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Serbia and Montenegro: Towards a new flag?

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Status of the flag of Serbia and Montenegro (as of 2003)

The flag of the former Yugoslavia (as well as its coat of arms and anthem) is still both de facto and de jure the official flag of the subsequent new state of Serbia and Montenegro.

De facto, it was seen in use in several instances, including among other the official hoisting in several places in connection with the assassination of the Prime Minister Džinžić and the Council of Europe session acknowledging Sertbia and Montenegro as the 45th member of the Council (Strasbourg, 3 April 2003).

De jure, the Constitutional Charter and the Law on its implementation have provisions that make all the legislation of Yugoslavia valid for the new state until the adoption of the new appropriate legislation replacing it. This naturally also include the legislation on the flag, as demonstrated by the usage practice.

The law of the new flag should be adopted, according to the Charter and the Law on Implementation, within 60 days of the constitution of the new Parliament. Therefore, the new flag should be adopted sometime around the 1st May, if the Parliament observes the time table provided by its own legislation, which might have not been the case, especially considering the situation after Džinžić's assassination.

Željko Heimer, 10 April 2003

Update (Summer 2004) on a possible flag change

The Council of Ministers of Serbia and Montenegro (the Government) had a session on 2 August 2004. They prepaired a proposal for the law on the new anthem to be adopted during the next parliamentary session, but they decided that the other existing symbols of the Union should be used further as the symbols of the state. They plan to inform the Parliament about that decision on the next session on 11 and 12 August. It is not clear weather the "information" would result in the formal adoption of the symbols of the former Yugoslavia as the symbols of Serbia and Montenegro, but certainly, it would mean that we cannot expect a flag change in a near future.

Željko Heimer, 2 August 2003

Proposals for a new flag of Serbia and Montenegro

Politika (Belgrade) published on 18 April 2003 an article by Stana Ristić, entitled Kakva ce biti zastava Srbije i Crne Gore? (How would the flag of Serbia and Montenegro look like?), subtitled Tamnija nijansa plave (Darker shade of blue). Instead of the full translation I am providing below some highlights. Quoted parts are directly translated by me. "SCG" seems to be usual abbreviation of the state name in Serbian texts now, and even if it does not reflect the abbreviation in English, I'll use it thoughout.

"The proposal of the Law on the flag of state union of SCG should be drafted today, the first meeting of the working group."
"By its design and the contents, the flag of SCG shall respect the tradition of both constituting states, but also the European tradition


"'Abovementioned facts [historical flags, French Tricolore ideals etc..] indicate the reasons why the future state flag of SCG should be a tricolour. It is expected that the proposal of the Law on the state flag is prepared before 14 May, adopted by the SCG Ministry Council and sent to the parliamentary procedures' says Goran Jovicić, member of the working group drafting the proposal of the Law, deputy secretary general of Government of Serbia."
"Tricolours of both Serbia and Montenegro are similar, says Jovicić, but not identical. They differ in the shade of blue. In year 1835, when the Serbian tricolour was adopted, blue was defined as 'dark steel blue'. Eventually this was ever becoming somewhat lighter to the current shade. In the Montenegrin law on flag the blue shade is [was] defined as plavetna [bluish]). In common language the name of the coulour means celestial blue. The blue in the flag of SCG would then be different from both and would be defined using Pantone Matching System. It is not impossible that it would be in the end somewhat darker than the blue currently used on the Yugoslav flag."

The text continues explaining how the working group already did and plan also in future to consult specialists in vexillology and heraldry, as well as the tradition. Question was rised whether the coat of arms should be included in the tricolour. It is far from being decided, but it is speculated by Jovicić that, since the flag should be adopted sooner than the coat of arms and the anthem, it is highly probable that the coat of arms will not be included in the flag design simply because there shall be no coat of arms to include yet.

Then the article explains flag proportions (ratios) and stipulates that 2:3 flags are much more visible (and esthetically pleasing) when flying than the longer flags, and apparently Jovicić favours much the 2:3 proportion.

The rank flags are also considered at the same time, just as pennants and the whole lot, so it seems that they may be adopted with the same law. There is also considered separate Law on military flags that might be ready by the end of the year.

Altogether, the state symbols are rather clear, says Jovicic - the tricolour, the white double-headed eagle, the shield with the cross and the firesteels, and the Montenegrin lion. Some critics about the position of the wings are made, mainly from Montenegro, disliking the Serbian version with wings "falling down", and prefering the rising version that should indicate prosperity.

