Montenegro Proposes Lifting Curbs on Ethnic Minorities’ Symbols

The proposed new Law on the Use of National Symbols was submitted to the Montenegrin parliament on Friday after controversy caused by fines imposed on people for flying the Albanian flag.

"This law defines the use and prominence of national symbols, both publicly and privately, and clearly defines situations in which the use of national symbols is prohibited," the government said in a statement.

While Montenegro currently does not forbid ethnic minorities from displaying their own national symbols, it requires that they also display the Montenegrin national flag alongside them or face fines of between 100 and 500 euros.

Montenegrin police expelled an Albanian national this month for breaching the peace by displaying the Albanian national flag at a festival in Ostros in the municipality of Ulcinj. He was also fined 300 euros.

In August, Montenegro's Ministry of Culture also announced charges against the organisers of a concert near the predominantly Albanian-populated town of Tuzi over the use of the Albanian national flag.

The Albanian Forum, a coalition of parties which is part of Montenegro's government, argued however that the flag that was displayed was the "flag of all Albanians, not a foreign state".

Last year, a group of Albanian tourists was fined 230 euros for waving an Albanian flag in the coastal city of Budva.

The proposed new law maintains fines between 500 and 20,000 euros for the use of national symbols on the buildings of state institutions or at meetings organised by state bodies without the flag of Montenegro being displayed at the same time. Fines between 500 and 20,000 euros can also be imposed for playing a shortened version of the national anthem of Montenegro.

Montenegro is a multi-ethnic state...

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