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PM Marković: Talks between legal experts of Government and Serbian Orthodox Church ended without results, we asked Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro to register only

PM Marković: Talks between legal experts of Government and Serbian Orthodox Church ended without results, we asked Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro to register only
Published date: 21.07.2020 13:00 | Author: PR Service

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Podgorica, Montenegro (21 July 2020) -- Prime Minister Duško Marković said that the talks between the legal experts of the Government and the dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church ended without results, despite the numerous concessions made yesterday and today by the Government's negotiating team.

"During the second round of expert talks, held yesterday and today, we accepted: Firstly – To transfer the procedure of determining land registry entries from the administrative procedure to the regular court procedure where the burden of proving ownership falls on the state and not the church. In this regard, we proposed a completely new Article 63 of the Law, thus accepting the proposals of the Church. Secondly - That the Serbian Orthodox Church continues to use all church and monastery facilities, property and other real estate owned by the state or that is determined as state, religious and cultural property in court proceedings. In that sense, we have proposed a completely new Article 64 of the Law, and clearly excluded the possibility that religious facilities can be used by any religious community except the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral the other dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro. Thirdly - To adopt these changes the day after tomorrow at the Cabinet session and to submit them to the Parliament for a declaration in an urgent procedure by the end of this month. Simplified - this would mean that the shrines were no longer attacked as the Church says, i.e. that they would be completely and permanently protected by the amendments to the Law! In a word - that there is no more talk about their alleged endangerment, as the Government was blamed for," said Prime Minister Duško Marković in his address to the public following the end of the second round of talks between the legal experts of the Government and the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The Prime Minister noted that the Government, with these concessions whose primary goals are overcoming disagreements and divisions in the Orthodox being of Montenegro, as well as building trust between the State and the Church, did not set any conditions.

"The only request of the Government was the registration of all churches and religious communities, including the Serbian Orthodox Church and its dioceses, according to the letter of the law. The registration, which was also an obligation under the previous law. The registration, as all civilized and democratic societies are regulating it. Unfortunately, the church refused it," said the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister said that he received with regret news of unsuccessful talks. 

"Through this dialogue, we wanted to provide additional guarantees for the position of the dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, to ensure the existing regime of using church property and exercising the religious rights and freedoms of Orthodox believers, i.e. conditions for unhindered religious service by their priests. In that sense, for more than half a year since this law entered into force, the religious, property and legal and ecclesiastical order of the Metropolitanate and the other dioceses has remained unchanged! The processions and protests organised by the Church despite the complex and, as we see, the dangerous epidemiological situation caused by the coronavirus, we have accepted and we accept as an expression of freedom of assembly and the expressed disagreement with the certain solutions and decisions made in a democratic procedure. Nevertheless, the talks were conducted patiently and dedicatedly between the delegations of the state and the church, and in addition on several occasions, at the highest level between the state and church officials. In parallel, the first round of talks was held at the level of expert teams. During each of these talks, the key and most important request of the church - which is known to the public, as well as to the relevant international addresses - was to ensure the use of religious facilities after the proceedings before the competent authorities or court, and to amend the Law, in terms of providing the exclusive jurisdiction to the civil court over issues of registration of property rights. To clarify, following the adoption of the Law on Freedom of Religion, the Serbian Orthodox Church did not accept the jurisdiction of the same administrative bodies with which it had been registering property rights in its favour for decades! The issue of property, I will remind you, was on the table during the debate for the adoption of the Law, when, at the request of the opposition leaders, leaving the parliamentary session, I agreed to meet with Metropolitan Amfilohije, trying to find a solution to that issue. Neither then nor after the adoption of the Law, there were other important and open issues by the Church," said the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Duško Marković emphasised that the Serbian Orthodox Church continues its practice of functioning outside the legal system, outside the rules and procedures.

"For decades behind us that was reflected in: Unregulated residence status of priests and monks brought from abroad, who serve in our churches and monasteries; Unregulated work and pension status of both foreign and domestic clergy; Non-payment of taxes for income coming from church businesses and works; Non-compliance with laws and other regulations of Montenegro; The stance of church dignitaries and elders that the state should register with them," said the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Marković said that in a democratic world, refusing to register means to not recognise oneself and one's legal personality; non-acceptance of society and the state; and non-recognition of a legitimate social and legal order.

"With regret that we failed to reach the agreement that Montenegro needs, and to which we have been committed from the beginning, I take this opportunity to say that the Government will continue to guarantee religious freedoms; to ensure the quiet enjoyment of church property. Montenegro is a free and secular state, in which, in compliance with the law, never and nowhere - believers, religious officials, churches and religious communities, must and cannot be deprived," Prime Minister Duško Marković concluded.