Montenegrins who don't stand for their national anthem may have to pay dearly if the government has its way.
The tiny Balkan state's cabinet has approved amendments to the Law on State Symbols and the Statehood Day of Montenegro that include a fine of 300-2,000 euros ($345-$2,300) for those who fail to rise to their feet when Oh Bright Dawn Of Montenegro is played.
In a country where the average monthly wage is around $600, such a fine should be a major incentive to get people on their feet when the anthem rings out.
"In this way, Montenegro, as in every other country, expresses its respect for the state's character and its identity," Culture Minister Aleksandar Bogdanovic said after the October 4 cabinet meeting approved the measure.
The draft now heads to parliament, where it is likely to be approved given support for the measure among ruling-party lawmakers.
The move is certain to stir up controversy among Montenegro's ethnic Serbs, who make up nearly one-third of the country and some of whom refuse to recognize the anthem, which was adopted in 2004.
A popular folk song before becoming the national song, the text has seen various incarnations dating back to the second half of the 19th century.
The current version was reworked by Sekula Drljevic, the founder of the Montenegrin independence movement and a collaborator with the Italian occupation during World War II.
But it does not include references to Montenegrins as Serbs, prompting the country's mainly pro-Serbian opposition parties to refuse to stand for the anthem when it is played in parliament.
"Forcing patriotism shows they are fully aware that the current anthem is not accepted by a large number of Montenegrins," said Slaven Radunovic of Democratic Front, the largest opposition party.
Former President Filip Vujanovic, an ethnic Serb, was famously slow to rise and early to sit back down during the anthem, and once even quipped that he listened to it out of a sense of duty and not for pleasure.
Similar displays can often be seen at soccer matches, where the anthem is booed by some fans.
Such manifestations are at the heart of the legislation, according to Bogdanovic, which also introduces an obligation "to keep the flag permanently on the buildings of local self-government and public institutions founded by the state or the municipality."
The measure is coming under fire from many sides, including those who see it as an infringement on civil rights.
"A free-thinking person has the right to decide for themselves whether to stand or sit for the anthem," Jovan, a 24-year-old from Podgorica, told RFE/RL.
The measure sets Montenegro -- a new member of NATO and an aspiring EU candidate -- apart from the rest of its neighbors in the Balkans, where no such legislation exists.
It carries echoes of the current debate in the United States, where professional athletes sparked a powerful backlash led by President Donald Trump for "taking a knee" during The Star-Spangled Banner to protest perceived police brutality against minorities.
In China, President Xi Jinping's administration ushered through a law last year prescribing up to 15 days in jail for mocking the national anthem, March Of The Volunteers, and the People's Assembly was said to be considering toughening that punishment to up to three years in prison.