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Serbia and Montenegro: Flag proposals, 2003-2004

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Working group on the flag change

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 Jovičić, 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 Jovičić,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 Jovičić 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 and stipulates that 2:3 flags are much more visible (and esthetically pleasing) when flying than the longer flags, and apparently Jovičić favours much the 2:3 proportions.
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 Jovičić - 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 Jovičić, 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

Official proposals, April 2003

On 8 April 2003, the daily newspaper Blic published an article entitled Četiri predloga za zastavu državne zajednice ("Four proposals for the flag of the State Union"), based on the informatons provided by Goran Jovičić, Deputy Secretary General of the Government of Serbia and member of the working group which worked on the flag proposal. According to him, four ideas were discussed, all of them trying to make a compromise between the red-blue-white flag of Serbia and red-blueish-white flag of Montenegro.

[Flag proposal #1]

Flag proposal #1 - Image by Tomislav Todorović, 1 August 2007

In Jovičić's opinion, the possible solution could be a flag with a standardized shade of blue, different both from Serbian blue and Montenegrin blueish.

[Flag proposal #2]

Flag proposal #2 - Image by Tomislav Todorović, 1 August 2007

Another proposal, though, was a flag with gradual change from dark to light blue - something unknown to vexillology and therefore obviously rejected.

[Flag proposal #3]

Flag proposal #3 - Image by Tomislav Todorović, 1 August 2007

The third idea was a flag with a blue field divided horizontally, dark above light blue, but it did not really look like a tricolour.

[Flag proposal #4]

Flag proposal #4 - Image by Tomislav Todorović, 1 August 2007

The last proposal was a flag with blue field divided vertically.
Jovičić, personally, thought that the flag should also be charged with the coat of arms, which was not discussed at all until then.

The article was accompanied with the illustrations of the dicussed flag designs. They all showed the flags with proportions 1:3, much different from later official proposals, but as no other images of the discussed designs have appeared, the proportions are kept in the attached images, together with the shades of colours.

Tomislav Todorović, 1 August 2007

Counter-proposals by SDPM, April 2003

[Flag proposal by SDPM]         [Flag proposal by SDPM]

Flag proposals by SDPM - Images by Tomislav Todorović, 31 August 2007

In April 2003, the Social Democratic Party of Montenegro (Socijaldemokratska partija Crne Gore) came out with two variants of the proposal for the flag of Serbia and Montenegro, which were described in the Serbian weekly magazine Nin (Belgrade), 1 May 2003, in the article entitled "The Colour of Transience" (Boja prolaznosti).
Both flags were vertical bicolours, the idea behind the proposal having been that of making the flag completely different from those of two member states. On both flags, the fly field, which was to represent Montenegro, was red, in accordance with the present-day flag of that state, which was not adopted yet at that time, but had already been proposed by the Social Democratic Party of Montenegro itself. The hoist field, which was to represent Serbia, was blue on one flag variant and white on the other; the eventual choice was left to Serbia.
The proposer's idea was also to make a flag which would not resemble the flag of any other country.

However, this was immediately disputed: in the above source, in a separate sub-article titled "Haiti and Malta" (Haiti i Malta), Dragomir Acović, president of the Serbian Heraldry Society, stated that a blue-red bicolour was too similar to flags of Haiti and Liechtenstein and a white-red one to those of Malta and Poland, regardless of vertical or horizontal arrangements of colours, so the permission should be needed for the international use of any of proposed flags. Apart from this, the above source listed another serious objection to the proposal that came from Serbia: if a Montenegrin proposal for the flag of the State Union had two distinctive fields for two member states, then the proposer should not impose the design of the field representing Serbia.

All these objections must have prevented the proposal from being seriously discussed, but the Social Democratic Party of Montenegro did not insist much on it either, because that party did not truly support the forming of the State Union, but demanded immediate separation of two states, and when it did not happen, the separation after the agreed three-years period of the Union's existance ends.

Tomislav Todorović, 31 August 2007

Selected proposal, June-October 2003

[Proposal of a new flag]

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

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 Živković) 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 Montenegrin flags.

Ivan Sarajcić, 30 June 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 Jovičić, 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, that is, 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 Jovičić, 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 said Jovičić, 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 Jovičić, the legal issues (that is, finished the text of the proposed law) and in a way resolved the vexillological issue.
The political issue, that is 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 Austro-Hungarian flag, that is "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, Jovičić 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 determined according to Pantone Matching System, red 199 and blue 300c. 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

Final proposal, June 2004

[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 four-coloured 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.", emphasizes 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.

On 26 June 2004, Politika gave additional info on the new flag proposal.
The new proposed flag is drafted in proportions 2:3 (and not as 3:5 as was pictured on 23 June). 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 the leading Serbian herladist D. Acović 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).

The 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