International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Foreign Minister questions Serbian citizenship of those supporting Montenegro

January 5, 2020

Serbia's Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said the Montenegrin regime should discuss the controversial Religious Freedom Law with its citizens and called on Serbian citizens of Montenegrin descent to publically state their views on the recent developments in this country.

Speaking to Radio Television of Serbia, Dacic said that the crisis "did not arise in Serbia but in Montenegro," that dialogue is the only solution and that Serbia was constantly calling for talks, but that Montenegrin authorities were constantly rejected that dialogue.

According to Dacic, "the regime in Montenegro is collecting (political) points on the continuation of anti-Serb politics" and continues to accuse Serbia of interfering in Montenegro's internal affairs, although "no one said anything for years against Montenegro's independence."

Dacic urged Montenegrins living in Serbia to speak out on this issue because "anyone who has acquired everything in Serbia has an obligation not to remain silent on this issue, and those who support the Montenegrin regime on this issue of the fight against the Serbian people, I think that the big question is whether they should continue to have the Serbian citizenship."

Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) faithful have been protesting in Montenegro for days over adoption of the Religious Freedoms Law that they claim discriminates against the SPC.

At the same time, the authorities in Podgorica, as well as some civic activists in the region, accused the Belgrade regime of organising protests, thus threatening Montenegro's stability and independence.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a558033/Foreign-Minister-questions-Serbian-citizenship-of-those-supporting-Montenegro.html

1 in 5 million anti-government protest: Regime in Serbia fears people's courage

January 4, 2020

Srdjan Markovic, one of the 1 in 5 million organisation member, said on Saturday that the protests brought changes and that they should go since "the authorities are afraid of endurance, determination, togetherness and courage, the FoNet news agency reported.

He asked if there were no protests would Aleksandar Obradovic, the whistleblower who linked highest state officials with shady arms trade deals, ever be heard; or would it ever be proved that Finance Minister Sinisa Mali's doctorate was a plagiarism; or would the regime ever accepted a dialogue on election conditions under the European Union auspices?

Markovic said all that was unimaginable without people in the streets and that the protest was the only way to make changes.

He thanked people who came out during the holiday time to tell "this system that it is not good," and asked them to go to the "institution which started to open up, to the state RTS TV, to say what they wanted from them in 2020.  

The crowd made a loud noise outside the RTS building during its main evening news.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a557917/Protesters-in-Serbia-say-regime-is-afraid-of-demonstrations.html

Serbian President not going to Montenegro on Christmas Eve

January 4, 2020

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic decided not to go on a private visit to Montenegro on Christmas Eve, saying Patriarch Irinej agreed with his decision and supported it.

"I do not want to give an alibi to the Montenegrin regime to say that this was an attack on the independence and constitutional order of Montenegro. We respect the independence and constitutional order of Montenegro and we have never threatened it in any way, nor are we interested in doing so," Vucic said.

He added that a visit to Pljevlja and the Milesian Diocese had been arranged, that everything was ready, and that between 30 and 40 thousand Serbs from Montenegro were expected to come, as well.

"I made that decision because I am sure there would be a conflict and I don't want a conflict. I know that some would use it to harm the Serbian people in Montenegro," he said.

He blamed the international community for the "hysterical campaign of lies" and cited the AP agency as an example, stating that the Serbian president was "pouring gas on the fire" with his visit.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a557823/Serbian-President-not-going-to-Montenegro-on-Christmas-Eve.html

Academic community appeals for Montenegro crisis resolution

January 4, 2020

Some 100 representatives of the academic community and civic activists, including the President of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Vladimir Kostic, urged that the amendments to the Law on Religious Freedoms be submitted as soon as possible, resulting from the dialogue between the state and representatives of all traditional religious communities in Montenegro and that the Montenegrin state and the Serbian Orthodox Church to conclude a treaty that would permanently resolve the issue of the functioning of the Church.

