Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Vojvodina gets a new status in Serbia

Evelina Topalova, November 12, 2009

Will Voyvodina follow the example of Kosovo which announced its independence from Serbia in February last year? The fears in Serbian society have been nurtured by new separatists' burdens for more than a year and the reason - the definition of the status of the Northern Serbian territory.

The decision seems close after on the 5th of November the Serbian government approved a draft legislation for the powers of Voyvodina and 2 days later the regional parliament supported the harmonisation of the status with the legislation.

The status of Voyvodina, approved by the local Skupshtina (Parliament) more than a year ago, several corrections have been included with the aim to make it "compatible" with the Serbian Constitution and to relieve the tensions, caused by the increase of powers of the region.

After a proposal of the socialists, who are a coalition partner in the government, in the new status it will be explicitly written that Voyvodina is an inseparable part of Serbia. The city of Novi Sad will not be mentioned as a capital of the territory but as a main administrative centre. Among other changes is the option Voyvodina to be allowed to conclude agreements but only on a regional level, not on international level. The socialists said that with these changes "all elements of a system of state have been removed from the status".

One of the controversial issues that had to be solved is related to property. According to the status Voyvodina will own as property only the public enterprises on its territory. Voyvodina will have its own revenues but their type and amount will be approved by a law. And again according to the status, Voyvodina will have the right to have its own bank for development which will support the small and medium sized enterprises as well as to have an Academy of science. Besides, the regional will have its own representation office in Brussels but only if the Serbian government would approve it.

The cabinet has approved the status draft law as part of the process of decentralisation. However, this caused a lot of criticism from the opposition who said that the status is an "anti-state act" which might have negative consequences for the unity of Serbia. The radicals announced that the draft status and the draft law for the powers of Voyvodina will lead to the "creation of a new federal entity on Serbian territory".

The former prime minister-nationalist Voislav Koshtunitsa said that the status is a separatist act and is in contradiction of the Constitution with main aim to create "a state within the state".

The chairman of the Executive Council of Voyvodina Boyan Paytich responded to criticism by saying that after the status is enforced together with the law, the region will have a wider autonomy than before but it will be much smaller, compared to a large number of other regions in Europe.

Whether the economically rich territory of Voyvodina will gain a wider autonomy will be decided by the Serbian parliament. Both drafts have been included in a parliamentary procedure and now the MPs are to decide their fate.