Discriminatory distribution of budgetary resources to religious communities in Montenegro in 2018

January 22, 2019 – In 2018 the Montenegrin Ministry for Human and Minority Rights (“the Ministry”) had dedicated 200,000 Euros, from its budget to religious communities. The Islamic Community was paid 54,000 Euros, non-canonical Montenegrin Orthodox Church (“the MOC”) received 50,500 Euros, Roman Catholic Church 36,215 Euros and Jewish Community got 19,500 Euros. Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, presented by the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral (“the Metropolitanate”), a religious community with the highest number of priests, churches and other connected buildings and venues, programs and activities, was supposed to receive 40,000, but eventually it was paid only 2,842 Euros, which is approximately 1% of the dedicated sum.

The Metropolitanate has been warning public for quite some time now that distribution of the budgetary money is being performed contrary to the Law on Public Administration. In the distribution of the budgetary resources, the Ministry only applies certain criteria which are not objective and socially just. Unfortunately, the Administrative Inspection and other bodies in charge of control of the distribution of the budgetary resources have been passive for years now, and do not react to unlawful and discriminatory behaviour of the Ministry.

The Metropolitanate is very happy for the fact that the Minister, running the Ministry for Human Rights and Minorities, Mr. Mehmed Zenka, publicly declared himself as devout Muslim believer and that he regularly goes to the mosque for religious services, and fully supports him in that aspect of his private life. Yet, the policy of his ministry is openly discriminatory and shows out an obvious favouring of the MOC and the Muslim Community, which is the community with least activities, particularly in comparison with the Metropolitanate, which is the most active community in Montenegro.

To support his claims, representative of the Metropolitanate gave few examples: the MOC has been obviously favoured since the Ministry gave it resources, among others, for additional TV programs on Total TV, for broken glasses and other matters irrelevant for religious activities. The minister, Mr. Zenka, has been an open supporter and helper of the MOC, and it appears that the MOC has been almost completely financially supported by the Montenegrin Government. On the other hand, the request of the Metropolitanate for a restoration of the church dedicated to Saint George, a foundation of Mr. Tomo Petrović, father of Petar Petrović Njegoš, the most famous Montenegrin Prince-Bishop, poet and philosopher, was rejected by the said Ministry.

In words of the representative of the Metropolitanate, distribution of budgetary resources for the church and other religious communities must be lawfully regulated and in accordance with real needs. Applied criteria are established in such a way that they can be manipulated with and used discriminatorily. Yet, it has been clear that eventually not criteria, but only the minister’s goodwill or political interest is relevant. Neither the number of sacral objects nor the number of priests and other religious servants, proposed activities and projects, are taken into account. However, the Metropolitanate hopes for changes in days to come.

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