Tensions in Montenegro: Protests against new head of the church

Status: 05.09.2021 1:29 a.m.

Montenegro has been independent for 15 years – but many residents still see themselves as Serbs. In this situation, the inauguration of the new Serbian Orthodox head of the church causes conflict.

Protesters clashed with the police ahead of the inauguration of the new head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro. Hundreds of people broke through police barriers on the outskirts of Cetinje in the south of the country and set up roadblocks on Saturday, according to the AFP news agency. People shouted slogans like “This is not Serbia!” and “Long live Montenegro!”.

By evening all access roads to the city were blocked, where the new Metropolitan Joanikije is to be introduced into his office.

Mitropolitan Joanikije (left) is scheduled to take office on Sunday.

Image: dpa

Every third person sees himself as a Serb

Montenegro gained independence from Serbia in 2006. Almost a third of the 620,000 inhabitants define themselves as ethnic Serbs, some to this day deny Montenegro’s independence. The impending inauguration of the head of the church caused tensions to escalate again.

The government in office since December is considered close to the church. In December it amended a law introduced by President Milo Djukanovic’s Socialist Party to make hundreds of Serbian Orthodox monasteries state-owned.

President on the side of the demonstrators

Djukanovic also arrived on Saturday evening for the protests against the inauguration of the new Metropolitan in Cetinje. He had led the country to independence from Serbia via a referendum. Last year his presidential party lost the general election, which is why he lost most of his power.

The new government is supported by the pro-Serb camp, but also by pro-Montenegrin liberals and the Greens. The coalition partners accuse Djukanovic of corruption and involvement in organized crime.

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