The working group is composed of seven members, three from both states and one from the Ministry Council. Representing Serbia are: Goran Jovicić, deputy secretary general of the Government of Serbia, Ivica Ecdenci, deputy minister for state administration and local self-government and Jovan Despotović, assistant minister of culture and public information of Serbia. From Montenegro are Rajko Milović, secretary of legislation, Branislav Radulović, assistant minister of justice and Dr Vuk Minić, professor at Podgorica University. For the Ministry Council is Gavro Vojvodić, councillor in the Secretariate General of the Ministry Council.

Željko Heimer, 14 June 2003

[Proposal of a new flag]

Flag proposal, June 2003 - Image by Ivan Sarajčić, 30 June 2003

Here is the translation of yesterday (29 June 2003) news on the flag:

"According to own sources, Radio-Television of Serbia reported that an agreement on the flag design was reached by president of Serbia and Montenegro Svetozar Marović and prime ministers of Serbia (Zoran Zivković) and Montenegro (Milo Djukanović).
The new flag shall be red, blue, white, with the blue shade being an average blue between the two shades of blue in Serbian and Montenegrian flags.
The flag of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which temporarily is in use by the new state commonwealth of Serbia and Montenegro was also a tricolor, but with different position of the stripes - blue, white and red."

Ivan Sarajcić, 30 June 2003

The red-blue-white proposal was adopted only by the working group and still has to pass the parliamentary procedure. Possibly this shall be only a formal thing to do, but possibly not, and the old tricolour is still the only valid flag of Serbia and Montenegro!

Željko Heimer, 30 June 2003

Blic published on 8 April 2003 the paper "Four proposals for the flag of the state union":

The flags of Serbia and Montenegro [SCG], inherited from the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia hoisted in front of the most important international institutions and the diplomatic missions would be until the end of the month replaced with new flags. However, even beside the deadlines that pass by in the middle of this month prescribed by the Constitutional Charter, the final design of the flag is still unknown. Goran Jovičić, deputy general secretary of the Government of Serbia, says to Blic that a working group shall make a proposal of the law on the flag of the SCG. The working group shall be composed of members from the both states, with help of the experts.
Jovičić, who is one of the three representatives of Serbia in the working group, highlights that four designs were considered so far.

- It is well known that the Serbian and Montenegrin flags are almost identical. The problem is that Montenegro insists on a special shade of blue - the blueish [plavetna]. The new flag of the state union is proposed to be red-blue-white, but different designs were proposed regarding the blue field - he explains.
Jovičić says that the solution could be that the blue shade of the tricolour would be exactly defined, after the flags of the Netherlands, Luxembourg or Croatia, who all while having the same tricolour use different standardised shades.
The reminds that the original proposal was that the blue stripe would be gradually changed along the flag from dark towards light, however, this is unknown in vexillology - the science on flags.

- The other proposal was to have the stripe horizontally divided into two, but then one may question weather this would still be a tricolour. A design with the vertical division of the central stripe was also suggested - says Jovičić.
He highlights that he personally prefer a fifth design that would include the coat of arms in the tricolour, but the question of the coat of arms is not settled.

- I believe that it would be wise if the question of the coat of arms should be, at least in principle, opened in the workgroup even if it would not have to be decided upon yet. The issue is that Montenegrins do not like the current coat of arms with the downpointing wings that not match theirs - whose has the wings engaged - he concludes.

Željko Heimer, 15 December 2004

Nin published on 29 April 2003 the paper "The Colour of Ephemerality":

It is inappropriate that the flag of Serbia, the flag of Montenegro and the flag of Serbia and Montenegro would be three flags of the same design, says Social Democratic Party of Montenegro (SDP CG). The proposal by Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) for the new symbols of the state union that in the ultimate unimagination proposes it to be the red-blue-white tricolour infuriated the Social democratic party of Montenegro. The SDP is a coalition ally of the ruling Democratic Party of Serbia (DPS), and without it there would not be a ruling majority in the Montenegrin Assembly, and thus it is an important factor in the new assembly of the state union.

