UCL News


UCL professor assists birth of Serbia and Montenegro

8 March 2003

After only 74 years, the Yugoslav Republic ceased to exist on 4 February 2003, when the Yugoslav parliament voted in favour of joining the independent states of Serbia and Montenegro into a new united country.

Professor Jowell assisted the drafting of Serbia and Montenegro's constitution

Jeffrey Jowell, UCL's Professor of Public Law, has recently been shuttling between London, Brussels, Belgrade and Podgorica, assisting the drafting of the constitution of the world's youngest country.

Professor Jowell is the UK's ambassador on the Council of Europe's Commission for Democracy through Law, also known as the Venice Commission. This body, which meets in Venice but has its headquarters in Strasbourg, was formed after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, in order to provide East and Central European countries with assistance in building their new democratic constitutions, electoral law and the protection of human rights. The Venice Commission consists of one member from each of the 40 Council of Europe countries, who are independent experts in constitutional law.

Professor Jowell said: "I was first involved in what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia when Montenegro asked for an opinion as to whether it could declare independence from that federation without a two-third's majority of the electorate, which seemed to be required under their constitution. I advised in the negative."

After the fall of President Milosovic and his subsequent trial in the Hague, the view of Montenegro changed and negotiations took place between that small country (population of 800,000), and the larger Serbia (population of 8 million), to form a common market.

Professor Jowell's role in the subsequent negotiations was to provide a framework constitution which would bring the country under the rule of law, protect human and minority rights, with an independent court to enforce those rights. He also drafted proposals to submit the army to civilian control under those standards of international law which control the use of military force.

Professor Jowell has been involved in other constitutional drafting, notably as the new South African Constitution emerged in the mid-1990s, and then helping draft the country's statute to provide just administrative action.

He said: "Constitutional drafting is not a wholly 'legal' exercise, but requires an appreciation of the social and historical context of the relevant country. It also requires an ability to stand firm on the issues that matter - such as the need for equality and a fair electoral system - and yet be guided by your clients on the kinds of institutions which they know suit them best."

To found out more about Professor Jowell's work use the link below.

Professor Jowell