar Vulin, Becirovic said: “Vucic and Vulin, close associates to Vojislav Seselj and Slobodan Milosevic, have completely revealed their intentions with this move. It is now obvious that the Serbian regime of Aleksandar Vucic is not on road to creating the little Schengen in the Western Balkans, but on the road, that ends in The Hague.”

 

Bosnian political parties slam Serbia’s Defense Strategy as anti-Bosnian (N1)

 

Serbia’s Defense and National Security Strategy shows that Serbia continues to wrongly interpret the Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the war in B&H and is evidence of its Defense Ministry’s aggressive stance against B&H, the strongest Bosniak Party, the Democratic Action Party (SDA) said commenting the document which was presented recently. “B&H has never threatened the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia. On the contrary! B&H’s internal relations were never a threat to Serbia’s defense and its inclusion into the Strategy is yet another evidence of Serbia Defense Ministry’s aggressive and paternalistic attitude to B&H” the SDA said. The SDA added that Serbia is no guarantee of the Dayton Peace Agreement but that its signature on the Agreement only means it admitted its participation in the B&H war. “If it refers to the Dayton Agreement, the Ministry should include the first article of the Dayton Peace Agreement into the Strategy which stipulates that Serbia will restrain from any action contrary to the territorial integrity and political independence of B&H,” the party concluded. Nihad Colpa from the People’s Alliance (GS) said that the Strategy comes at a time when Serbia one-sidedly suspended the Sub-regional Arms Control Agreement, thus becoming a threat to regional security. Presenting the document, Vulin said that the preservation and protection of the Serbian people where ever they lived is among the top seven national interests of Serbia. This, Colpa said, shows Vulin’s desire to “transfer Serbia as a regional security problem from the regional onto the international global scene.” He called on B&H institutions to react to these actions and recalled that it is their Constitutional and legal duty to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this country. The Our Party warned that the Strategy only supports the Republika Srpska entity’s secessionist tendencies “Paradoxically, the same strategy states that separatism as one of the greatest threats to regional peace, but several sentences later it instigates the same separatism,” Our Party concluded.

 

OHR spokesperson: Serbia agreed to respect B&H’s sovereignty (Fena)

 

As the legal successor of the former Yugoslavia, Serbia took over the obligation of respecting B&H sovereignty stemming from the Dayton Peace Agreement after it signed it in 1995, the international administrator in B&H, OHR spokesperson Mario Brkic told Fena. “Among other things, Serbia agreed to respect B&H’s sovereign equality and avoid any activity aimed against Bosnia’s independence, as well as to accept, promote and respect the obligations stemming from Annex 4 of the B&H Constitution,” Brkic noted. Brkic added that the Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the war in B&H and contains the B&H Constitution, was signed by the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Croatia, and that the EU, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US were witnesses to the signing. The international administrator, also known as the High Representative for B&H is a function set up by the international community aimed at overseeing the civilian implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement.

 

Dodik: Law on Freedom of Religion and Legal Status of Religious Communities does not do credit to state which claims that it advocates rights of all its citizens (FTV)

 

Milorad Dodik said on Friday that the Law on Freedom of Religion and Legal Status of Religious Communities, which was adopted by the Parliament of Montenegro, is unfair and that it does not do credit to the state which claims that it advocates the rights of all its citizens. According to Dodik, the text of the Law on Freedom of Religion is discriminatory for the Serbian Orthodox Church which gathers the largest number of believers in Montenegro. Dodik stressed that images that Montenegro sent to the region and the world on Thursday night certainly do not go in favor of the authorities of Montenegro which, as they claim, is on the path of European integration. Dodik said that people of the RS stand with their brothers in Montenegro in their fight against injustice. He added that he will use his international contacts to warn about the discriminatory law. SNSD’s MP Srdjan Mazalica said that the law was adopted despite other recommendations given by the Venice Commission. Representatives of SDS expressed concern about the latest developments in Montenegro, especially the apprehension of representatives of the opposition parties in the Parliament of Montenegro. SDS leader Mirko Sarovic said that he expects Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Serbian Orthodox Church to persist in protecting historic rights and status of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro. According to PDP, it is unbelievable and scandalous that all amendments submitted by the opposition parties were rejected. It is especially concerning that such law was adopted without taking into consideration the opinion of the Serbian Orthodox Church. PDP leader Branislav Borenovic said that everyone has the right to be upset, not only in Montenegro but also in the RS, in B&H and all over the region, given the way of derogation of the rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church and all believers.

