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news 30 Dec 13

Montenegro Offers Flag Freedom for Ethnic Minorities

The Montenegrin government is supporting legislation to reverse a ban and allow the country’s minorities to display their flags and symbols at public buildings during celebrations.

Dusica Tomovic

The government on Friday gave its support to the proposed legislation intended to promote the “multi-ethnic character of the state” by giving greater freedom to ethnic minorities to display their own symbols and flags in public during events such as weddings.

The legislation, which will be on the agenda at the first 2014 sitting of parliament in February, regulates the use and display of state and ethnic minority or ‘national’ symbols.

It will replace the current law, adopted in 2000, which banned the public use of the flag and coat of arms of ethnic minority groups, except on minorities’ national holidays in municipalities where these groups are “substantially present”.

The current legislation has drawn criticism, mostly from representatives of the country’s Serbian and Albanian minorities, particularly because it prohibits national symbols being displayed at weddings, which is a tradition in Montenegro.

The new law will liberalise the situation and allow the displays of Serbian, Albanian, Bosnian and other flags at city halls for weddings but also in other local public institutions.

“State symbols represent Montenegro and demonstrate loyalty to the state, whereas national symbols reflect national identity,” the proposed legislation says.

The Ministry for Human and Minority Rights said on Friday that the new legislation would allow “the private use of national symbols, at weddings and other celebrations”.

However, minorities’ flags and symbols cannot be used at buildings of the Montenegrin parliament, president, government, courts, state prosecutor or army.

They are also forbidden at international meetings and political, scientific, cultural, artistic, sporting and other events at which Montenegro is represented.

The penalties for violating the new law will be tough, with fines ranging from 2,000 to 20,000 euro.

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