Former office-holders from the area of the former Yugoslavia on Monday evening sent a letter to EU and NATO leaders, expressing concern about the situation in Montenegro and calling on them to join in active political dialogue and help resolve the crisis in that country peacefully.
“One more place of conflict and crisis in Europe is the last thing Europe and the world need right now. We therefore call on EU institutions and other allies to join in active political dialogue with the different political and social stakeholders in the current crisis in Montenegro and help them arrive at a peaceful solution to the escalating conflict in the country,” the letter of appeal reads.
Signatories to the letter, including Croatia’s former foreign minister Vesna Pusic, former Serbian prime minister Zarko Korac, and former Bosnia and Herzegovina prime minister Zlatko Lagumdzija, said that the recent events surrounding the enthronement of the new leader of the Serb Orthodox Church in Montenegro were only superficially related to religious issues but in reality “have nothing to do with religion, and not even with politics or ideology.”
“They are yet another manifestation of a conflict between forces that believe that Montenegro should not exist as a separate state and those who believe that Montenegro should stay independent, with all attributes of statehood,” the letter reads.
“Since we have all witnessed the Balkan wars of the 1990s, we cannot help but notice alarming similarities between the current developments in Montenegro and those that led to the wars of 25-30 years ago,” the signatories to the letter said, noting that Montenegro was not a country with a large population but that strategically it was very important for the stability of Southeast Europe.
Riots erupted in Montenegro on Sunday during the ceremony of enthronement of the new leader of the Serb Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Joanikije, with those whose opposed the ceremony being held in Cetinje putting up barricades on roads leading to the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica and clashing with police.
Metropolitan Joanikije and the head of the Serb Orthodox Church (SPC), Patriarch Porfirije, were taken to Cetinje aboard a police helicopter and the religious ceremony of Joanikije’s enthronement was held there.
The protesters interpreted the SPC’s insistence on holding the ceremony at Cetinje as an act of provocation and humiliation of Montenegrins, asking that it be moved to some other Serb Orthodox shrine in Montenegro.
Thirty police officers and protesters were injured in the clashes and police used tear gas and stun guns during Sunday’s riots.
PM: Those who violated the law will be held to account
Montenegro has demonstrated stability and it has shown that the policy of peace is the most important to its citizens, Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic has said, noting that those who have violated the law in the latest events will be held to account.
The enthronement of the head of the Serb Orthodox Church in Montenegro was an important moment that some tried to use to destabilize Montenegro but their attempt failed, said Krivokapic.