Lawmakers in Serbia and Montenegro punched and shoved each other as two separate fights broke out in the nations’ parliaments over the adoption of a law on the ownership of property by churches.
In Serbia, the trouble started when the leader of the opposition Dveri party, Bosko Obradovic, and fellow lawmaker Ivan Kostic came to the floor while holding two politically-charged banners. One read “Serbia, why are you silent?” and the other – “Vucic and Milo – the twin brothers,” which was an attack on Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and his Montenegrin counterpart, Milo Djukanovic.
Several offended lawmakers tried to rip the banners from their hands. A fierce scuffle ensued, with more MPs joining the brawl.
The fight was triggered by the adoption of a controversial religious law in neighbouring Montenegro earlier that day, which had also led to a brawl in the local parliament as well. The two republics of former Yugoslavia existed as single country since 1992, until Montenegro voted for independence in 2006.
According to the new law, all religious communities have to provide proof of ownership of every property they have held from before 1918, when Montenegro joined the Serbs to create a new state.
Opposition lawmakers attempted to disrupt the vote for the law on Friday. This led to chaos, and police were called in to detain some of the MPs.
The legislation sparked protests by Serbian Orthodox Church supporters, who are afraid it would be stripped of historical churches. The authorities denied that this would happen.