 They urged that EU representatives at the technical and political level, be directly involved in assisting the dialogue and that prominent individuals and representatives of different interest groups in Serbia and other Balkan countries "refrain from misinterpreting and manipulating historical, legal and political facts, which results in further escalation and antagonization of already largely divided societies in these countries."

The academics argued that the law creates a legal framework for the nationalization of the property of traditional religious communities and that it directly encroaches on the property rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Montenegro.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a557895/Academic-community-appeals-for-Montenegro-crisis-resolution.html

Analyst suspects Serbia-Montenegro rift staged

January 4, 2020

I don't believe in the conflict between the presidents of Montenegro and Serbia, Milo Djukanovic and Aleksandar Vucic, there are doubts that the whole situation and tensions that have arisen were cooked up in the kitchen of Vladimir Beba Popovic, who is a political adviser to both Djukanovic and Vucic, political analyst Boban Stojanovic told N1.

"I can't say with certainty that everything was staged, time will tell, but there are grounds to think so," he adds. He added that regional populists start spreading ethnic hatred whenever they need a ratings-boost.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic decided not to go on a private visit to Montenegro. Tensions are mounting in the two countries, daily protests against the adopted Law on Freedom of Religion are held in Montenegro, and an attempt has been made in Belgrade to burn the Montenegrin flag at their Embassy.

Stojanovic also said that there is suspicion that the latest conflicts were staged.

"Maybe everything is cooked-up in one kitchen to get solve two problems at once. Elections are coming up in both countries and I wouldn't rule out anything," Stojanovic stressed.

He also stated that there is a linguistic, ethnic and religious split in Montenegro between those who declare themselves Montenegrins and those who claim to be Serbs.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a557887/Analyst-suspects-Serbia-Montenegro-rift-staged.html

Thousands at protest headed by Bishop Amfilohije in Montenegrin capital

January 3, 2020

Thousands of people gathered in the center of the Montenegrin capital Podgorica on Friday evening, continuing the days of protest over the introduction of a law on religious communities.

The Montenegrin parliament adopted the law on religious communities which the Serbian Orthodox Church says will allow the government to seize its properties and turn over monasteries, temples and holy sites which it has held for centuries to the unrecognized Montenegrin orthodox church. The protests began before the law was adopted and have continued since.  

The religious procession was headed Montenegro Littoral Bishop Amfilohije, a fierce critic of the authorities in both Montenegro and Serbia.

Local media reported that a crowd of several thousand gathered in the northern Montenegrin town of Berane to protest the law in front of their local monastery. The crowd included the opposition mayor and local officials. Berane is the only opposition controlled town in the country.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a557775/Thousands-at-protest-headed-by-Bishop-Amfilohije-in-Montenegrin-capital.html

Serbian opposition MP says government privatizing military industry

January 3, 2020

The Serbian government has decided to group 19 military industry companies into a Defense Industry Groupation which opposition MP Marinika Tepic warned was the first step in the privatization of the country’s defense industry.

Tepic recalled that she has been warning for weeks that the government would issue a decree to start the privatization process. “And here it is! I have warned for week about this government decree to launch the privatization of the military industry. I warned that they were putting their paws on every factory, that their people inflicted damage on that industry and now the government is doing that legally, issuing a decree under the counter on December 31,” she wrote on her Twitter account.

The government issued the decree on the last day of 2019 and it will take effect on January 8. Friday’s press release on the government’s web site said that the government has either a majority stake or owns at least 51 percent of those companies making munitions and military equipment.

