Serbia angry over Montenegro’s decision not to open border on 1 June

Montenegro, the first European country to declare itself free of the coronavirus, announced plans to open its borders on 1 June to citizens of several European countries except for neighboring Serbia, provoking angry reaction from Belgrade, news wires reported.

PM Dusko Markovic said on Monday Montenegro will open borders for citizens of countries that meet the entry criteria set by the health authorities in Podgorica: to have at most 25 COVID-19 patients per 100,000 inhabitants. Markovic noted that such criteria was met by Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Albania and Greece. He didn't mention neighboring Serbia, triggering an angry rebuke from Belgrade. Serbs traditionally are the most frequent visitors to Montenegro, which depends on tourism.

Serbian Foreign Minister, Ivica Dacic called Montenegro’s decision “ridiculous” and politically motivated and Serbian PM Ana Brnabic said it shows that Serbs are unwelcome in the Adriatic state. Both said Serbia for now won’t introduce reciprocal measures.

The last recorded case of coronavirus in Montenegro was about three weeks ago. The country declared itself free of COVID-19 on Sunday.

Montenegro imposed a strict lockdown to curb its outbreak and recorded only 324 cases and nine deaths. Serbia has recorded over 11,000 cases and nearly 240 virus deaths.

Montenegro split from Serbia in 2006, but many in Montenegro and Serbia still remain opposed to the separation. Serbs represent about 30% of Montenegro’s population.

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said the Montenegrin entry “ban" will further fuel anti-Serb sentiment. “The government in Montenegro is not fighting against the virus, it is fighting against the Serbs," Vulin said Tuesday. Tensions between Serbia and Montenegro have escalated over a religious law adopted by the Montenegrin parliament last year that the Serbian Orthodox Church says would strip it of its property. Belgrade has openly supported mostly peaceful protests by Serbs in Montenegro who want the law revoked.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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