Friday, September 23, 2005

Myth: The 1989 amendments to Serbia’s constitution abolished Kosovo’s autonomy.

FACT: On 28th March 1989 the Serbian parliament passed forty-one amendments to its constitution. The main reason for these amendments was to bring the Serbian constitution in line with the federal constitution, which had been changed the previous November, and just five of the said amendments - amendments 29, 31, 33, 43 and 47 - actually had anything to do with the autonomous provinces of Serbia, Kosovo and Vojvodina. All these amendments did was rectify the unworkable and contradictory situation created by the 1974 constitution, which had denied Serbia existence as a functioning state, and the autonomy of Kosovo (or Vojvodina, Serbia’s other autonomous province) was in no way abolished or “revoked” by them.

These five amendments restored to Serbia certain state powers in the spheres of national defence and internal affairs when the constitutional order was threatened; ensured that laws that pertained to the whole of the Republic of Serbia were actually implemented, and not sabotaged by provincial governments; made sure that provincial constitutions could not be in illegal contravention with the republican constitution; and substituted the provinces’ effective veto power over changes to the republican constitution with a complex mechanism, whereby if consensus over change was not achieved after six months, then the change could only be effected through referendum. ( (Page 35174 onwards)) Kosovo’s autonomy was barely affected by the amendments, which just restored some essential state functions to Serbia, let alone abolished. As Stipe Suvar, the Croatian head of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (and opponent of Slobodan Milosevic), said at the time, “the amendments relate to five or six issues, and it is quite normal that Serbia receives competence over them as a state… that is, unless we allow two provinces to grow into states and become states." (

Kosovo continued to have its own Assembly, Executive Council, Constitutional Court, police force, and all the autonomous rights and powers it had had before. Its direct relationship with the federation, and position as a constituent unit of the federation, was also completely unchanged, and Kosovo continued to function as an autonomous province and constituent unit of the Yugoslav federation. Immediately after Kosovo’s Assembly approved the amendments in March 1989 it returned to regular issues, such as its own economic policy, and the Assembly, and all of Kosovo’s autonomous institutions, continued to function exactly as they had before. On May 5th 1989, for example, Kosovo’s Assembly re-elected its then President, Vukasin Jokanovic, elected a new representative on the Presidency of Yugoslavia, Riza Sapundzija, and held multi-candidate elections for the Presidency of Kosovo. Later in 1989 there were even new elections for the Assembly, in which approximately two-thirds of Kosovo’s citizens voted, and this new Assembly continued to function as usual, electing, for example, a new President of the Assembly, Djordje Bozovic. (


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4:40 PM, September 23, 2005  

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