New attempt at compromise between Montenegro’s government and Serbian Orthodox Church fails

By bne IntelliNews July 21, 2020

A new round of talks between Montenegro’s government and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) have ended without progress after the two parties failed to agree to a compromise, Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said in a statement.

Tensions between Montenegrin state authorities and the Serbian Orthodox Church have risen recently. At the end of December the parliament in Podgorica adopted the church law that, according to its critics, may strip the Serbian Orthodox Church of hundreds of religious sites in Montenegro, including medieval monasteries and churches.

This provoked a series of protests in Montenegro and in Serbia and worsened the relations between the governments of Serbia and Montenegro at the time. Meanwhile, Markovic met the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro and an agreement to set up working group and start talks to find a compromise has been made.

According to Markovic, the legal experts of the two sides failed to note any progress in the second round of talks, which ended on July 21, despite many proposals made by the church that the government has accepted. He added that the government did not make any demands during the talks except a requirement for all churches and religious communities to be registered according to the law. He added that this registration was mandatory even before the new law’s adoption.

Meanwhile, the Serbian Orthodox Church claims the government made an ultimatum, demanding mandatory registration, public broadcaster RTCG reported. The church claims that registration is unnecessary as it has been present in the country for eight centuries. It also claims the government has completely ignored the historical existence of the church.

Montenegro seceded peacefully from its loose union with Serbia in 2006 following a referendum. Two-thirds of its population of around 620,000 is Orthodox Christian and the main church is the Serbian Orthodox Church.

A separate Montenegrin Orthodox Church was set up in 1993 but has not been recognised by other Orthodox Christian communities to date. The local branch of the Serbian Orthodox Church controls most holy sites, some of which are popular among tourists and bring in significant revenue.

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