Branislav Radulović, the speaker of SDP CG, explains why his party is against any tricolour - weather it be the "Yugoslav", "Serbian" or "Montenegrin" colour order:
"It is inappropriate that the flag of Serbia, the flag of Montenegro and the flag of Serbia and Montenegro would be three flags of the same design."
Regarding the other possibility, the actual Yugoslav tricolour, the SDP position is that it is inappropriate that "the symbols of the disbanded Federal Republic of Yugoslavia would be still in use after the new state union was formed, since they do not represent the union in the symbolic sense".

[The SDP CG] has a proposal for the new flag.
The flag of SCG would be in ratio 2:1 vertically divided through the middle in two fields. The right one would be red symbolizing Montenegro and the left field, standing for Serbia, would be left by SDP to Serbia to decide either for blue or white. Radulović says that his party proposed the change of symbols in Montenegro itself, according to which Montenegro should get the Vučidol banner, a red flag with a white cross in the middle.
However, the question that just can not be skipped over is, if Montenegro already reserved the red for herself, what they have to meddle into the colour of the sovereign half belonging to Serbia. Branislav Radulović considers the proposal as logical: the SDP proposal would perfectly reflect the character of the union and its temporarily character ("three years guaranty"), and after all such flag was not used by any other country, that also has to be taken into account. It is important to mention here that SDP gives up of the infamous "blueish" [plavetna] colour known only by the Montenegrin legislation characteristic only for the Montenegrin flag in difference towards the Serbian flag. "The blueish colours is not to be found in the colour catalogue", says Radulović.

The trouble with the flags is, however, that their composition is, or should be, ruled by some kind of rules defined by vexillology - the science of flags. There we have problems. The left side, the one SDP gives to Serbia is considered as the senior side, i.e., it belongs to that member of the community that has some kind of priority in the status, and we know that it is not the case here. Radulović considers that the order has to be of some kind and that after all "the union is named Serbia and Montenegro, and not Montenegro and Serbia".
Too much complications on an unimportant question, one might say. But it is not only a whim of a lesser party in the Montenegrin parliament [...] The Montenegrin social-democrats begun process of change of the Montenegrin symbols as well. Beside the flag, SDP proposed a new anthem [...] Oj, svijetla majska zoro. SDP also is against the current coat of arms of Montenegro, which is new, since it was never before an issue. The current Montenegrin coat of arms, says Radulović, is a stylised white eagle, while SDP would like to see it be the authentic non-stylised eagle.
What would the non-stylised eagle look like, that is, unfortunately, not possible to describe in writing.

Srboljub Bogdanović

Haiti and Malta

If we would like the blue-red or white-red flag to be official as the flag of Serbia and Montenegro we would have to ask permissions since there is already a copyright over there colours. The blue-red is the flag of Haiti, and white-red is the flag of Malta. It would not be any different if we would make the colours horizontally divided, since then they would be the flags of Liechtenstein and Poland, respectivly. The red colour, by the way, was never the state colour of Montenegro. It was only the war banner that was red.

Dragomir Acović, Heraldist

Željko Heimer, 16 November 2003

Politika (Belgrade) published on 24 October 2003 an article by Stana Ristić, entitled "Waiting for the final decision of the Council of Ministers of Serbia and Montenegro" (information kindly forwarded by Aleksandar Momirov). Instead of the full translation I am providing below some highlights. I attach my translation of the article below, with my comments placed between square brackets. SCG seems to be usual abbreviation of the state name in Serbian texts now, and even if it does not reflect the abbreviation in English, I'll use it thoughout.

"Will there be on the joint flag the coats of arms of the member states or shall it be only the tricolour?

The working group for the proposal of the Law on the flag of the State Union of SCG finished its task yesterday. As we were told yesterday after the meeting by Goran Jovicić, member of the working group from Serbia, the text of the proposed law is finished and shall be forwarded to the Council of Ministers, that shall make the final decision.

We say the final decision, since the Council of Ministers should decide between the two proposed solutions for the design of the future flag of the State union, since the working group members, i.e. the Serbian and Montenegrin delegations could not agree on a joint solution. Namely, the delegates from Serbia thought that the flag should be a plain tricolour, without any coat of arms on it, because, as said Goran Jovicić, it is the right of each member state to decide on its own symbols independently. However, the Montenegrin delegation (representing the Government of Montenegro) insisted that the coats of arms of Serbia and Montenegro should be shown on the flag of the State Union. Of course, this should be done only after Serbia adopts its own law on the coat of arms. In case the "Montenegrin initiative" would be adopted, the coat of arms of Serbia would be placed on the left part of the flag, and the coat of arms of Montenegro on the right part of the flag, both in the blue field. The distance between the two coat of arms would be equal to the width of the coats of arms, or, as sayd Jovicić, there would be the same distance from left and right edges. [More simply, this is a division of the length of the flag into five equal parts, the two coats of arms being placed in the second and fourth parts.]