The Groupation itself will not have company status under the law nor will it have to be registered, the press release said and added that it was being formed for the sake of Serbia’s strategic interests in the production of military equipment and munitions. According to the press release the companies in the Groupation are: Prva iskra - namenska Baric, Milan Blagojevic - Namenska Lucani, Prvi partizan Uzice, Zastava Firearms Kragujevac, Sloboda Cacak, Krusik Valjevo, Prva Petoletka namenska Trstenik, Teleoptik Gyroscopes Zemun, Trajal Krusevac, Yumco Vranje, Zastava Tervo Kragujevac, FAP Priboj, Utva Aviation Industry Pancevo, Borbeni Slozeni Sistemi and Belom Belgrade. Also in the Groupation are base technology plants PPT TMO Trstenik, Zastava Kovacnica Kragujevac, Kovacki Centar Valjevo and Corun Holding Uzice.

The Groupation can include companies under the control of state-owned companies as determined by the government which will form a Defense Industry Council to manage the Groupation made up of appointed officials and chairmen of the companies in the Groupation.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a557711/Serbian-opposition-MP-says-government-privatizing-military-industry.html

Church distances itself from incidents in Montenegro on Christmas eve

January 3, 2020

The top body of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro on Friday distanced itself from any possible incidents which it said it was reliably informed could be staged on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

The Serbian Orthodox Church marks time by the Julian calendar which means that Christmas eve is on January 6.

“The Church will not call for violence of any kind but will show determination in defending its holy sites… The responsibility for divisions lies with the people who adopted the unconstitutional and discriminatory law on seizing temples and church properties. It is up to every Orthodox Christian believers no to fall for provocation,” the statement by the Council of Episcopes of the Montenegro Littoral Bishopric said.

The Council added that the church had formed an international team of experts tasked with protecting Church interests in Montenegro and before international institutions.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a557673/Church-distances-itself-from-incidents-on-Christmas-in-Montenegro.html

Serbian Ambassador refuses Montenegrin protest note

January 3, 2020

Serbia’s Ambassador Vladimir Bozovic on Friday refused to accept a protest note over the attempts to burn the flag of Montenegro flying in front of the embassy of that country in Belgrade.

A press release from Montenegrin Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic’s cabinet said that Ambassador Bozovic had been instructed by his ministry not to accept the protest note. “In line with instructions from the Serbian Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Bozovic refused to accept the protest note,” the press release said.    

Montenegro’s Charges D’Affaires in Belgrade also refused to accept a note from the Serbian Foreign Ministry on Friday, acting under orders from his ministry. The Charges D’Affaires was summoned to the Serbian ministry to be handed a protest note over statements by Montenegrin officials that Serbia was behind the crisis in Montenegro.

 Red Star sports club supporters marched to the Montenegrin embassy in central Belgrade on Thursday evening and tried to burn the flag. Their protest was the latest over the introduction of a new law on religious communities in Montenegro which the Serbian Orthodox Church claims is intended to seize its properties in that former Yugoslav republic.  

The press release said that Ambassador Bozovic condemned the torching of the flag, adding that it does not reflect the official views of Serbia and its citizens. Bozovic said that Serbia has no desire to interfere in Montenegro’s internal affairs.

The Montenegrin ministry press release said that ministry General Secretary Miodrag Kankaras lodged the protest, sharply condemning the attempts to burn the flag and assault the embassy as well as the failure of the Serbian authorities to react. He said the safety of Montenegrin diplomats was in jeopardy because of statement by some public figures and expressed the expectation that official Belgrade will react to secure the Montenegrin embassy and its state insignia.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a557669/Serbian-Ambassador-refuses-Montenegrin-protest-note.html

Podgorica: Shocking attitude by Belgrade; Serbia's FM condemns incident

January 3, 2020

Montenegro's Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said on Friday his country was facing another challenge to its independence and freedom after attacks on it diplomatic offices in Belgrade and Ljubljana and an attempt to burn the state flag, N1 reported.

Markovic wrote on his Twitter account that "Serbia's authorities' attitude is shocking. Montenegro is once more facing the challenge to its independence and freedom."He added that Montenegro would be preserved "despite hatred it is exposed to from the same people within and outside the country."

