Peace used to be preserved by the agreement, which is now hard to reach even within the ruling majority

In 1999, thanks to the government and the opposition, Montenegro managed to adopt the Resolution on Civil Peace and prevent conflicts between citizens during the bombing campaign. Today, however, there is no dialogue even between the political constituents of the parliamentary majority, said Ranko Krivokapic, Honorary President of SDP, and Predrag Bulatovic, a Democratic Front (DF) MP.

Speaking at the National Platform for Countering Violent Extremism organized by the Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) in cooperation with the National Operational Team for the Fight against Violent Extremism, Terrorism, Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, they concluded that in order to overcome the crisis Montenegro needs a dialogue, even though it may be elusive at the moment.

Bulatovic said that there was a peculiar situation in Montenegro, as it has a government that has no support yet persists in being a government. “There is no consensus within the parliamentary majority to engage in dialogue with the opposition, nor did the opposition ask for it,” Bulatovic said, adding that the institutions of the system had collapsed and that we were literally on the verge of breakdown. “One of the possible solutions is to open a dialogue in order to re-establish said institutions, at least formally,” Bulatovic added.

Krivokapic reminded that the NATO bombing started on 24 March 1999 and that, as he stated, 40,000 soldiers were under the command of Belgrade while 40,000 policemen stood on the other side. “We entered into a dialogue, and within two days, under the bombs, primarily thanks to Svetozar Marovic and Pedja Bulatovic, we agreed on 9 points of the Resolution on Peace.” That resolution led to calming down the armed people,” Krivokapic said.

Bulatovic said that civil peace was preserved and the war was avoided. “All this happened – as some like to say – thanks to the citizens, which is true. The political parties and actors that made up this structure played their roles. I was leading the effort on behalf of the SNP while Marovic represented the DPS. The position of LSCG was rather important as they stated that they would unconditionally accept everything that the key parties would agree on. I disagree with LSCG’s political views, but their position was very important at the time. If we ended up having an agreement between only two key actors, that would not be enough, as more consent was needed. More importantly, the vast majority of MPs and parties favored the agreement, and we sent a message to the citizens. There were 100,000 armed citizens in Montenegro then, and it was enough to have 200 of those who wanted to start an incident, and we would end up having consequences that would be detrimental for Montenegro,” said Bulatovic.

He added that the solution to the parliamentary majority crisis could always be sought in elections and that many members of the Government are racing to be received by some embassies. “We are under the influence of an external factor that, unfortunately, does not serve as a mediator for dialogue, but to realize own interest through political structures,” he said.

“The more they visit embassies, the more they learn about them, and that is not good for them. I am actually happy that they ran there,” Krivokapic replied.

When asked to comment on the rise of extremism in Montenegro and the role of the church in all this, Krivokapic said that all religious communities, in all parts of the world, were characterized as being inherently against the modern. “They cherish something that is not modern, that excludes freedom of thought, I dare say, that has dogma in it instead of freedom. There is no independent state without its own church. If there was no autocephalous church in the Constitution of 1904, we would now have to establish it as Ukraine did. The Church of Serbia has been working against Montenegro for 100 years. “I know that cultural monuments belonged to this country before the DPS illegally registered them as the property of the Church of Serbia,” he said, adding that “the Church of Serbia did not use the past 100 years to become the Church of Montenegro.”

“It has remained the Church of Serbia standing against what is called Montenegro, or to use an even worse wording – against non-Serbs in Montenegro,” he said.

Bulatovic said that “when the DPS decided at the party congress to form a party church and adopt the Law on Freedom of Religion, the SOC engaged in self-defense.” “That had a direct influence on the outcome of elections. The “Envelope” affair was the biggest blow that DPS suffered. Towards the end of the election campaign, the decisive votes for the parliamentary majority resulted from the involvement of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the election campaign that organized processions and issued public statements. We remain divided on the issue of mandates. On several occasions, we have said that the key decisions related to the appointment of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister were influenced by (Metropolitan) Amfilohije in the first place, and that is something beyond any dispute. “Time will show whether it is good or not. I am of the opinion that the church should be separated from the state, not to influence the government… not this one, not any other,” Bulatovic said, adding that he did not think we had reached a stage of extremism, but that our institutions have been destroyed.

Bulatovic said that leadership is essential for resolving the crisis. “I ask the question of whether leaders in Montenegro today have the suffucient is capacity to act as leaders in resolving this situation. Everywhere in the world, the opposition should serve as the correcting factor of the government, yet who is the leader of the strongest opposition structure? Does he want to fix or rebuild what remains?” he said.

“I know that that he and Ranko had different motives to be in Cetinje on 4 and 5 September, as he dreamed that night that there could be a turn of events and come to power again,” said the DF’s Member of Parliament.

Krivokapic emphasized that, in his opinion, elections remain the best solution. “Elections will bring a solution, provide new legitimacies or restore the previous ones. The DPS cannot return to power alone,” he concluded.