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15 February 2013 First Solemn Sitting of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia in 2013
Friday, 15 February 2013
First Solemn Sitting of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia in 2013
The National Assembly Speaker, MA Nebojsa Stefanovic, convened the First Solemn Sitting of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia in 2013, for Friday, 15 February 2013, starting at 4 pm.
The Solemn Sitting was convened to mark the Republic of Serbia Statehood Day – Sretenje (Presentation of Jesus at the Temple).
Opening the Solemn Sitting, the National Assembly Speaker greeted, on the behalf of the MPs and himself, the President of the Republic, Prime Minister and members of the Government, His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej, holy fathers and representatives of the religious communities in the Republic of Serbia, members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of state institutions and the recipients of medals of the Republic of Serbia.
The national anthem, God of Justice, was performed by the choir of the First Belgrade Singers’ Society, after which the assembly was addressed by the President of the Republic, Tomislav Nikolic:
“Ladies and Gentlemen MPs,
Your holiness, holy fathers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The First Serbian Uprising was launched on this day, 209 years ago, while the Sretenje Constitution, the first democratic constitution in Serbia, was adopted on this day 178 years ago.
The success of the First and Second Serbian Uprising, known to European history as the “Serbian revolution”, planted the cornerstones of the modern Serbian nation and state during the rule of Prince Milos Obrenovic. The Sretenje Constitution contained the most modern civilisational solutions of the time. It established democracy in Serbia and created the grounds necessary to address the important issues of the Serbian society of the time, such as national emancipation, dissolution of feudal institutions and human rights. It was modeled on the French Constitutional Charter of 1814 and 1830 and the Belgian Constitution of 1831. It is one of the first democratic constitutions in Europe and demonstrates that, the moment the suitable conditions had been met, Serbia started creating an organised state, based on the fundamental tenets of justice. The Constitution was adopted at the National Assembly session held on 15 February 1835, the great Christian Holiday of Sretenje. The session took part in the Orthodox Church in Kragujevac, the Principality’s capital at the time.
Milos limited his own power by the Constitution, saying: “I do solemnly swear by the holy, unified and indivisible Trinity that I shall abide by the Constitution of the Principality of Serbia, truly and conscientiously, and that I shall oblige everyone to abide by it in its entirety; that I shall defend the inviolability of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Serbia, that I shall protect Serbia’s integrity by all powers and means and the universal freedom of the individual, that I shall endeavour to ensure and raise the wellbeing the Serbian nation as a whole and each Serb as an individual. So help me God!”
A special paragraph of the Constitution is dedicated to personal rights of the citizens: sanctity of personal freedom, inviolability of property, freedom of confession. It reserved special attention for equality and right to choose.
The Constitution also contains provisions relating to a number of procedural rights such as ne bis ne idem, nulum crimen sine lege, right to appeal to a higher power, prohibition of retroactivity.
The Constitution explicitly bans slavery stipulating: “The moment a slave steps onto Serbian ground he becomes free, as do those who brought him to or escaped with him into Serbia”.
However, the adoption of the Sretenje Constitution was not met with approval abroad, there were certain remarks according to which it is unthinkable for Serbia to have a Constitution of the kind that many European countries lack. Questions were even put as to what the use would be for ministries, including the ministry of foreign affairs, in Serbia and what the national flag would serve as. They believed there were some revolutionary elements, taken over from France primarily. They called for their dismissal with an explanation that “the Constitution should be changed because it introduced French seedlings into a Turkish forest”.
Prince Milos withdrew the published constitution. He wanted to run the country independently, he met his people’s demands, but he had to give in to the will of the forces his authority rested on.
This is why the path of Serbia's constitutionality was a thorny one and it had its ups and downs and was exposed to influences from both the East and the West. The several centuries' long historical burden of dependence on someone else's will, or better said willfulness, influenced the Serbian constitutions, both he popular and the octroyed, those contemporary or those less modern. We can be proud of our legal tradition regardless of the difficult historical circumstances. Ever since Dusan's Code, the six independent constitutions Serbia adopted as a principality first, and then as a kingdom, which were passed in 1835, 1838, 1869, 1888, 1901, 1903, up to the contemporary constitutions and the valid one adopted in 2006, Serbia has had a bright tradition which is in no way inferior to the one in other European countries.
This is mostly the result of our traditions conveyed from generation to generation by our ancestors’ poems and legends as universal values deeply seeded into our very being.
Traditions are the fundamental source of our every regulation, law and constitution. This is why honesty, respect, patriotism and liberalism are inviolable in Serbia. It was so in Serbia for centuries and it would stay that way
The Constitution derives its power from the willingness and determination of every citizen to defend it. Without the citizens' support, constitutional rights would be a dead letter, like a wish list.
Bound by the words and actions of our great ancestors who managed to preserve our homeland under exceptionally difficult circumstances, we need to defend Serbia as a democratic country and honor the victims who gave their lives to protect it. We need to preserve Serbia within its borders.
Perhaps some “smart individuals” would mock these words and write or say that victims and temptations are pointless. Serbia is a democratic country where this is also possible. I would like such individuals to follow the model of those who make such statements or write such texts about their homeland while living abroad, in EU countries, for example. Serbia has changed, it now allows everyone to voice their opinions without any potential sanctions. If Serbia was such in the previous periods, I would have never spent time in prison because of my statements. If such a Serbia existed earlier, many would have already been in prison for crimes they committed.
But even after the darkest nights comes a new dawn; we have won the fight for democracy, we are fighting crime, we are fighting to open jobs in Serbia, we are conducting negotiations with Pristina interim institutions and we have every right to expect the date of the EU accession talks to be set soon.
We must not lose hope and we will not stop with the just efforts aimed at the preservation of our territory and identity, our heart and soul, Kosovo-Metohija.
The words of Prince Milos and all those who created Serbia as a country based on a democratic Constitution still have force. This is why I am saying that I was appointed to defend Serbia while respecting the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia fully and conscientiously, and there is no other voice I would take more heed of.
I expect you, the representatives chosen by the citizens to invest all your efforts in the joint goal of preservation of our unique identity within one country, a proud Serbia.
And to all the citizens of Serbia, I wish a happy Statehood Day!
On the occasion of Statehood Day, the President of the Republic, Tomislav Nikolic, presented deserving individuals and institutions with medals. The President of the Commission for Medals, Prof. Dr Oliver Antic, read the ordinances, and the President of the Republic presented the awards to the Lazar Savatic Elementary School, First Belgrade Singers’ Society, Colonel Tomislav Becaglavic, Institute of Physics, Director of the Yugoslavian Film Archive Radoslav Zelenovic, chess grand master Milunka Lazarevic, B92 Battle for the Babies Fund, actress Marija Crnobori and the National Library of Serbia. Pilot Goran Savic, Sergeant First Class Slavisa Markovic and Sergeant First Class Nebojsa Milic were awarded posthumous medals.
On the behalf of the recipients, the assembly was addressed by Dejan Ristic, acting Manager of the National Library of Serbia.
The National Assembly Speaker, MA Nebojsa Stefanovic, concluded the First Solemn Sitting of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia in 2013, to the notes of “Vostani Serbie” (Arise, Serbia) performed by the choir of the First Belgrade Singers’ Society.
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