- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia, Feb. 5 (UPI) — Yugoslavia was consigned to history at the end of its 84-year-long existence on Tuesday when the federal Parliament in Belgrade proclaimed the "State Community of Serbia and Montenegro" to replace it.

Earlier Tuesday, the Parliament passed a constitutional charter and a law to implement it, following the sanction of the two acts by the parliaments of Serbia and Montenegro last week.

Within the next two weeks or so, outgoing Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica will call elections for the new union's 126-seat Parliament. Under the charter, it will have 91 members drawn from its much larger constituent unit Serbia and 35 from tiny Montenegro.

They will be chosen one-off from among members of the outgoing federal Parliament and the existing parliaments of the two units of the new state.

In two years, there will be direct elections for the common Parliament.

The union's Assembly will immediately choose its own president and a president of the union, who will propose a five-member ministerial council and preside over it as prime minister.

The five portfolios will be for foreign affairs, defense, external and internal economic relations, and the protection of human and minority rights.

The union president and the presidents of Serbia and Montenegro will form a supreme military council to take decisions on major military issues.

But in accordance with the charter, the army will be under "civilian and democratic" control, a term stressing that not only a few civilians (as has been the case so far), but the entire democratically elected Parliament, will have a say on all military matters.

It took more than 10 months for representatives of the two parts of the former Yugoslavia to draft the charter and the implementing law since they signed the European Union-brokered, so-called "Belgrade agreement" in March last year on redefining their relationship.

The pact obliged both sides to harmonize their increasingly divergent political and economic systems between them and with the EU to facilitate eventual entry into the European body.

At Montenegro's insistence, the charter provides for the right of each constituent nation to stage a referendum on independence from the common state and seek its own seat in the United Nations three years after the creation of the union.

One issue in dispute was whether to allow the Yugoslav army to retain its extensive properties, which included holiday resorts, hotels, blocks of apartments, a bank and other facilities — as well as barracks and military equipment — or turn over control to the state authorities.

The latter option prevailed, which had been insisted upon by Montenegrin representatives in particular.

The army will also hand over the duty of guarding the union's frontiers to the police of Serbia and Montenegro, and conscripts will do their service in their own part of the country or in the other part if they so desire.

Montenegro also won its argument to retain, for the time being, its own currency, the euro, as against the dinar, which is in circulation in Serbia, and its own market and customs.

The country that has now run its course was first proclaimed as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes at the end of World War I, in December 1918, by Alexander Karadjordjevic, acting as regent for his father, King Peter of Serbia.

In 1929, Alexander renamed it Yugoslavia, the country of the southern Slavs.

The monarchy fell apart when Nazi Germany and its allies occupied it in 1941 but was reconstituted as a federal republic in 1945 by a parliament dominated by Marshal Josip Broz Tito's victorious communist partisans.

In 1992, a year after the start of ethnic wars and the breakup of the six-nation federation, ex-Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic and his Serbian regime inaugurated the third and last Yugoslavia, a rump federation that comprised only Serbia and Montenegro.

With the election of Milo Djukanovic as president of Montenegro and his bitter disagreements with Milosevic, the two federal units became increasingly estranged and their relations had not been repaired fully after the democratic reform opposition overthrew Milosevic and took power in Serbia in October 2000.

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