Parliament adopts Constitution proposal

BELGRADE -- The parliament adopted the new Constitution proposal in a unanimous vote last night, defining Kosovo as part of Serbia.

Parliament in session
Parliament in session

The Parliament Speaker has set the constitution referendum dates for October 28 and 29, with the referendum question: “Are you in favor of confirming the Republic of Serbia’s new Constitution?”

“If it took experts and politicians six years to harmonize the wording and principles of the new constitution, then we must give citizens, who do not understand the importance of the legal terminology,  as much time as possible to understand why the constitution matters”, Predrag Marković said.

According to him, citizens must be given time to organize and fulfill their obligations so that they can have their say on the new constitution. “The lawmakers will have to provide proof to their electorate in the coming four weeks of the importance the constitution has in all areas, including that of Serbia’s European integration. For this reason, I will not schedule a single parliament session until the end of October”, Marković concluded

The new constitution defines Serbia as the state of the Serbian people and all its citizens, designates the Cyrillic as the only official alphabet, and cancels public ownership. The parliament adopted the proposal on the sixth anniversary of Milošević’s downfall, when then new authorities promised Serbia would get a new constitution soon.

Serbian President Boris Tadić opened the parliament session last night by criticizing the fact public debate on the constitution was not opened earlier, but stressing that “at this moment, the most important thing is to adopt the new constitution”.

Tadić welcomed the decision to adopt a constitution defining Serbia as a state of the Serbian people and all its citizens, although he himself had earlier suggested a different definition: Serbia as a state of all its citizens.

While president Tadić was entering the parliament, several dozen Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP) activists lead by the party leader Čedomir Jovanović, greeted him with loud protests, whistling and shouts of “treason”.

Tadić briefly approached one of the protesters, and responded to her claim that the new constitution was a disgrace and that he had betrayed Serbia saying, “You’ll have elections”.

The police securing the parameter around the parliament were reinforced by another brigade around half past nine in the evening. The protesters stopped the traffic, while some were sitting on the pavement lighting candles, occasionally being pushed by the police. They chanted “thieves”, “arrest Mladić”, “boycott”, carrying LDP flags.

Koštunica: Kosovo and the Constitution

Serbian prime minister Vojislav Koštunica also addressed the parliament.

He said the moment saw two natural things coming together: Kosovo and the Constitution, which, in his words, confirms that “Kosovo is and always will be a part of Serbia”.

“Our essential national interest is the defense of Kosovo. In your last session you have decided that Kosovo is simply ours! Tonight, to the satisfaction of the entire nation, you will vote… God willing, the state of Serbia will have a new Constitution”, Koštunica said addressing the lawmakers.

“Only with the Constitution our laws gain full meaning as they become a part of a whole”, Koštunica explained.

“Adopting a new constitution is a huge achievement. You have proposed this constitution, while my cabinet and I did everything to make this possible. We have to make sure there is also a referendum”, Koštunica said, calling on citizens to vote in favor of the proposed constitution at the forthcoming referendum.

Kosovo reactions

Kosovo authorities and main opposition parties say the Serbian Parliament decision to adopt the new constitution will not influence the Kosovo status negotiations. Officials in Priština believe the decision is a political game played by Serbia, not contributing to the new quality of relations in the Balkans.

Kosovo prime minister’s deputy Lufti Haziri says this decision should be a signal to the international community to accept Kosovo’s independence: “This is an announced threat and a unilateral decision that will create problems in the future normalization of relations between an independent Kosovo and Serbia”.

Skender Hyseni, Kosovo negotiating team spokesman, says the Serbian Parliament’s decision aims to delay the Vienna talks process: “We are aware of such games played by Serbia. Kosovo will be a part of Serbia as much as Azerbaijan or any other state”.