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SEPTEMBER 2020

Montenegro Is Burning

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Montenegro Is Burning

ILLUSTRATIVE IMAGE

The Montenegrin government demonstrates a painful commitment to its campaign against the Serbian Orthodox Church, which already led to wide-scale protests in the country.

On July 19, Prime Minister Dusko Markovic announced that the government’s work group is ready to continue negotiations on the controversial Freedom of Religion Law, which infringes on rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church and its Metropolitanate of Montenegro.

Montenegro Is Burning

Prime Minister Dusko Markovic

The Serbian Orthodox Church is traditionally the main and only canonic Orthodox church in Montenegro and has a wide support of the local population. Despite this, the Markovic government has been fiercely working to change this by promoting a project of the ‘independent’ Montenegrin Orthodox Church. To do so, the government seeks to adopt a new law allowing to seize church properties of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro and setting conditions for psuhing the canonic church out of the country. The government apparently believes that the existence of the canonic church as an important part of the traditionally conservative Serbian society undermines its attempts to impose Western-promoted ‘neo-liberal values’ in Montenegro. While the jointing in NATO in 2017 faced a controversy in the country and the attempts to join the European Union are seem mainly as relatively positive by the population, the blatant propaganda of the modern variant of ‘democratic values’ (i.e. joining the minorities-ruled, neo-liberal camp) faces a mostly negative reaction.

In other words, Montenegro seeks to repeat the Ukrainain case, when the Kiev regime also participated in the creation of a local puppet pro-Western church that should support the Ukrainain ‘integration to Europe’, neo-liberal values and oppose the silent conservative majority of the population.

Metropolitan Amfilohije (the current Metropolitan bishop of Montenegro and the Littoral, making him the Primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro) accepted the government invitation to hold another meeting on July 20.

“We take this opportunity to remind that our Church was, is, and remains committed to dialogue as the only correct way in resolving open issues in relations between the state and the Church, which arose before and after the adoption and entry into force of the questionable Law on Freedom of Religion,” Metropolitan Amfilohije said in a statement published on the website of the metropolitanate. “For this reason, we accept your invitation, although it comes with a significant delay, to complete the initiated and interrupted dialogue, in the hope that you are not doing this to include this topic in your election campaign <…> We expect that the government will fully respect the church and legal subjectivity of the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral and the dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church and will accept our proposals for amendments and additions to the said Law. “

In June, the Montenegrin Police opened an administrative case against Metropolitan Amfilohije after supporters of the canonic church held a series of rallies against the law. The case was opened under pretext of the COVID-19 crisis limiations. At the same time, the COVID-19 threat did not stop the government from pushing forward the forementioned law and supporters of various neo-liberal groups across Europe from holding their own events. Earlier, Police repeatedly answered with force to the wave of protests, which has been ongoing in the country since December 2019.

The Montenegrin government and the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists blamed the Belgrade-based media and Government of Serbia for the crisis over the controversial law, destabilization and unrest across the country. They claim that the ongoing Church protests actually are not against the disputed law but against Montenegrin statehood and independence. This posture is quite similar to those of the Kiev regime, which has also become used to blaming an external enemy (Russia) for any of its own faults.

A one more factor that contributes to the tensions is the nearing parliamentary election, which is due to be held on August 30. According to latest polls, up to 42% of people believe that the country is moving in a wrong direction and 41% others do not think that there is fair elections in Montenegro. The complex economic situation, global crisis and the falling popularity of the ruling pro-Western Democratic Party of Socialists are the main factors behind actions of the current government. By fueling the myth about foreign enemies, imposing a hard-core pro-Western course, and limiting the freedoms under the pretext of the COVID-19 crisis, it hopes to both take the political situation under control and guarantee some financial and political support from the Euro-Atlantic establishment.

If Dusko Markovic and his allies win the election once again, it’s highly unlikely that their course will be softened, thus causing even more tensions within the society. For example, the implementation of the Freedom of Religion Law will allow the government to start seizing properties of the Serbian Orthodox Church and transferring it to the new ‘independent’ (government-controlled and loyal to the neo-liberal world order) church. This will cause a new round of protests and resistance, including clashes with police and radicals supporting the law. In Ukraine, where the local canonic church is also in a complicated situation, the Kiev regime and its non-canonic Ukrainian Orthodox Church openly employed groups of neo-Nazis to seize properties of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (Moscow Patriarchy). This turned into a useful business for radicals returning from the conflict in eastern Ukraine and various criminal groups. According to media reports, they receive up to 5,000 USD for every object seized from the canonic church. This happens in violation of the Ukrainian law, but under a direct patronage from Kiev and its backers. It’s easy to imagine how the situation in Montenegro will develop if business and political groups supporting the idea of creation of the ‘new church’ get a legal right to do so. The society will be divided and further and the country would explode by protests, clashes and competing accusations. After this, it’s likely that the government will once again try to accuse Serbia, the Serbian Orthodox Church and even Russia of trying to destabilize Montenegro and alienating the major part of the population that do not see them as enemies.

Montenegro will enter a period of political and social instability amid the developing global crisis and remaining COVID-19 threat. This will lead to a further deterioration of the economic and social situation. Despite mantras about the ‘foreign threat’, groups supporting this scenario are in fact the main force undermining the Montenegrin statehood and independence.

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