The working group has determined, highlighted Jovicić, the legal issues (i.e. finished the text of the proposed law) and in a way resolved the vexillological issue.

The political issue, i.e. the concept of statehoodness as expressed through the state symbols, was left open until the session of the Council of Ministers.

Would the Council of Ministers adopt the "Montenegrin initiative", they would opt for a solution that is very rare in vexillology, historically seen only once, when Austria and Hungary defined the Austrohungarian flag, i.e. "when Hungary was so strong that it could impose terms to Austria".

Without contesting the legal right of his Montenegrin colleagues in the working group, Jovicić thinks that the Council of Miisters would, if adopting the Montenegrin solution, set a precedent, that would make possible "opening of new cases", that would eventually cast doubt over the upholding of the Constitutional Charter and even challenge the State union itself.

What is definitively adopted and on what there is a consensus are the layout and size of the flag. It shall be a tricolour red over blue over white. The colours are detemined according to Pantone Matching System, red 199 and blue c 300. Therefore, the blue shade is in between the Montenegrin "blueish" [approximate translation of the Montenegrin word plavetna - light blue] and the Serbian steel blue. The ratio of the width to length shall be 2:3, so that the flag would fly nicer in the wind".

Željko Heimer, 16 November 2003

[Proposal of a new flag]

Flag proposal, June 2004 - Image by Željko Heimer, 23 June 2004

Politika (Belgrade) published on 23 June 2004 an article entitled "What symbols shall get the state union of Serbia and Montenegro?". Relevant parts of the article are translated below.

"The members of the parliament may receive on their benches the fourcoloured flag.
As it was confirmed by the highest state union officials, instead of the tricolour, it shall be proposed that the new flag of Serbia and Montenegro would be a quadricolour: red-blue-white, with the blue field divided into two parts of the same size, but of different shades. The darker shade would represent Serbia, while the lighter, blueish, would stand for Montenegro.

The proposed solutions are received with various comments by the scholar public and citizens.
Adoption of these symbols is against the elementary juridical and esthetical principals, warns Professor Dr. Milivoje Pavlović, author of the "Book on anthem".
"The state symbols are not usual signs that are overpopulating our everyday life. As a rule they are connected with the concepts that have unhidden emotional capacity - state, nation, patriotism, and frequently the symbolic energy of the symbol is transferred in the perceptions of generations", says Pavlović.
"The exchange of one symbolical regime with an other is not a matter of simple political technique, but a very delicate operation with huge consequences in the political-juridical, psychosocial, philological, artistical and esthetical senses.", emphisizes Pr. Pavlović.
According to him, the Ministry Council announced solutions that are against the determination of the constitutions of the two memberstates."

The text continues in similar manner regariding only the question of the anthem, on which Pavlović is an expert. I believe that Pavlović was not talking about the flag at all, and while his ideas about the anthem are more then justified, I believe that the flag as proposed deserves much higher apprisal.
Moreover, I believe that the illustration on the Politika web site is sketchy and that the light blue shade is way to pale. The image in Politika shows the flag in proportion 3:5, though I would not draw much conclusions from it.

Željko Heimer, 23 June 2004

Today's Politika has additional info on the new flag proposal.

The new proposed flag is drafted in proportion 2:3 (and not as 3:5 as was pictured few days ago). The legislation proposal includes prohibition of adding anything to flag or inscribing anything to it, or changing it.
Moreover, the article reveals that the proposed new coat of arms is equal to the coat of arms of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It seems that the discussion arouse about the blazon of the coat of arms, since D. Acović (probably the leading Serbian heraldist) insists that the eagle should be described as silver according to heraldic tradiion, while the eagle is popularly known as the white eagle and as such has become a national icon. The discussion seems quite displaced, since the eagle could be described (blazoned) as silver and yet always be pictured as white without any breach of heraldic "laws". Anyway, the illustration in Politika shows the coat of arms with the eagle made silver (grey).

This article makes not comment regarding the time frame when the legislation shall be adopted, while a previous article stated that the proposals shall enter the procedure in the parliamentary session on 2nd July.

Željko Heimer, 26 June 2004