The union between Serbia and Montenegro is often referred to as being an unhappy marriage. In February 2003, the name of the country changed from Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to "Serbia and Montenegro." Under the new Constitutional Charter, most federal functions and authorities devolved to the republican level. The republics also have different currencies, Montenegro using the Euro and Serbia the dinar. As a result, both republics already enjoy substantial autonomy and many would like to see the largely ceremonial State Union come to an end. The State Union is widely considered a product of pressure from the international community and the EU in particular.
The inclusion of the Western Balkans in the European Union integration process is now official EU policy, and is shared among political establishments throughout the countries in this region. The EU has repeatedly insisted that the integration process requires the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro. Croatia has already been granted candidate status and within five months will formally open negotiations on accession. Macedonia is currently involved in the Stabilisation and Association Process(SAP) and has already submitted a formal request for EU membership. Albania is in talks with the EU about the SAP. As far as Serbia and Montenegro is concerned, both governments have been at a standstill for two years and have recently decided to begin a twin-track approach, which involves the economies of Serbia and Montenegro being integrated separately into the EU although the State Union will remain Europe overall partner. The two-track approach was first aired in early September 2004 at the Maastricht Summit where Foreign Ministers of the 25 EU member countries agreed to step up the accession process for Serbia and Montenegro. This decision provides a great opportunity for Serbia and Montenegro to unblock and step up the Stabilisation and Association Process, and to emerge from the trap in which they find themselves.
On 28 December 2003 parliamentary elections were held in Serbia, one year prior to the expiration of the mandate of the parliament elected in 2000. Four democratic parties formed the coalition Government DSS, SPO-Nova Srbija and G17, which relied on the support of the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS). This minority Government is fragile in the sense that the SPS might withdraw its support on the issue of cooperation with the International War Crimes Tribunal. Following the presidential elections in Serbia (June 2004) and the victory of Boris Tadic, the candidate of the Democratic Party (DS), who was supported by all democratically oriented parties against the right wing candidate Tomislav Nikolic (Serbian Radical Party), there has been improved cooperation between the Government and DS. Although in opposition, DS voted for many bills and amendments proposed by the Government, which signaled a step forward for a constructive approach in Serbia's parliamentary life. This potential cooperation is additionally strengthened by the results of recently held local elections (September 2004), which show that future coalitions between DSS and DS are to be expected on local levels. All this might lead to normalization of the political situation in the Serbian Parliament and potential inclusion of DS into the Government. A second feature of the current Parliament is the strengthening of its legislative and oversight role, in the sense that there is much more intra and inter parliamentary dialogue, the voices of opposition are more appreciated by the Government and vice versa. The political atmosphere has improved since the decision by the ruling coalition that parliamentary committees should more or less reflect the real proportions of MPs in the parliament, and that many important committees would be headed by the opposition.