Serbia is a parliamentary republic, with the government divided into legislative, executive and judiciary branches. Serbia had one of the first modern constitutions in Europe, the 1835 Constitution (known as the Candlemas Constitution), which was at the time considered among the most progressive and liberal constitutions in Europe. Since then it has adopted 10 different constitutions. The current constitution was adopted in 2006 in the aftermath of Montenegro independence referendum which by consequence renewed the independence of Serbia itself. The Constitutional Court rules on matters regarding the Constitution.

The President of the Republic is the head of state, is elected by popular vote to a five-year term and is limited by the Constitution to a maximum of two terms. In addition to being the commander in chief of the armed forces, the president has the procedural duty of appointing the prime minister with the consent of the parliament, and has some influence on foreign policy. Aleksandar Vucic of the Serbian Progressive Party is the current president following the 2017 presidential election. Seat of the presidency is the New Palace.



Executive power is exercised by the prime minister, who heads a cabinet. The prime minister is chosen by the National Assembly on the proposal of the president, who names the designate after consultations with all parliamentary leaders. The president is elected based on popular vote, but has little governing power and is primarily a ceremonial position. The president’s term lasts five years and can be elected for at most 2 terms. Cabinet ministers are nominated by the prime minister and confirmed by the National Assembly. Governing power is vested in the Prime Minister, deputy prime ministers and other ministers. The prime minister is responsible for presenting their agenda to the National Assembly as well as proposing the ministers to fill the cabinet posts in their government. The government is considered elected if it has been elected by a majority vote of all representatives in the National Assembly.

The Government is responsible for proposing legislation and a budget, executing the laws, and guiding the foreign and internal policies. The current prime minister is Ana Brnabic, nominated by the Serbian Progressive Party.


Legislative power is vested in the unicameral parliament known as the National Assembly, which is composed of 250 proportionally elected deputies by secret ballot. The National Assembly also wields constitutional authority in the republic.

The National Assembly has the power to enact laws, approve the budget, schedule presidential elections, select and dismiss the Prime Minister and other ministers, declare war, and ratify international treaties and agreements. It is composed of 250 proportionally elected members who serve four-year terms.


Serbia is the fourth modern-day European country, after France, Austria and the Netherlands, to have a codified legal system, adopted in 1844.

The judicial system of Serbia is headed by the Supreme Court of Cassation. The court reviews and possibly rules on past court cases made at the lower court levels. The 2008 Law on Organization of Courts greatly decreased the number of courts in Serbia – from 168 to 64. In addition, many different court tiers were established: the Basic, High, and Appellate Courts and as previously mentioned, the Supreme Court of Cassation.

Courts of special jurisdictions are the Administrative Court, commercial courts (including the Commercial Court of Appeal at second instance) and misdemeanour courts (including High Misdemeanour Court at second instance). The judiciary is overseen by the Ministry of Justice. Serbia has a typical civil law legal system.

Law enforcement is the responsibility of the Serbian Police, which is subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior. Serbian Police fields 27,363 uniformed officers. National security and counterintelligence are the responsibility of the Security Intelligence Agency (BIA).

Parties and elections

Serbia uses the multi-party system, with numerous political parties in which no one party often has a chance of gaining power alone, this results in the formation of coalition governments. Elections are held on the parliamentary, provincial and local level, and are scheduled every four years, while presidential elections are scheduled every five years.

The largest political parties in Serbia are the centre-right Serbian Progressive Party, leftist Socialist Party of Serbia and far-right Serbian Radical Party.

The politics of Serbia function within the framework of a parliamentary democracy. The prime minister is the head of government, while the president is the head of state. Serbia is a parliamentary republic composed of three branches of government: an executive, legislature, and judiciary.

The Economist Intelligence Unit rated Serbia a “flawed democracy” in 2019.

International Organizations

UN, OSCE, Council of Europe, BSEC, NATO Partnership for Peace, CEFTA, ICC, IMF, World Bank, Southeast European Cooperation Process, Stability Pact for Southeast Europe, Southeast European Cooperative Initiative, Central European Initiative.

Serbia was granted candidate status for membership in the European Union (EU) and it submitted its application 4 years earlier. Serbia made progress in meeting the criteria established by the European in recent years. For example, Serbia provided majority municipalities in Kosovo with broad powers in education, healthcare and spatial planning.

It is also a candidate for the World Trade Organization (WTO) and was expected to join by 2013.

Foreign relations

Serbia has established diplomatic relations with 188 UN member states, the Holy See, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and the European Union. Foreign relations are conducted through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Serbia has a network of 65 embassies and 23 consulates internationally. There are 69 foreign embassies, 5 consulates and 4 liaison offices in Serbia.

Serbian foreign policy is focused on achieving the strategic goal of becoming a member state of the European Union (EU). Serbia started the process of joining the EU by signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement on 29 April 2008 and officially applied for membership in the European Union on 22 December 2009. It received a full candidate status on 1 March 2012 and started accession talks on 21 January 2014. The European Commission considers accession possible by 2025.

The province of Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008, which sparked varied responses from the international community, some welcoming it, while others condemn the unilateral move. In protest, Serbia initially recalled its ambassadors from countries that recognised Kosovo’s independence. The resolution of 26 December 2007 by the National Assembly stated that both the Kosovo declaration of independence and recognition thereof by any state would be gross violation of international law.

