The standing delegation of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly took part in the OSCE PA annual Winter Meeting, on 21-22 February, in Vienna.
The delegation comprised MPs Dusica Stojkovic, Branimir Jovanovic and Vesna Markovic.
At the meeting of the General Committee on Political Affairs and Security, MP Dusica Stojkovic spoke about the Report of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Ambassador Lamberto Zannier and informed the attending about the Montenegrin Government’s discriminatory treatment of the citizens of Montenegro of Serbian descent, whose native language is Serbia and who belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church.
“In the latest census of 2011, 28.78% of Montenegrin citizens identified as Serbs. How is it possible that the Montenegrin 24-member Government has no Serb in it? Serbs have no representatives in the other institutions and bodies either. The Montenegrin Government’s actions are contradictory to Lund’s recommendations on the effective participation of national minorities in public life adopted by the OSCE and also violate a series of other international standards. The Republic of Serbia does not want to meddle in Montenegro’s internal policy but it is our duty to protect the human rights of the Serbs living in the neighbouring states”, stressed MP Dusica Stojkovic.
MP Stojkovic spoke about the new Law on Freedom of Religion in Montenegro and the legal standing of religious communities that grossly violates international standards and is in direct opposition to the Joint Guidelines on the Legal Personality of Religious or Belief Communities adopted by the Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR and urged the OSCE representatives to react and take the necessary steps.
At the General Debate on combatting anti-semitism, discrimination and intolerance in the OSCE Region, MP Vesna Markovic said that the Republic of Serbia does not wish to meddle in the neighbouring states’ internal affairs, but it is its duty to protect the fundamental human rights of the Serbs living in the neighbouring states and draw attention to their violation.
“I would like to inform you of the years of, first secret, then completely open discriminatory attitude of the Montenegrin authorities to the Serbian people, everyone who speaks the Serbian language and the members of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The adoption of the Law on Freedom of Religion or Beliefs and Legal Status of Religious Communities caused a public outrage among the citizens of Montenegro expressed through mass peaceful protests. The people are worried and that is the consequence of the Montenegrin authorities’ lacking respect for human and minority right standards.
The provisions of the Law on Freedom of Religion or Beliefs and Legal Status of Religious Communities are discriminatory because they expressly concern only the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral and the eparchies of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro because the state of Montenegro has signed agreements with the other religious communities that traditionally operate in it, guaranteeing them ownership of their property.
Where there is no cadastre record it is not possible to come up with proof of ownership for centuries’ old religious objects so it is very clear why the Law is directed expressly against the eparchies of the Serbian Orthodox Church”, said MP Vesna Markovic.
She stressed that the abovementioned Law directly contradicts the position of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief who states that the transferal of property of churches and religious communities to the state is in clear conflict with international standards concerning the freedom of religion.
At the meeting of the General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, MP Branimir Jovanovic spoke about the importance of media freedom. According to him, an attack on media freedom is an attack on human rights. He stressed that Serbia shares the global concerns about the freedom of the media and the only way to advance the field is for each state to offer its own, personal contribution and make the safety of journalists one of its priorities.
“Serbia is one of the states which half a year ago signed the global pledge on media freedom. In that way, our Government offered its support to the creation of a global framework for the defence of journalists and application of mechanisms to suppress the attacks on journalists”, said Branimir Jovanovic.