BELGRADE, April 30. /TASS/. The Government of Serbia should take steps to defend the Serbs living in Montenegro from persecution by that country's incumbent pro-Western authorities, Nenad Popovic, the leader of the Serbian Popular Party said on Saturday.
"I call on the Serbian government to stand up resolutely for defense of the lives and rights of Serbs in Montenegro who came to grips with danger after the reduced strength of Skupshtina (Montenegro’s unicameral parliament) passed a decision to join NATO," Popovic said.
"Montenegro’s affiliation of the North-Atlantic pact will crown international legitimation of the regime of Milo Djucanovic, which suppresses the Serbs in Montenegro and is striving to deprive them of ethnic identity," he said.
"Milo Djucanovic didn’t stop short of terror spearheaded at the Serbs previously, either, and so what kind of behavior should be expected of him now that he has secured NATO’s support and can count on its defense?" Popovic said.
He believes that Montenegrin Serbs may be subjected to even more pressures from now on.
"After the decision on Montenegro’s membership of NATO the Serbs in that country are faced with the threat of repressions similar to the ones the Serbian people lived through in the Nazi independent state of Croatia," Popovic said.
"That is why I’d like to stress a big need for an appropriate reaction on the part of the Serbian government and the entire Serbian society for defending the endangered rights and freedoms of Montenegrin Serbs," he said. "It is needed now as never before."
The latest national census suggests that Montenegro, the country with a population of 622,000 people, is home to about 180,000 Serbs. The policy of their forced assimilation has resulted in a reduction in the number of officially registered Serbs from one census to another, as people are scared and conceal their nationality.
Montenegrin portal Serbian News said earlier struggle was underway not only with Serbian self-consciousness but also with the Cyrillic script.
For instance, a table in Cyrillic script has vanished from the wall of the Montenegrin Constitution Court (while the Serbs have a dual system of writing and use both Cyrillic and Roman scripts likewise, the Montenegrins use only the Roman script).
On Friday, the Skupshtina in Montenegro endorsed the country’s membership of NATOP, with 46 deputies of the 81 voting in favor of it. The voting was done by rollcall - the speaker read out the deputies’ names and they voiced their preferences.
The opposition boycotted the session, while all the 46 deputies present in the house support NATO membership.
Earlier, the authorities discarded the proposal to hold a referendum on getting into NATO as an unnecessary option.
Montenegrin society is highly split as regards the prospects for NATO membership, as the country underwent NATO bombings in 1999 along with Serbia.