Tensions rise between Montenegro and Serbia over the opening of borders

Prime Minister of Montenegro Duško Marković; Photo: Prime Minister of Montenegro

BELGRADE / PODGORICA – Tensions between Serbia and Montenegro are rising again, following a decision by Montenegrin authorities to partially open borders in early June, but not to Serbian citizens.

Montenegrin Prime Minister Duško Marković explains such a decision with the recommendations of local epidemiologists.

“At the moment, recommendations say at least 25 infected in relation to 100,000 inhabitants, and the first countries for which we will open the border according to this criterion are Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Albania, Greece and possibly some countries in the region until the regulation is passed and enters into force,” said Marković.

Even though officials in Podgorica claim that this was exclusively a health decision, Serbian officials say that this was a political decision.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić assessed that a clear message had been sent that Serbs were undesirable in Montenegro, and therefore called for Serbian citizens not to spend their summer vacation in Montenegro.

“We will not respond to them with reciprocal measures, we will not prevent ordinary Montenegrin citizens from visiting Serbia, but we will even more strongly and sharply prevent the entry of Montenegrin criminals and representatives of various mafia clans from Montenegro who killed and terrorized our citizens for decades,” she said.

Civil Aviation Directorate of the Republic of Serbia informed “Montenegro Airlines” today that the right of Montenegrin national airline to land the planes at the Belgrade airport “Nikola Tesla” is suspended. The Montenegrin government told Podgorica’s Vijesti that there was no basis for Serbia’s reciprocity, because Montenegro had not imposed a landing ban on Air Serbia planes.

However, President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić said that the decision to suspend the landing of Montenegro Airlines (ME) is the most elegant and polite possible response of Belgrade, adding that he agrees that “there is no doubt that Montenegro’s decision was a political one”, N1 reports.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia Ivica Dačić, said that the move of the authorities in Podgorica is a ridiculous and meaningless act which has its consequences that are directly and exclusively harmful for the citizens of Montenegro.

Criticism also comes from the Montenegrin opposition

Slaven Radunović from the opposition Democratic Front says that this kind of politics will have consequences for citizens of Montenegro, especially those who live of tourism.

“If I were from Serbia or Bosnia and Herzegovina, I would be the first one to never visit Montenegro, at least not this year,” he said.

However, Montenegrin government officials see the statements of Serbian officials, as they say, exclusively as a political weapon for criticizing the neighbors.

Nikola Rakočević from the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro, states that the borders are open exclusively for those countries that currently have a stable epidemiological situation.

“When we talk about sharp and inappropriate statements from Serbia, I will remind you that their harsh media campaign did not start yesterday or today, it lasts for months due to the incompetence of Serbian officials regarding the situation and the fact that Montenegro cares about the national interests of its citizens, and that it is not influenced by anyone from Serbia or anyone from abroad,” said Rakočević, referring to the tensions which started in December last year after Montenegrin parliament passed the Law on Religious Freedom, directly affecting the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church and inciting daily protests of its supporters.