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I note with regret that expert dialogue between Government and SPC, despite all efforts and readiness to accept stances of opposing side, did not yield expected result

I note with regret that expert dialogue between Government and SPC, despite all efforts and readiness to accept stances of opposing side, did not yield expected result
Published date: 22.07.2020 16:10 | Author: PR Service

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Podgorica, Montenegro (22 July 2020) -- "As the public is already informed, despite the Government's expectations based on reality and the quality of the offer, the expert dialogue between the Government and the Serbian Orthodox Church did not yield the expected result, although the Government expressed patience and competence to present its own arguments, but also the readiness to accept the stances of the opposing side that lead to the agreement, which lead to overcoming differences and divisions in the social being of Montenegro, especially among the citizens of the Orthodox faith," said Deputy Prime Minister Zoran Pažin at today's press conference.

Although the Serbian Orthodox Church made over 2000 remarks and comments on various versions of the Draft Law in the previous period, we managed with united efforts, to reduce all disputable points to just a few questions. This is, first of all, the competence of the body that should verify the legal validity of the registration of property over cultural goods of sacral character, which represent the cultural heritage of Montenegro. Thereafter, it is an issue of additional guarantees for the use of those cultural goods and it is an issue of registration of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, DPM Pažin clarified. He added that, to his surprise, during the dialogue, the Serbian Orthodox Church opened another issue regarding the stance that the term state property should not be used in Article 62, although the state property has been used for many years, as a term and as a legal institute in a legal system of Montenegro, from the very beginning of its existence.

"Expressing a truly sincere openness and a desire to reach an agreement, we offered amendments to Articles 63 and 64, relating to the relocation of the jurisdiction of the Real Estate Administration for verifying the legal validity of registration of property over cultural goods of a sacral nature that represent Montenegro's cultural heritage, in regular court proceedings, which from the very beginning was demanded precisely by the SPC. The Serbian Orthodox Church previously had no objections to the competence or jurisdiction of the Real Estate Administration, when it registered itself as the owner of cultural goods of a sacral nature that represent the cultural heritage of Montenegro, although we express the view that many of these entries were contrary to positive legislation," said DPM Zoran Pažin. 

He also pointed out that the Government offered additional guarantees in Article 64, for the use of cultural property even in a situation when the court, in a regular court proceedings, makes a final decision that it is state property, but that, unfortunately, all these proposals were rejected, as the proposal to conclude a basic agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church in the previous period, was also rejected, which, let us remind you, was requested by the Serbian Orthodox Church itself immediately after the law was adopted.

He explained that the only precondition for signing the basic agreement was the registration of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, because the Government did not conclude any such agreement with an unregistered religious community, and no European government did that, nor it is known to him that any government in the world did it so, and that he would appreciate that, if one is familiar with such an example, to inform him about it.

Deputy Prime Minister Pažin also reminded that the Serbian Orthodox Church rejected the proposal to jointly formulate standards that meet the recommendations of the Venice Commission. Than the church refused it, setting as an ultimatum to the Government, the previous adoption of the law on restitution of church property, which the Government refused by not accepting ultimatums, and it will not do so in the future.

"Finally, the Serbian Orthodox Church rejected proposals of the Prime Ministers to suspend the application of the Law until the legal validity of certain decisions and the constitutionality of those decisions is verified before the Constitutional Court of Montenegro, and then before the European Court of Human Rights, as the highest legal instance with the greatest legal authority in Europe, when it comes to respecting of international legal standards, known to us who have had the opportunity to work before that court as the conscience of Europe. Unfortunately, that was also rejected," Pažin said. 

The hope remains that in some future period, the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro will reconsider its legal and political arguments, as well as its place in a democratic society. The Government of Montenegro remains an open and reliable partner to all religious communities, when it comes to improving relations between the state and religious communities, on the basis of mutual understanding, appreciation and respect, Deputy Prime Minister Pažin concluded. 

PUBLIC RELATIONS SERVICE OF THE GOVERNMENT OF MONTENEGRO