Montenegro: Negotiations between SOC and Government come up short

Montenegro: Negotiations between SOC and Government come up short

The Prime Minister of Montenegro, Duško Marković, announced that the talks between the legal experts of the Government and the dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church had ended fruitless, despite “numerous concessions made yesterday and today from the part of the Government’s negotiating team”.

Negotiations on the status of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro continued on Monday afternoon without tangible results, with the second round being held on Tuesday, which was also futile.

“During the second round of expert talks, we accepted that the procedure of determining land registry entries be moved from the administrative procedure to the regular court procedure, where the burden of proving ownership falls on the state and not the church. In that sense, we proposed a completely new Article 63 of the Law, thus accepting the proposals of the Church, and also for the Serbian Orthodox Church to continue using all church and monastery buildings, property and other real estate that are state property or to be determined in court proceedings to be state, religious and cultural property. In that sense, we have proposed a completely new Article 64 of the Law, and clearly excluded the possibility for religious buildings to be used by any religious community other than the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the rest of the dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro. Thirdly, for the Government to adopt these changes the day after tomorrow and forward them to the Parliament for a declaration in an urgent procedure by the end of this month. Put simply, this would mean that the shrines are no longer attacked as the Church alleges, that is, that the amendments to the Law would be fully and permanently protected”, said Prime Minister Duško Marković in a public address immediately after the second round of talks between legal experts of the Government and the Serbian Orthodox Church.

He added that with these concessions, whose primary goals were overcoming disagreements and divisions within the Orthodox community of Montenegro and building trust between the State and the Church, the Government, for its part, did not set any conditions.

“The only request on behalf of the Government was the registration of all churches and religious communities, including the Serbian Orthodox Church and its dioceses, according to law. Registration, which was an obligation under the previous law. Registration, as regulated by all civilized and democratic societies. Unfortunately, the church refused”, Marković said.

The Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral announced that its delegation faced blackmail and the negotiations were insincere. The request for registration is, as they said, humiliating.

“We note with regret that the latest proposal of the Government set before the Church an ultimatum in the form of mandatory registration of the Metropolitanate and Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, despite the fact that they have existed as church institutions in Montenegro for eight centuries. The historical existence and legal subjectivity of the Metropolitanate and the diocese were entirely ignored.

The request of the Government’s Expert Team thus ignored the decision of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church of May 26, 2006, by which the highest body of the Serbian Orthodox Church under the presidency of the blessed Patriarch Pavle, recognizing the renewed independence of Montenegro, actually declared the traditional continuity of other dioceses in Montenegro. The said decision was officially handed over to the then President of Montenegro, Filip Vujanović, on December 1, 2006.

We believe that, after all the above acts of the Church, it constitutes an unprecedented humiliation in the form of an ultimatum for the Church to re-register and regain, as a newly formed religious community, a legal subjectivity recognized by all previous authorities, even the occupiers, through the centuries to this day. No one has ever raised the question of the existence of the legal subjectivity of this Church and its property rights on shrines and other bequeathed church property, around which there is countless evidence from the Ottoman Empire through the Kingdom of Montenegro to the SFRY”, the Metropolitanate notes in a press release. /ibna