Montenegro in muddle over official language

The world’s newest country, Montenegro, is threatened by a possible constitutional crisis because its leaders can’t agree on the name of the language they speak, reports said on Monday.

The government, which led Montenegro to independence earlier this year, wants to make the official language Montenegrin—but a large majority of the tiny Balkan state’s people believe they speak Serbian.

Montenegro broke away from a union with traditional partner Serbia following an historic referendum in May this year.

It has strong historic and cultural links with Serbia, as well as a shared Orthodox Christian religion and language, which only differs slightly in dialect.

Serbian remains its official language despite the ruling pro-independence coalition’s plans to change it to Montenegrin in line with similar moves in Bosnia and Croatia in the 1990s.

About 60% of Montenegro’s 650 000 population say they speak Serbian, compared with just 21% of those who claim to use Montenegrin, according to a 2003 census.

The issue has become crucial as Montenegro needs to draft a new constitution as soon as possible, since it became independent more than six months ago and still has no new charter.

A pro-Serbian bloc of parties, the strongest opposition group in Montenegro’s Parliament, has been insisting that Serbian should remain in official use.

Podgorica proclaimed independence in June following the referendum at which more than 55% of voters supported the break-up of Serbia-Montenegro, which was the last remnant of the former communist Yugoslavia.—AFP

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