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news 05 Dec 16

Montenegro Serbs Tell Serbia's PM Their Woes

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has agreed to hear the grievances of leaders of the pro-Serbian opposition in Montenegro - who wish to inform him of their plight in the country.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
Serbian PM Vucic said he is always ready to talk to anyone who comes from Montenegro. Photo: Beta.

Representatives of the large Serbian community in Montenegro will meet Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on Monday in Belgrade to seek his support about what they call their “intolerable situation” in Montenegro.

The meeting will be attended by the leader of the NOVA party, Andrija Mandic, the head of the Democratic People's Party, Milan Knezevic, the president of the Serbian National Council, Momcilo Vuksanovic, the head of the cultural organization Matica Srpska, Vladimir Bozovic and Budimir Aleksic, from the Institute for Serbian Culture.

They said they wanted to meet Vucic because a campaign was being conducted against them in the media in Serbia and in the Montenegrin branches of the Belgrade-based newspaper Informer and the broadcaster TV Pink.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Vucic ahead of the visit, they complained of particular pressure on them to abandon "three key political issues that are part of the vital national interest of the Serbs in Montenegro – withdrawal of recognition of Kosovo, lifting sanctions against Russia and opposition to NATO membership".

The meeting came the Serb leaders over the weekend visited Moscow and met with several Russian top officials.

Sergei Glazev, advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, used the meeting to criticise the pro-Western government of Montenegro, alluding to the "sacrifice" that Serbs in the country were being asked to make and suggesting Montenegro had abandoned its traditional values.

"I want to pay tribute to you who endure great sacrifices for love of your country, defending the traditional values for which Montenegro was once well known. The Montenegrin government has decided that our relations should not be as they were in the past," Glazev told the Serb representatives.

Last week, Mandic and several other Serbian representatives from Montenegro met Milorad Dodik, the president of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, to discuss the position of the Serbian community in Montenegro.

Dodik urged closer cooperation between all Serbs on education, science and culture, the Office of the Republika Srpska President said.

On November 22, Vucic agreed to meet the leaders of the pro-Serbian opposition parties even though some of them have been accused of involvement in an alleged plot to overthrow his now departed Montenegrin counterpart, Milo Djukanovic.

Authorities in Montenegro claimed they stalled a coup planned for general election day on October 16 by "nationalists" in Serbia and Russia. Critics of the government said the coup was an invention designed to secure Djukanovic's ruling party another term in office.

The leaders of the pro-Serbian opposition and Serb organisations demanded an urgent meeting with Vucic in Belgrade in October - but Vucic said could not meet them soon because he was too busy.

Mandic's and Knezevic's parties are part of Montenegro’s main opposition alliance, the Democratic Front, which champions pan-Serbian ties and friendly relations with Russia and opposes Montenegro's membership of the NATO alliance.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the Democratic Front have visited Berlin to discuss the alleged coup and tensions in the country with German officials and MPs, including Ditmar Nitan, an MP from Germany's Social Democratic Party and the German parliament’s rapporteur for Montenegro.

The Front claimed that Nitan, among other things, expressed doubts about the alleged coup and compared Djukanovic's rule to that of Turkey's authoritarian President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"I had a constructive and open dialogue with members of the Democratic Front. The conversation was informal and took place in a private setting," was all that Nitan told the daily newspaper Vijesti, however.

The international campaign of the opposition politicians follows the arrests of 20 people on suspicion of involvement in the coup.

The suspects were said to have been caught trying to enter Montenegro from Serbia with arms and ammunition and were arrested on charges of terrorism.

The prosecution in Montenegro also claimed it had obtained evidence that a politician from the Democratic Front collaborated with Russian nationalists in the alleged plot to overthrow and even kill Djukanovic.

Serbs make up at least a third of the population of multi-ethnic Montenegro but have found themselves outvoted and politically marginalised under the long-lasting rule of Milo Djukanovic who, in defiance of their wishes, has distanced the country from historic ally Russia, and from Serbia, and has championed both EU and NATO membership.

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