 

Gatherings of citizens held in Pale, Banja Luka and Trebinje to protest against Law on Religious Freedoms in Montenegro (O kanal)

 

Throughout the region and in B&H citizens gathered to protest the adoption of the Law on Religious Freedom in Montenegro. The citizens believe the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church is being seized by the state with this law. Several hundred residents of Pale gathered on Sunday in order to express support for the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro. They highlighted the parole ˝Milo, you thief, we will not give you the sanctities˝, referring to Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic. The residents gathered at 11:55 hours in front of the Temple of the Holy Archangel Gabriel and carried Orthodox icons and Serbian flags. They staged a protest walk to the Church of the Assumption of Mary. The protesters lit candles and prayed in order to support the church and the citizens of Montenegro. O Kanal carried statements of the protesters, who said that the law is a disaster for the Serb people and they want to defend their sanctities. A similar gathering took place in Banja Luka and Trebinje on Sunday afternoon as well.

 

Djukanovic signs Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief (CDM)

 

President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic signed the Decree Promulgating the Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief and legal position of religious communities, reported CDM. MPs from the main opposition DF, called on President Djukanovic not to sign the law but to return it to the Parliament for further elaboration and proposed a referendum to be called for.

 

Parliament adopts Law on absolute freedom of use of national symbols (CDM)

 

Parliament of Montenegro has adopted the Law on Election, Use and Public Display of National Symbols. Vice-President of the DPS Board in Tuzi, Nikola Gegaj, says that the law is positive.

“It stipulates absolute freedom in the use of national symbols. By virtue of this law, Montenegro has shown once again that it is committed to building society of equals, while respecting all European standards. It is evident that Montenegro remains committed to improving and protecting minority rights and constantly puts efforts in promoting protection of rights,” says Gegaj. One of Montenegro’s main objectives is full integration of minority nations. “Montenegro is home to all nations. Harmony and tolerance are its utmost value and we must all preserve those values,” pointed out Gegaj. However, president of the Liberal Party, Andrija Popovic, doesn’t think alike. He states that the new Law is much different from that has been in force so far. “LP tried to amend it and improve it, but we were rejected. Use of state symbols of other countries under the cloak of minority nations could be a weakness. That’s why LP didn’t support it,” says Popovic. Albania’s President, Iljir Meta, said that adoption of the law was a great step towards full respect for minority rights and Kosovo’s president, Hashim Thaci, stressed that it was good news for all communities living in Montenegro. According to him, the law will further strengthen multi-ethnicity and sense of belonging. Minister of Human and Minority Rights in Montenegro, Mehmed Zenka, said that adoption of the law would strengthen the value of multinational Montenegro. While the Vice-President of the Parliament, Genci Nimanbegu, said that national symbols were part of human rights. “As a measure of compromise, the law is great,” said Nimanbegu.

 

Outgoing Prime Minister: The interim government must organize free and fair elections and continue working for the benefit of citizens (Republika)

 

Outgoing Prime Minister Zoran Zaev after meeting with VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski said that regardless of the nominees for the ministerial posts in the “Przino government”, it is important to conduct fair and democratic elections. “First of all, it is important to acknowledge the obligation of all that our country, under the watchful eye and responsibility of all participants in the election process, is important to ensure fair, democratic and regular elections because the country is moving forward, walking on the right path and it should keep going like that. It is everyone’s responsibility and I believe I will only once again remind the so-called Przino government or the interim government that was formed in 2016, at the talks sometime in spring 2018 when we discussed the Przino Agreement we gave it again, gave the opposition the right to do so for two reasons, first of all to participate and be treated fairly because it is the opposition’s job to control the government, it is normal but it also takes the responsibility to conduct fair and democratic elections,” he said.

