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news 12 Jun 17

Vucic Set to Skip Opening of Montenegro’s Serbian House

Serbian leader Aleksandar Vucic is unlikely to attend the opening ceremony of Serbian House in Podgorica despite Belgrade authorities backing the 3.5 million euro project.

Dusica Tomovic
 Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Photo: Beta.

Serbian House, the cultural and national centre of the Serbian community in Montenegro, is scheduled to open on June 28. However, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is unlikely to attend its opening in Podgorica despite having personally supported the project.

Vucic’s cabinet told BIRN that there are presently no plans for the newly-appointed Serbian president to visit Podgorica for its opening, which coincides with Serbian religious and national holiday Vidovdan.

Vucic never officially visited Montenegro as vice-premier nor during his four year term as Prime Minister.

Ever since taking power in Serbia in 2013, Vucic has seemed reluctant to publicly meet Serbs from Montenegro and address their complaints. However, in the past few months communication has intensified with the Serbs in Montenegro.

The previous distance can be explained by Vucic’s close relationship with the former Montenegrin prime minister, Milo Djukanovic; the Serbian leader did not want to give political legitimacy to the Montenegrin opposition.

Serbs make up at least a third of the population of Montenegro but they found themselves outvoted and politically marginalised under Djukanovic who, in defiance of their wishes, sought to distance the country from Russia, a historic ally, and from Serbia. He championed both EU and NATO membership.

As the result of an agreement between then-Serbian Prime Minister Vucic and the leader of NOVA, the strongest pro-Serbian party in Montenegro, Andrija Mandic, on May 25 the government in Belgrade  decided to allocate around 3.4 million euros for Serbian House. The move aimed to “confirm that Serbia cares about Serbs in the neighbouring country.”

Serbian House will be at the centre of all institutions and organisations established to “preserve the cultural and national identity of the Serbian nation.“

It will also be the home of Matica Srpska, the Institute of Serbian Culture, the Serbian National Council, the Association of Serbian Writers, Serbian television, Serbian radio, newspapers, portals and the Serbian Cultural Center.

In a recent interview with BIRN, Mandic said that said Serbia’s government was beginning to understand the problems of the Serbian community in Montenegro, although he admits that relations in recent yearshave not been particularly close.

When asked about his frequent meetings with Vucic in recent months, and about shifts in relations between Serbia and the pro-Serbian opposition in Montenegro, Mandic said relations were improving.

He and other Serbian community representatives have met Vucic in Belgrade at least five times since the alleged coup in October, but Mandic said that this was at the demand of Serbian political and cultural representatives in Montenegro.

Serbian House was the main topic of those meetings, Mandic noted. “Over time, people who advocate the rights of Serbs in Montenegro, all close to our party, have managed to build better relations with the Serbian government, the [ruling] Progressive Party and with Vucic,” he said.

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