Montenegro's’ Foreign Ministry summoned Serbia’s ambassador to the Podgorica Vladimir Bozovic after “continuous attacks on the Montenegrin embassy in Belgrade and the country’s flag.”

 The recently adopted Law on Religious Communities triggered a wave of protests across Montenegro, organised by local Serbs and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), who described the law as damaging to their interests in the coastal republic and labelled it "the theft" of SPC holy properties.

Markovic's reaction on Friday came after last night's protest outside Montenegro's embassy in Belgrade staged by the Red Star's sports club fans. After the basketball game against the German team Bayern, during which the supporters chanted offensive slogans about Montenegro's President Milo Djukanovic, the fans went to the embassy located in the heart of the city.

Later on Friday, Serbia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the attempt to burn the Montenegrin flag on that country’s embassy building in the Belgrade centre.

They used pyrotechnics in an attempt to burn Montenegro's flag at the top of the building. The Beta news agency reported that no uniform police were present, but only plain-cloths officers.

Before the Red Star supporters, the students form the Belgrade Law Faculty and members of the Serb national movement "Zavetnici," also protested outside the embassy.

Similar incidents happened outside Montenegro's consulates in Serbia, and Montenegro, which Podgorica's Foreign Ministry described as "vandalism."

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a557559/Monetenegro-s-PM-says-country-expose3d-to-hatred.html

Kosovo’s Kurti: Dialogue with local Serbs, then with Belgrade

January 3, 2020

The leader of the Self-Determination Kosovo movement and most likely new Prime Minister, Albin Kurti said on Friday that if he formed a new cabinet, he would immediately start a dialogue with local Serbs and would resume talks with Belgrade after Serbia’s general elections due in spring, the FoNet news agency reported.

He also said that new government would analyse all 33 agreements with Belgrade signed in Brussels during the dialogue on the normalisation of relations.

“We have to look at all 33 agreements with Serbia not because we are obsessed with the past, but to estimate the situation and learn the history lessons to be able to go to the future safely,” Kurti said.

He added that new general elections in Kosovo, which might happen if the parties could not agree on a government, would be “the worst scenario."

Belgrade and Pristina had been negotiating for years under the European Union auspices and signed those agreements, some of which neither side wholly fulfilled.

The dialogue stopped in November 2018, after Pristina introduced the 100 percent import tariffs on goods from Serbia in response to Belgarde's diplomatic offensive to prevent Kosovo from joining Interpol. Pristina has been rejecting to suspend or lift them ever since despite pressure from both the US and EU.

Belgrade maintains it won’t resume the talks as long as the taxes are in place.    

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a557601/Fresh-elections-will-be-the-worst-scenario-Kurti-says.html

North Macedonian PM resigns, transitional Government takes over

January 3, 2020

A transitional government took over in North Macedonia on Friday following Prime Minister Zoran Zaev's resignation and will organize parliamentary elections scheduled for April 12.

The transitional government headed by former Internal Affairs Minister Oliver Spaskovski (SDSM) won the votes of 101 of parliament’s 120 MPs. The Prime Minister told parliament that his cabinet would make sure all institutions operate, continue the EuroAtlantic integration process initiated by his predecessor Zoran Zaev’s cabinet and would organize free and democratic elections. He also called the opposition to join in the process of accession to NATO and start of negotiations with the European Union.

The transitional government is almost identical to Zaev’s cabinet with the opposition naming the Internal Affairs and Labor ministers and former Labor Minister Mila Carovska switching to the post of deputy PM for economic issues. Former Intelligence Agency Director Nace Culev was named Internal Affairs Minister and Rasela Mizrahi took over the Labor Ministry, both nominated by the opposition.  

Zaev's resignation is part of preparations for early elections on April 12 which are being called after the European Union failed to set a date to open accession negotiations with official Skopje.

"The Government has been at work since 8:30 am, I signed the resignation in line with an agreement about elections and the Law on Government," Zaev said.