 

Government accepts VMRO-DPMNE’s proposal for early ratification of NATO Treaty (Republika)

 

The government has accepted VMRO-DPMNE’s proposal for early ratification of the NATO Treaty following Montenegro’s example. The Government of the Republic of Macedonia, at Saturday’s session, approved the text of the Draft Law on Ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty signed in Washington on 4 April 1949. “The Draft Law on Ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty of our country with NATO, to be adopted in the Parliament, is foreseen to enter into force on the day of its publication in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of North Macedonia”, after which it will be deposited in Washington, after Spain has ratified the Accession Protocol of our country to full-fledged membership in the Alliance,” reads the government’s statement. Earlier this month, VMRO-DPMNE lawmakers sent an initiative to the government aimed at speeding up and securing ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty and NATO Accession Protocol by parliament before it was dissolved to hold early parliamentary elections scheduled for 12 April 2020.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

Freedom to plunder? Russian Church slams contentious religious law approved in Montenegro (TASS, 30 December 2019)

 

The Russian Orthodox Church compared the situation in Montenegro with Ukraine, where laws on seizing churches and monasteries from the property of the canonical church had been passed as well

MOSCOW, Montenegro’s law on religious freedom, which gives the go-ahead for the seizure of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s property, is a below-the-belt strike against the church, enabling a dangerous rift, the Russian Orthodox Church said in a statement posted on the Moscow Patriarchate’s website on Monday. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic earlier signed the law on freedom of religion approved by the parliament, which infringes upon the interests of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The legislation endorses the seizure of church property from the Serbian Orthodox Church. The issue at hand is more than 650 holy sites, including the renowned Ostrog Monastery. “A crusade to question the legitimacy of religious organizations’ rights to their property after many years of being under the thumb of an atheist regime and having suffered the denial of any legal rights, now looks like a below-the-belt blow to the church, which has been restoring what was stripped of it during those years of repression. The new law on religious freedom is an act of encouraging a schism by weakening the canonical church and an attempt to make it dependent on the state, which is both humiliating and dangerous. This is even more unjust, because Montenegro is a secular state. While arbitrarily and illegally encroaching upon the canonical law sphere, the country’s authorities deny the clear and easily verifiable continuity of the canonical church, by insisting on its re-registration, which takes the church beyond the legal framework and exposes it to the impact of aggressive nationalism,” the statement reads. The Russian Orthodox Church compared the situation in Montenegro with Ukraine, where laws on seizing churches and monasteries from the property of the canonical church had been passed as well. “Both countries passed discriminatory laws, which laid the legal groundwork for seizing churches, monasteries and land from the church. In Montenegro, fringe elements backed by the authorities have been trying to seize the canonical church’s cathedrals for many years, just like in Ukraine,” the church stressed. It also called on all Local Orthodox Churches to support the canonical church in Montenegro. “None of us should view the danger looming over it as something distant and alien. What they are trying to impose on believers in Montenegro today can happen to any church tomorrow. We urge the international community to prevent the rights of religious communities in Montenegro from being trampled upon. <…> It is apparent that this legislative act ignores the will of a considerable part of the country’s population,” the statement reads. On December 27, Montenegro’s legislature passed a controversial law on freedom of religion and the legal status of religious communities amid mass protests throughout the country. Forty-five out of 45 lawmakers present voted for the law. No one voted against or abstained, since the bill was considered after the police had detained all opposition MPs. Huge protests were held in several cities in Montenegro against the new legislation. The Serbian Orthodox Church said that it was aimed at seizing its property in Montenegro.

