NOVI SAD – Discussions on a joint position on the new statute of Vojvodina have started in the assembly of Serbia’s northern province to define its constitutional status.
The draft statute has been drawn up by a group of experts appointed by the competent committee of the provincial assembly to align the provisions of the act with the Serbian constitution.
On December 5 last year, two thirds of the provisions of the provincial statute were declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court of Serbia, which set a six-month deadline for it to be conformed to the Constitution to avoid putting the work of provincial institutions in jeopardy in the meantime.
The Constitutional Court deemed unconstitutional the provisions that define the statute as a constitutive act under which the autonomous province of Vojvodina may regulate any matter that it sees as being of interest to it, irrespective of the fact that the matter is regulated by the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia.
Also declared unconstitutional were provisions taken over from the law on Vojvodina’s competences – which had previously also been declared unconstitutional – as well as provisions stipulating new competences or competences that differ from those established by the law.
According to the draft of the new statute, which has been published on the website of the provincial assembly, the act has no preamble – a feature of the Constitution and specific laws, rather than by-laws such as the statute.
Amendments to the statute essentially mean that Vojvodina does not have a government, but an Executive Council that implements the assembly’s decisions, but alternatives such as the “Provincial Council of Ministers” have also been proposed.
Novi Sad cannot be the capital, but the administrative centre of Vojvodina – alternatively, it may be defined as the “seat of the provincial authorities”.
With regards to financing, the province will have its own budget, which will continue to total at least seven percent of the Serbian budget, but will also have direct revenues for financing its competences.
The type and amount of Vojvodina’s direct revenues and its share of Serbia’s revenues will be defined by law according to the Constitution.
According to the draft statute, Vojvodina can maintain no international cooperation, but may cooperate with corresponding territorial communities and other forms of autonomy in other countries as part of Serbia’s foreign policy, and will be under the obligation to respect Serbia’s territorial integrity and legal order.
However, Vojvodina may, according to the law, be a member of European and international regional associations and also promote and enhance its economic, educational and tourism capacities through Serbian diplomatic and consular missions.
Discussions and consultations among political groups in the provincial assembly will last until April 18, after which the final text of the statute is to be established by the assembly’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs.
The final version of the statute should be tabled to the Assembly of Vojvodina in early May. If backed by two thirds of assembly members, it will then be submitted to the Serbian parliament, which should adopt it by June 6.