Belgrade, Feb. 5 (Reuters): The Yugoslav parliament endorsed yesterday the creation of a loose union of Serbia and Montenegro in a session that officially buried the bloodied federation after a decade of Balkan wars.
The federal Assembly cleared the final hurdle for the formation of the Western-brokered state union by passing its constitution with an absolute majority in both houses, consigning the name Yugoslavia to history after almost 75 years.
“I note that the chamber has adopted the constitutional charter on the state union of Serbia and Montenegro,” said speaker Dragoljub Micunovic after the lower house voted in favour.
The upper house adopted it earlier yesterday.
The founding charter comes into force immediately, but it is expected to take about a month before the institutions of the union — simply named Serbia and Montenegro — are set up. They include a 126-strong parliament which will pick a president.
Serbia and much smaller Montenegro are the only republics which remain in Yugoslavia after the old six-member socialist federation collapsed in bloodshed during the rule of Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s.
The other republics were Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia. Yugoslavia — which translates as the Land of Southern Slavs — first became the name of the country when it was still a kingdom in 1929.
The country held together during the hard rule of veteran Communist dictator Josip Broz Tito, but then fell apart along ethnic lines in conflicts which killed tens of thousands of people and left many more homeless.
The reformist leaders of Serbia and Montenegro agreed under EU pressure in March last year to stay together in a union for now, leaving most powers in the hands of the republics, but it took almost a year of wrangling to finalise the deal.
Talks began after Serb reformers ousted strongman Slobodan Milosevic as Yugoslav President in late 2000, ending the republic’s international isolation.
Milosevic is currently on trial at a UN war crimes court in The Hague, charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. Montenegro’s pro-independence leadership reluctantly shelved plans for breaking away from dominant Serbia for at least three years, after which both sides have the right to go it alone.