 

Hundreds protest in Serbia against new Montenegro church law (Euronews/AP, by  Daniel Bellamy, 28 December 2019)

 

Hundreds of protesters in Serbia gathered in front of the Montenegrin embassy on Friday night, after Montenegro passed a controversial religious law hours earlier. The Serbian Orthodox Church says the law could strip the church of its property, including medieval monasteries and churches. Pro-Serb lawmakers in Montenegro’s parliament were arrested on Friday after they attempted to block the vote. They hurled what appeared to be a tear gas canister or a firecracker and also tried to destroy microphones in the parliament. Plainclothes police officers wearing gas masks intervened, detaining 22 people, including 17 opposition lawmakers. “That has never been seen in democracy and in parliament that Serbian lawmakers during the parliament session are brutally arrested,” one of the protesters, Nemanja Vuckovic, said. All but three of the lawmakers were released. The three are suspected of attacking the speaker of the parliament speaker and preventing him from performing his job, police said. Two of the arrested lawmakers, Andrija Mandic and Ivan Knezevic, were sentenced in May to five years in prison for taking part in an alleged Russian-orchestrated coup attempt in 2016 against Montenegro’s then-prime minister and current pro-Western president, Milo Djukanovic. They were freed pending an appeal. ““We are ready to die for our church, and that’s what we are demonstrating tonight,” Mandic said during the tumultuous Parliament session. The law, approved by 45 ruling coalition lawmakers, says religious communities with property need to produce evidence of ownership from before 1918, when Montenegro joined a Serb-led Balkan kingdom and lost its independence. In neighbouring Serbia, President Aleksandar Vucic said he was concerned but hoped that tensions will ease and “”our church’s holy sites will be preserved.“” Vucic promised to help the Serbian church in Montenegro “”without burning bridges.“” Also on Friday, a brief brawl erupted in the Serbian parliament when nationalist opposition lawmakers held up banners criticizing what they called a lack of response from Serbia to the events in Montenegro. The Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro described the law as “”discriminatory and unconstitutional.” Patriarch Irinej, the head of the church, said Montenegrin authorities “must immediately stop with the brutal terror against the church, its priests and followers.“” Montenegro’s population of around 620,000 is predominantly Orthodox Christian and the main church is the Serbian Orthodox Church. A separate Montenegrin Orthodox Church isn’t recognized by other Orthodox Christian churches.

Djukanovic has accused the Serbian Orthodox Church of promoting pro-Serb policies and seeking to undermine the country’s statehood since it split from Serbia in 2006. Montenegrins remain divided over whether the small Adriatic state should foster close ties with Serbia. About 30% of Montenegro’s population identify as Serbs and were mostly against the split from Serbia.

 

Montenegrin Police Says Four Officers Injured in Clashes With Anti-Church Law Protesters (Sputnik, 30 December 2019)

 

BELGRADE – Clashes between law enforcement and protesters in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica over a controversial law on religious communities have left four officers injured, the country’s Police Administration said on Monday. According to the statement, protesters tumbled down a massive pine tree to block the highway to the airport of Podgorica and began throwing stones at police officers who arrived at the scene to unblock the road. “A rapid police intervention broke the blockade on the highway to Podgorica airport and the traffic was restored. Four officers sustained injuries in the course of the operation”, law enforcement officials said on Twitter. One of the injured policemen, Dalibor Zhivkovic, was reportedly taken to a hospital with head injuries. Protests against the controversial law began in multiple cities across Montenegro on Sunday, with the epicenter in Podgorica’s suburbs. Both police and protesters are apparently on the brink of getting excessively violent as video footage from near Podgorica’s Church of Resurrection shows law enforcement trying to break in during an evening service, while footage from the city’s northern suburb of Zeta shows protesters throwing firecrackers at police. On Saturday, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic signed into law a bill that envisages nationalizing property of religious entities should they fail to prove the right to ownership before 1918, the year when Montenegro ceased being independent. The Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC), which is followed by the overwhelming majority of Montenegro’s predominantly Orthodox Christian population, fears the government will seize its assets, such as ancient monasteries and temples, and give them to the noncanonical Montenegrin Orthodox Church — all to weaken the SOC’s influence in the country.

 

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