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  • October 2021: Religion-related findings in the European Commission’s Montenegro 2021 report

Several findings in the European Commission’s 2021 Report on Montenegro concern religion.

Summary of the report

“The Parliamentary elections resulted in a change of the ruling coalition and transformed the dynamics between organs of the state and demonstrated a need to find a balance in the new political landscape, including on questions concerning religious communities and ethnicity, which dominated the political agenda during the reporting period.” (p. 2-3)

“Incidents of ethnically and religiously motivated attacks, hate crimes and hate speech continued to rise.” (p. 5)

“The amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion of Belief were adopted after limited, and not fully inclusive, consultations with religious communities.” (p. 5)

Fundamental rights

“The Ombudsperson further confirmed allegations of ill-treatment by police in 11 cases in the context of religious rallies” (p. 30)

“In the area of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, in January 2021, the Parliament through a second vote enacted amendments to the Law on freedom of religion or beliefs with respect to the legal status of religious communities, their registration and property rights. The amendments were prepared in absence of public debate and following limited consultations with representatives of religious communities, excluding the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. The Government announced the signing of a basic agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church. Its content is yet to be disclosed to the public. Several church ceremonies and gatherings took place in violation of the COVID-19 restrictions. The religiously motivated attacks continued after the August 2020 elections and in the course of 2021 and remain a matter of concern.” (p. 30-31)

“In early 2021, criminal investigations were opened against the former head of the National Security Agency and several officer of the Agency for alleged unlawful surveillance of former opposition parties’ representatives, journalists and leaders of the Serbian Orthodox Church.” (P. 30)

“In June 2020, the Ombudsperson found that a soldier’s right to freedom of peaceful assembly was violated by a general order of the Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces banning soldiers from attending religious rallies.” (p. 33)

“There has been an increase in reports of religiously and ethnically motivated attacks, hate crimes, and hate speech.” (p. 34)

“In 2020, the Ombudsperson handled 19 cases of discrimination against minorities referring to labour and employment, underrepresentation in public authorities, education, and cultural, linguistic and religious identity.” (p. 36)

Fight against corruption

“In April 2021, the Agency initiated proceedings to determine potential conflict of interest with regard to Minister of Justice and his role in drafting the Law on freedom of religion, following a NGO complaint.” (p. 27)

Bilateral relations

“Bilateral relations with Serbia were marked by tensions, allegations of external influence during electoral periods and in connection with issues and events linked to the Serbian Orthodox Church, leading to an increase in nationalistic rhetoric. Montenegro recalled its ambassador from Belgrade in December 2020, and currently both countries are represented at the level of Chargés d’affaires. The President of Serbia visited Montenegro in November 2020 to attend the funeral of Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral of the Serbian Orthodox Church.” (p. 69)

D 25 November 2021    ANikola B. Šaranović

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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