Serbia began cooperation and dialogue with NATO in 2006, when the country joined the Partnership for Peace programme and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. The country’s military neutrality was formally proclaimed by a resolution adopted by Serbia’s parliament in December 2007, which makes joining any military alliance contingent on a popular referendum, a stance acknowledged by NATO. On the other hand, Serbia’s relations with Russia are habitually described by mass media as a “centuries-old religious, ethnic and political alliance” and Russia is said to have sought to solidify its relationship with Serbia since the imposition of sanctions against Russia in 2014.


The Serbian Armed Forces are subordinate to the Ministry of Defence, and are composed of the Army and the Air Force. Although a landlocked country, Serbia operates a River Flotilla which patrols on the Danube, Sava, and Tisza rivers. The Serbian Chief of the General Staff reports to the Defence Minister. The Chief of Staff is appointed by the President, who is the Commander-in-chief. As of 2019, Serbian defence budget amounts to $804 million.

Traditionally having relied on a large number of conscripts, Serbian Armed Forces went through a period of downsizing, restructuring and professionalization. Conscription was abolished in 2011. Serbian Armed Forces have 28,000 active troops, supplemented by the “active reserve” which numbers 20,000 members and “passive reserve” with about 170,000.

Serbia participates in the NATO Individual Partnership Action Plan programme, but has no intention of joining NATO, due to significant popular rejection, largely a legacy of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. It is an observer member of the Collective Securities Treaty Organisation (CSTO) The country also signed the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. The Serbian Armed Forces take part in several multinational peacekeeping missions, including deployments in Lebanon, Cyprus, Ivory Coast, and Liberia.

Serbia is a major producer and exporter of military equipment in the region. Defence exports totalled around $600 million in 2018. The defence industry has seen significant growth over the years and it continues to grow on a yearly basis.

Administrative divisions

Serbia is a unitary state composed of municipalities/cities, districts, and two autonomous provinces. In Serbia, excluding Kosovo, there are 145 municipalities and 29 cities, which form the basic units of local self-government. Apart from municipalities/cities, there are 24 districts, 10 most populated listed below), with the City of Belgrade constituting an additional district. Except for Belgrade, which has an elected local government, districts are regional centres of state authority, but have no powers of their own; they present purely administrative divisions.

Serbia has two autonomous provinces, Vojvodina in the north, and Kosovo and Metohija in the south, while the remaining area of Central Serbia never had its own regional authority. Following the Kosovo War, UN peacekeepers entered Kosovo and Metohija, as per UNSC Resolution 1244. In 2008, Kosovo declared independence. The government of Serbia did not recognise the declaration, considering it illegal and illegitimate.


The current Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, also known as Mitrovdan Constitution was adopted in 2006, replacing the previous constitution dating from 1990. The adoption of new constitution became necessary in 2006 when Serbia became independent after

Montenegro’s secession and the dissolution of Serbia and Montenegro. This constitution does not apply to the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo which attained independence in 2008.

The proposed text of the constitution was adopted by the National Assembly on 30 September 2006 and put on referendum which was held on 28–29 October 2006. After 53.04% of the electorate supported the proposed constitution, it was officially adopted on 8 November 2006.

The Constitution contains a preamble, 206 articles, 11 parts, and no amendments.

Main provisions

Among the Constitution’s two hundred other articles are guarantees of human and minority rights, abolishment of capital punishment, and banning of human cloning. It assigns the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet as the official script, while making provisions for the use of minority languages at local levels. Among the differences between the current and previous constitution are:

– Only private, corporate and public property is acknowledged; social assets shall cease to exist.

– Foreign citizens are permitted to own property.

– Full independence is granted to the National Bank of Serbia.

– As part of a process of decentralization, the granting of municipal properties’ ownership rights to local municipalities.

– The province of Vojvodina is granted limited financial autonomy.

– The constitution mentions “European values and standards” for the first time.

– The constitution assigns the Serbian language and the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet as the official language and alphabet in use, respectively.

– The adoption of the national anthem, (God of Justice.

– Special protection for the rights of consumers, mothers, children and minorities.

– Greater freedom of information.

– Marriage is defined as the “union between a man and a woman”

– Constitutional status of Kosovo

– The current constitution defines the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija as an integral part of Serbia, but with “substantial autonomy”. Under the opinion of the Venice Commission in respect to substantial autonomy of Kosovo, an examination of The Constitution makes it clear that this fundamental autonomy is not at all guaranteed at the constitutional level, as the constitution delegates almost every important aspect of this autonomy to the legislature.

Constitutional history

– Constitution of the Principality of Serbia, adopted 1835, so-called “Candlemas constitution”

– Constitution of 1838, often called “Turkish constitution”, issued in the form of Turkish firman

– Constitution of 1869, often called “Regents’ constitution”. In place until 1888. Then reinstated 1894–1901.

– Constitution of the Kingdom of Serbia, adopted 1888

– Constitution of 1901, called “April constitution” or “Octroyed constitution”, promulgated by Alexander I of Serbia

– Constitution of 1903, modified version of the Constitution of 1888

Between 1918 and 1945 Serbia was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Democratic Federal Yugoslavia, and had no constitution of its own.

– Constitution of the People’s Republic of Serbia, adopted 1947 (then part of the FPR Yugoslavia)

– Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Serbia, adopted 1963 (then part of the SFR Yugoslavia)

– Constitution of 1974 (then part of the SFR Yugoslavia)

– Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, adopted 1990 (Serbia was part of the SFR Yugoslavia in 1990–1992, FR Yugoslavia in 1992–2003 and Serbia and Montenegro in 2003–2006)

– Constitution of 2006, called “Mitrovdan constitution”, current constitution, first constitution of the independent Republic of Serbia