On the day when President Jakov Milatović is visiting Berlin, “Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung” writes about Belgrade interfering in the upcoming population census in Montenegro.
The census divides the population
Montenegro has only about 625,000 inhabitants, less than Frankfurt. That’s why the population census, which should finally start at the end of November, is not a big logistical task, writes the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “Politically, however, (the census) deeply divides the population.” The key question is whether Montenegrins are (also) Serbs. The answer to that question varies according to historical circumstances.”
White and green
President Jakov Milatović, who met with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other German officials this Tuesday (November 21) in Berlin, defines himself as a Montenegrin in the national sense, as do the relative majority of his compatriots, the Frankfurt paper states and then presents data from of the last census from 2011: “45 percent of respondents declared themselves as Montenegrins, 30 percent as Serbs, 8.6 percent as Bosniaks and slightly less than five percent as Albanians.” With the exception of the last group, they all speak the same mother tongue, but call it differently. Whether someone speaks Montenegrin, Serbian or Bosnian is not a linguistic, but a political issue.”
The author of the article indicates that “there is a widespread attitude according to which, although every Serb is not a Montenegrin, every Montenegrin is a Serb – and not only among Montenegrins living in Serbia.”
“In Montenegro, which voted 55.5 percent for independence in the 2006 referendum, those views differ politically and by color.” Even in the last century, there were fights between the ‘whites’, who stood for a joint state with Serbia and saw the Montenegrin people as a Serbian tribe, against the ‘greens’, who fought for the state independence of Montenegro.”
“Serbian nationalist circles in Belgrade,” writes the German newspaper, “grinding their teeth accepted the secession of Montenegro, but they never got over it. Serbia is trying to increase the number of Montenegrins who declare themselves as ethnic Serbs.”
Montenegrin students (and patients) are welcome in Serbia
Frankfurter generally assesses that it is “good for Belgrade” that Montenegro is still very much oriented towards Serbia, for example in healthcare and education: many Montenegrins go to the Serbian capital for delicate medical procedures, or to study in Belgrade or Novi Sad.
“Belgrade encourages it: Montenegrins who define themselves as Serbs on the form can study in Serbia for free.” Montenegrins with a nationally expressed Montenegrin identity also use it.”
As stated in the article, “there is pressure that does not formally come from the Government of Serbia, but it supports it”. It is about the proposal that for free study in Serbia, a simple declaration in the form will no longer be sufficient, but that the person is required to submit a copy of the questionnaire from the census in which it is stated that he/she declares that he/she is of Serbian nationality. So far, it has been discussed only in connection with higher education, but “although it is not discussed, there is a possibility that it applies to the health system as well.”
“The proposal formally comes from the ‘Association of Students of Montenegro in Serbia’, which is not registered anywhere and has never appeared in public before.” Therefore, it is striking that the delegates of that unknown group were received by the Vice President of the Government of Serbia (and Minister of Defense) Miloš Vučević and the Minister of Labor, Nikola Selaković”, writes the German newspaper and notes that the “Belgrade meeting received a lot of attention in the Montenegrin media. “Vijesti” from Podgorica quoted a professor from the University of Belgrade and a former adviser in the Ministry of Education of Serbia, that mandatory submission of census forms would be a clear interference of Serbia in the Montenegrin census.
The independence of Montenegro is not at stake
For now, it is only a request from an unknown student organization, but, as the paper assesses, “the message that it would be wiser to register as Serbs on the census has probably been received.”
Finally, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung states: “If the Montenegrin survey published in May reflects the mood in the country, the upcoming census could indeed show a higher share of Serbs than in 2011. However, the country’s independence is not at stake, as Montenegrins still make up the majority.”
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