The transitional Government is formed 100 days ahead of elections, and the opposition has interior and labor ministers and deputy ministries of finance, agriculture and administration.    

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a557575/North-Macedonia-set-for-early-elections-in-April.html

Serbia’s President and his brother ready for polygraph about marijuana affair

January 3, 2020

Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s President, says he and his brother Andrej are ready to take a polygraph test to prove that neither the two of them nor any member of their family has had contacts with the owner of a farm where marijuana has been cultivated alongside healthy vegetables, the news agencies have reported on Friday.

Speaking to the pro-government Pink TV, Vucic said they wanted the test because it was important to him to show how “the factories of lies unction.”

“It is not (Predrag) Koluvija (the owner of Jovanjica farm) who is to be blamed for the campaign against me. He will face the law for what he is responsible for. We will also have to see who has been covering up (the affair), and the mobile phones expertise will have to be done soon. We are both ready to take the polygraph test. However, who has been doing that and who has made a profit is up to the respective institutions to find out,” Vucic said.  

He added it was so important to him that those behind the affairs were identified and said he would continuously mention it during public appearances.

However, Vucic already blamed the opposition of triggering the story when another affair, linked to the arms trade deals, was fading out after “it ended in an alleged conflict of interest instead of many crime previously mentioned.”    

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a557585/President-and-his-brother-to-take-polygraph-test-to-prve-innocence-in-the-marijuana-affair.html

Protests against new religious law continue across Montenegro

January 3, 2020

Thousands of Montenegrin Serbs continued with peaceful protests against the new Law on Religious Communities in the coastal republic which, they said, endangered their and the rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), the Beta news agency reported late on Thursday.

Since the Montenegrin Parliament has passed the law, SPC churches and monasteries have been packed with people showing disagreement and demanding that the authorities reconsider the act and take into account the suggestions made by SPC.

Protest walks were held in the capital Podgorica, in northern Montenegro where the majority of the population considered themselves as Serbs, but also in the coastal town of Herceg Novi.

SPC and Montenegrin Serbs say the new law would enable the state to take over their holy places, describing the law as "theft."

Montenegrin Orthodox Church is not autocephalous, and some media in Serbia quoted Bartholomew I, the current Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch, as saying he would never recognise the independence of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church.

Bartholomew is the primus inter pares in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and considered a spiritual leader of some 300 million people worldwide.

Official Belgrade shares SPC worries about the consequences of the new religious law, and there were unofficial reports that Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic would visit northern Montenegro on January 6, when Orthodox Serbs celebrate the Christmas Eve, "to again show the unity of the Serb people."

Podgorica said late on Thursday it did not have any official confirmation about Vucic’s visit and refused to comment media reports.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a557537/Montenegrin-Serbs-and-SPC-continue-protest-against-country-s-new-law-on-relegious-communities.html

NUNS: State finances propaganda in media at expense of public interest in Serbia

January 2, 2020

The Independent Association of Serbia's Journalists (NUNS) said on Thursday that the country planned 155 grants for co-financing media in 2019 and allocated 1.6 billion Dinars (€1 = 118 RSD) mostly for public propaganda at the expense of public interest, investigative journalism and unbiased reporting, the FoNet news agency reported.

 Out of all 155 grants, Serbia's Ministry of Culture and Information published nine and paid 274 million Dinars for the chosen projects.

Vojvodina's Provincial Secretariat for Culture and Information published five and spent 64.2 million Dinars.

Local communities published calls for 141 grants, six of which were annulled and re-published for slightly above 1.3 billion Dinars.

The city of Belgrade topped the list with 81 million Dinars given to media headquartered in the capital.

NUNS said that the critical weaknesses in co-financing the media were the same as in 2018 at all levels of authorities: the lack of transparency in appointing commissions' members, the absence of media experts and unclear criteria for the projects that would be financially supported.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a557457/Serbia-co-finances-propaganda-instead-of-unbiased-media.html

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