The 2019 Montenegrin Religious Freedom Act and the separation of churches and state

In December 2019, the Montenegrin parliament adopted a new Religious Freedom Act, ending a three-decades-long politics of secularism maintaining a fragile social peace in the country with a divided majoritarian Orthodox Church. The Act is a result of politically-based deep distrust between the Montenegrin Government and the Serbian Orthodox Church as the most influential non-governmental social institution in the country. The lawmaker’s idea to nationalize all possessions of religious groups, including centuries-old temples previously belonging to the state, was immediately challenged by mass street demonstrations organized by the Serbian Orthodox Church. It is less known that the causes and intentions of the Montenegrin Law remarkably resemble the famous 1905 French Law on the Separation of the Churches and the State. Hence, reflecting on the French historical experience, the question is what direction might the Montenegrin controversy take and with what consequences?

The constitutional struggle of reinstating the trust in the judiciary in Albania

In 2016 the Albanian Parliament undertook a groundbreaking constitutional reform in the judiciary aiming to eradicate corruption, corporatism, and reinstate the trust of the public in the judicial system, by establishing a one of its kind system of vetting of judges and prosecutors and a redesigned institutional set-up for governing the judiciary. Despite the initial tangible track record of the vetting, delays in appointing the members of the newly established institutions, those of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court, and the incremental backlog of cases, became concerning threats for the protection of fundamental rights of individuals. The scope of the paper is to delve into the progress and shortcomings of the first four years of implementation of the reform, by emphasizing that despite the initial progress in reforming the judiciary, an intensified effort is required to re-instate the citizens’ trust in the system.

Constitutional challenges of presidential powers in Serbia

Since the reemerging of multi-party system in 1990, Serbia is constantly facing difficulties and challenges concerning the powers and the political/social role of the President. In the last 30 years, the position of the head of the state has been changings depending on the person holding the office. This has serious consequences in the sense of distortion of the constitutional-political system on one hand and the absolute impossibility to predict such occurrences on the other. The reasons lay in the certain provisions and omissions of the Constitution, the generally low level of political culture and the fact that political elites use these possibilities to significantly relocate the center of decision-making from the institutions to political parties. The paper tries to identify those weak spots within the constitutional framework and offer some possible solutions, which could help improve the constitutional system integrity in Serbia.

Europeanization of judicial culture in North Macedonia

The paper discusses the shortcomings of EU’s ‘anatomical approach’ in promoting rule of law and judicial reforms in North Macedonia. The EU’s approach to judicial reforms is characterized by emphasis on formal rules and institutions, which has led to circumstances, where the reasons for the lack of sustainable reforms and decrease in the quality of justice have not been properly addressed. These necessitate certain changes and adaptations of the existing judicial culture which would create fertile ground to internalize common values and standards of legal adjudication necessary to sustain Europeanization. The common standards and values are directly related to self-perceptions of judges over their actual role in the system. In order to have a true Europeanization of judicial culture it needs to be framed and tackled in manner which would involve all relevant stake-holders such as the academia in the training of lawyers, the Constitutional court, the media and civil society.

The development of the party system of Bosnia and Herzegovina

The political system of Bosnia and Herzegovina emerged after signature of Dayton Peace Accord in 1995, creating weak central institutions on the state level and complicated consotiational and power-sharing mechanisms. The Peace Accord, viewed as a political success by many, could not stabilize the political situation in the country, leaving many important issues unsolved. The goal of the presentation is to analyse the process of ethno-nationalization of the League of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) as a political party with the post-communist roots. In order to provide more complex understandings, the paper also deals with the most important developments of the political system of Bosnia and Herzegovina after 1945.

‘Demarcation sovereignty’ and derecognition of states: the case of Kosovo

External dimensions of the 2006 Serbian Constitution serve predominately to re-confirm the state sovereignty over Kosovo. After re-declaring that Kosovo is a Serbian autonomous province, the constitutional Preamble creates enforceable rules for all state officials to uphold and protect the state interests of Serbia in Kosovo in all internal and foreign policy relations. At root, these rules support counter-recognition strategies, including the Kosovo derecognition campaign, promoted by Serbia since 2013, when the International Court of Justice ruled that Kosovo's Declaration of independence was not contrary to international law. According to available data, so far, 16 states have derecognized Kosovo. Based on Kosovo's example, this presentation will trace constitutional and international law aspects of derecognition of states, a phenomenon widely untheorized in law, especially when it comes to state derecognition in the context of unilateral secession.