The New Montenegrin Government Changes the Law on Religious Freedom

On the proposal of the new Montenegrin government, the ruling coalition in the parliament headed by Democratic Front (DF) adopted early on Tuesday, December 29th,  the changes to the Law on Religious Freedom, while the opposition Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) boycotted the session. 

“Despite the opposition’s obstruction, violation of the Constitution and laws, the Parliament passed the changes of the Law on Religious Freedom. After a year, they corrected an injustice which the former regime wanted to bring upon the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), treating and using its property as its own”, Zdravko Krivokapic, Montenegrin Prime Minister said in his tweet following the session. 

He added the decision made all religious communities equal before the Law and that it was a victory for the legal state “which the people defended in the street for 12 months.” 

The Law triggered mass protests across Montenegro in 2020, gathering both people dissatisfied with the new Law and those unhappy with the 30-year-long rule by President Milo Djukanovic’s DPS which lost power in the last elections. 

DPS earlier said the changes favored only one religious community and one nation, i.e. the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) and the Serbs. 

Justice and Human Rights Minister Vladimir Leposavic said the discussion on the Law lasted 365 days and that the people “almost as on referendum” demanded the changes. 

The DPS supporters protested against the changes to the Law. 

On Tuesday, former Prime Minister and DPS deputy Dusko Markovic said that the atmosphere in the country’s Parliament during the Law’s debate was scandalous and anti-constitutional, adding he would file charges against all those who “violated the Constitution.” 

SPC and official Belgrade backed the request for changes and protests across Montenegro earlier in the year, and the actual changes are a small victory to Belgrade and SPC above this tiny Adriatic republic. 

Many observers agreed on the dissent mainly contributed to the opposition victory last April, after 30 years. On other side, many Montenegrins support the idea to have their own church, independent from SPC, which has a fundament across the Serb population in Montenegro and the help of official Belgrade and Moscow, of course. 

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