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Montenegro: will Gov be victim of Serbian Orthodox Church?

BTA Bulgarian press agency reports

05 August, 19:15
(ANSA) - PODGORITZA, 05 AGO - A number of parties in Montenegro's governing coalition have declared no confidence in Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic's cabinet after he signed a so-called Fundamental Agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church this week. The government is ministering to the country's largest religious community, the Eastern Orthodox. "The government is doing everything to build a society of justice and equality," the prime minister said in a press release after the signing in Podgorica, adding that the country should "turn over a new leaf", as reported by Bulgarian press agency BTA.

Montenegro has signed similar agreements separately with other religious denominations in the country: with the Catholic Church in 2011 and with the Muslim and Jewish communities in 2012.

Abazovic recently promised to sign one with the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. This is supported by a minority, is not recognized or canonical, and has the status of a religious NGO.

Serbian Patriarch Porfirije, who is also the primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, said both need an agreement that is aligned with the Montenegrin Constitution, reports BTA. The document states that the Serbian Orthodox Church does not need government permission to move cultural heritage objects, but in compliance with the Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage. The government is obliged to register all churches and monasteries on the territory of the country as belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church and to initiate the return of church property nationalized by communist authorities after World War II. Other provisions concern the construction of churches and religious education.

The signing of the agreement was immediately criticized by human rights activists and pro-Western political parties, including President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), which said the agreement gives the church too much power over other religious communities. While pro-Serbian parties hailed the signing of the agreement, the DPS and the Social Democratic Party called for snap elections, saying the document was signed without consent. The DPS announced the launch of a no-confidence vote against the government. It tweeted that the agreement "violates the Constitution of Montenegro" and "will be suspended immediately after the election of the new government." The Social Democratic Party, the Liberal Party, and the Democratic Union of Albanians supported the no-confidence motion. The issue of signing a Fundamental Agreement between Montenegro and the Serbian Orthodox Church was raised ten years ago, when the late Amfilohije was Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church of Montenegro and the Littoral and the government was formed by the DPS. It was he who sent the first draft of the agreement to the government, but never received a response.

Eight years later, things in Montenegro have changed at both the state and church levels: in late 2019, the law on religious freedom was passed and Djukanovic's DPS lost the elections after 30 years in government. This, in turn, was preceded by major protests and processions by the Serbian Orthodox Church and the faithful, in which Amfilohije played an important role before he died. In the September 2020 elections, the Democratic Party of Socialists lost power to a document coalition led by the Democratic Front, Democrats and Ur, the BBC recalls. Amfilohije was succeeded by Metropolitan Ioannikije, enthroned despite protests from Patriarch Porfirije in Cetinje on Sept. 5, 2021, and present at the signing of the Basic Agreement. Despite its closeness to the Serbian Orthodox Church, the government led by Zdravko Krivokapic also fell victim to the church issue.

Krivokapic's government lost support in February 2022, when Dritan Abazovic's Ura party denied him confidence. Six months later, with the help of the DPS, Abazovic became the new prime minister. Now Abazovic is in danger of being toppled, concludes BTA. (ANSA).

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