BELGRADE, Serbia

At least 10 civil society groups from Serbia and Montenegro on Friday urged the governments of the two countries to deescalate tensions.

Having declared itself free of the coronavirus, Montenegro announced on Monday that it will soon start allowing visitors from several European countries.

However, a notable exclusion from the list of approved countries was Serbia that drew the ire of Serbian citizens and officials.

The countries, as candidates for accession to the European Union, should resolve their disputed issues in the spirit of regional cooperation, the groups said in a statement.

“We believe that it is the duty of the leaders of both countries to show […] their readiness to resolve existing disputes through dialogue, instead of populistically inciting low nationalist passions that may bring votes in the upcoming elections, but can also have long-term and serious consequences,” the statement said.

Serbia and Montenegro have a common and long history of close relations, and the citizens of the two countries are connected by indissoluble family, friendly, cultural, and economic ties, the statement reads.

The appeal was signed by the Belgrade Center for Security Policy, Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, Center for Contemporary Politics, Center for European Policies, Center for Civil Liberties, Center for International and Security Affairs, European Movement in Serbia, Institute of Alternatives and Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights.

Montenegro, which declared independence from Serbia in June 2006, is one of Europe’s smallest country with a population of little over 600,000.

On Sunday, 68 days after it announced the first COVID-19 case, Montenegro declared itself free of coronavirus.

Over that period, the country recorded a total of 324 cases and nine deaths.

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