Is there a Future for Federalism in the Balkans?
A Director's Forum with Vojislav Kostunica, President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
According to Kostunica, federalism was critically important for the first, second, and third Yugoslavias. The third and current Yugoslavia has failed at federalism and his government is now trying to identify a good federal formula that could serve as a framework for a fourth and strong Yugoslavia---a newly established community of Serbia and Montenegro.
Kostunica recalled his last speech at the Center fifteen years ago when he too talked about federalism. Then he advocated that a certain kind of federalism, a compound state that combined certain confederal elements pertinent to the specific problems of Yugoslavia, could protect the country from the perils of civil war or dictatorship in the wake of the collapse of Communism.
Today, he continues to advocate for "a minimal and functional federation" of Serbia and Montenegro. According to Kostunica, it must be a very special arrangement because it is composed of two units very different in both size and population. Serbia, for example, would be built on the same principle as American federalism. Every citizen would belong to two unions---a federal unit and the federation. The federation is not only a set of states, but also a union of all citizens of all member states. It is a union of citizens as individuals and a union of member states. The broader union and the narrower unions would be separate and have their own prerogatives for power.
The future constitution of the Serbian-Montenegrin union will make it a "confederal" constitution since it is to be approved and ratified by the parliaments of member states, but will also be a federal constitution since the federal parliament will also have to decide upon it. If the bicameral structure is maintained, and Kostunica advocates that it is, the election of legislative bodies will make it both a "national" and "federal" constitution. The former will be expressed in the election of members of the lower house (the Chamber of Citizens) and the latter, in the election of the members of the upper house (the Chamber of Republics).
In any event, according to Kostunica, a new constitutional system based on the sovereign will of the citizens of Montenegro and Serbia should give the state union durable and legitimate foundations for their future coexistence. A federal and democratic union will create viable conditions for the freedoms and rights of citizens, national minorities, and equality for both states. This union rests on the cultural, political, and economic ties between the two states and their commitment to the rule of law. Joint functions or federal functions would include foreign policy, defense, the market and monetary systems, and human rights. All else would fall under the jurisdiction of the federal units.
On the subject of integration into Europe, Kostunica mentioned a recent meeting with the EU Council of Ministers where it concluded that the survival of the federal state is the best and quickest way of joining the European integration process. The EU Council of Ministers also made it clear that the European Community is against the Montenegrin push toward independence. Kostunica said that the general feeling in Montenegro has begun to shift toward unity and away from independence. Due to these two facts, he is confident that he has pursued the right path---that of the maintenance of the common state of Montenegro and Serbia. He went on to suggest that a deadline of five years should be set for the formal establishment of the state with a constitution. That should be enough time for the Montenegrin citizens to decide if the state will meet their needs.
While this federal arrangement seems to have won European support, Kostunica asked for more support from Washington—not just in words, but in actions—"for the sake of peace and stability in the region at large."