H.E. Milan Milutinovic
President of the Republic of Serbia
Andricev Venac 1
YU - 11000 Belgrade
Geneva, 19 March 1999
Further to the new University Law passed by the Parliament of the Republic of Serbia on 26 May 1998, CRE - the Association of European Universities - wrote twice to H.E. the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in Switzerland to express its concern about the implications of this new law for the autonomy and academic freedom of the Serbian universities, members of CRE.
Since then other members of our Association have observed with dismay the implementation of this new Law, including the replacement of University and Faculty leaders, the banishment of long-established professors and the provocation of student unrest. These methods are in direct contradiction to established and acceptable European academic behaviour and have raised many voices of protest within the European academic community, notably from the national Rectors' Conferences.
The CRE Executive Board is of the opinion that the universities of the Republic of Serbia do not enjoy the level of autonomy which befits a true university, as defined by the Magna Charta Universitatum. Under these circumstances, the CRE has decided to suspend the membership of the universities of the Republic of Serbia for one year, until 31 March 2000. During this period, these universities will receive no information from the CRE and will not be allowed to participate in any CRE activities. The situation will be re-evaluated at the end of this period.
All CRE members will be informed of this decision and invited to adopt a similar position.
The Universities of the Republic of Serbia are entitled to appeal this decision to the CRE Committee. The suspension will be lifted when there is sufficient proof that the Universities of the Republic of Serbia enjoy the degree of autonomy in the election and appointment of their chief officers that is an essential characteristic of a European university.
I am aware that the methods of implementation of the new law which I outlined above have been most evident at the University of Belgrade. However, all universities of the Republic of Serbia are subject to this same law and equally vulnerable to similar methods; they will therefore be treated in the same manner by CRE. It is regrettable that, despite the good academic reputation of this university in the past, this means we are obliged to set aside renewed cooperation with the University of Novi Sad, which has recently asked to rejoin the CRE.
I am also aware that this decision of the CRE Board will affect not only the senior leaders of the universities, but also the ordinary academic community. We believe nonetheless that the principles of university autonomy and academic freedom in the Serbian universities deserve clear support from the wider European academic community, and that this decision of the CRE will be understood by those within the Republic of Serbia who have been standing up for such principles.
Assuring you of my highest esteem, I remain,
Dr. Kenneth Edwards
cc: Rectors of the Universities of the Republic of Serbia
Yugoslav Conference of Rectors
Council of Europe
Confederation of European Union Rectors' Conferences
All CRE members