The Provincial Protector of Citizens – Ombudsman and the Center for the Development of Civil Society (CDCS) signed a Cooperation Agreement yesterday in Novi Sad. Both sides – the signatories of the Agreement – expressed their mutual respect and trust in the area of protection of human and minority rights. The agreement envisages cooperation through joint research, educational and publishing activities.
A round table entitled Councils for Interethnic Relations and Minority Rights in the Local Community, which brought together representatives of five Vojvodina Councils of different levels of functioning, was held on 18 October, 2018 in Kaštel Ečka. In addition to the members of the Councils for Interethnic Relations of the municipalities of Bački Petrovac, Bačka Topola, Temerin, Zrenjanin and Žitište, in the debate also participated Vlado Radulović (Office for Human and Minority Rights), Dragan Vujkov (The Protector of Citizens‘ Office) as speakers, Janoš Oros (Provincial Protector of Citizens – Ombudsman) and local ombudsmen of the municipality of Bačka Topola and Žitište. The emphasis of the introductory speech of Vlado Radulović was put on the Councils in the context of EU integration, specifically on the reporting on the implementation of the Action Plan for Minorities. Dragana Vujkov, on the other hand, spoke about the Special Report on the Councils for Interethnic Relations (2017), by the Protector of Citizens, and recounted various reasons for the failure of this body.
During the several-hour long debate, the Councils from these five municipalities presented their experiences in the work and, as a major problem, after fourteen years from the beginning of the establishment of the CIRs, named the unclearness regarding the jurisdiction of these working bodies of the municipal assemblies. On what can and should be the scope of work of the Council, the introductory speakers and the moderator of the discussion, Snežana Ilić, cited a number of examples, starting from calling on citizens from minority communities to come to special elections for national councils on 4 November, 2018, to monitoring the realization of teaching the language of the social environment, which was introduced in the new curriculum in September 2018.
At the very end, it was agreed with the representatives of the five Councils to open up some of the issues in their local communities in accordance with the needs (increasing the visibility of the existence and work of the Councils, equal representation of members of national minorities in public institutions at the local level). Also, further cooperation and exchange of experience of these Councils has been agreed upon. All of this will be the subject of our interest during the visit to these Vojvodina municipalities in the next month.
The round table is a part of a wider project Community Voice on EU Integration – Encouraging the Dialogue between CSOs and local authorities on public policies, which the CDCS is implementing with the support of the Delegation of the European Union in Serbia and in partnership with the ‘Trag Foundation’.
The study before us was created as a result of exploring the attitudes of the audience of the (bilingual) play Víg könnyek násza/Happy tears of the wedding attendees in the performance of Tanya Szín Ház/Salaš Theater. The research team of the Center for the Development of Civil Society (CDCS) examined the attitudes of the audience before and after the performance about who is really threatened in Serbia today, whether homosexuality is a social danger, fashion or illness, if gay marriages should be allowed, whether a gay person is (non)desirable as a colleague and as a friend…
that young Serbs and Hungarians, pupils of the same school have never communicated before, even when they are in classrooms next to one another; language being the basic obstacle to communication, although the views are expressed that “they have nothing to look for in the other group”; they also do not have a common place to go out, they state that “they do not listen to the same music”
whereas with young Rusyns this is not the case, in their communities (Đurđevo, Novi Sad, Ruski Krstur), they communicate and socialize with youth of other nationalities
that all young people are religious, more precisely, they accept that with birth, they also gained religious affiliation as an important feature of their national identity
that young people from 18 years of age have no basic knowledge of human rights; this is most evident when the rights of sexual minorities are mentioned, but also when it comes to the rights of national minorities
that young Serbs see the Hungarians as superior rivals for future work, since, in Temerin, the knowledge of the Hungarian language is required for most jobs; that young Hungarians, on the other hand, do not know the Serbian language sufficiently
Through lectures and games on various topics, young people began to communicate for the first time and made jokes among the mixed groups formed for different games, ranging from extremely conservative to somewhat more liberal ones, showed great interest for the selected topics…
Jokes relaxed mutual relations, and project games led to the fact that students of different nationalities, for the first time, felt equal and non-discriminated. Namely, the young Serbs from Temerin tried to read in Hungarian, which caused the laughter of the participants of Hungarian nationality who were exposed to the constant forcing of the “state language” in their everyday experience. It can almost be said that VSIS participants are rare, young Serbs from Temerin who tried to use the Hungarian language. On the other hand, the encounter of the Hungarian students with the Ruthenian Cyrillic script not only deepened the knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet, but also enabled them not to tie the Cyrillic alphabet only to the ethnic Serbs and, at least partly, Serbian ethnic character of the state of Serbia.
Some of the topics that were the subject of the presentations and games are: Interculturalism – Visible and Invisible Aspects of Culture, Multiple Identities, Human and Minority Rights, Conflicts – Raising Critical Consciousness, Extremism and its Forms, Playing the Role of Others, Building Heritage and Interculturality, Mapping Temerin and Novi Sad from Different Cultural Perspectives, Believers in Another Way, Interculturalism and Empathy.
Lecturers and trainers were: Dr Vladimir Ilić, Eva Vukašinović, Dr Jovo Bakić, Aleksandra Marković MA, Bojana Karavidić, Andrej Kubiček MA, Draško Đenović, Jesus’ little sister Elizabeta, Dr Aleksandra Bosnić-Đurić.
In addition to lectures and games, during these four days the young people visited the Museum of Vojvodina, the Evangelical Methodist Church and the Synagogue in Novi Sad as well as the Novi Sad Theater / Újvidéki Színház.
The Vojvodinian School of Intercultural Studies is being implemented with the support of the OSCE Mission to Belgrade
Center for Development of Civil Society (CDCS), within its continuous monitoring of the rights of national minorities in Serbia, believes that it is necessary to draw attention to the following:
The Officials of Hungary have issued statements that destabilize inter-ethnic relations in the region. These statements have been further radicalized by the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, which is the part of the ruling coalition in the National Assembly and the part of the Government of Serbia, represented with several state secretaries. Serbian government, under whose control are the media in Serbia, has not responded to this. Accordingly, in the media, this trend is not mentioned.
The lack of reaction of the Serbian Government and the Serbian public to this provocation is concerning. In the case of adverse developments in the process of Pannonian basin, the cost, as so many times before, is likely to be paid by members of the Hungarian minority. Their rights and their real position are irresponsibly being threatened by the acts of the Budapest Government, failure to act by the government in Belgrade, as well as by their most influential political party in Serbia, the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians.
Mr. János Lázár, the minister in charge of managing the Office of the Prime Minister of Hungary said on May 31 in Mako, that the Trianon trauma “does not only have victims but also perpetrators, accomplices and beneficiaries. Monuments to their responsibilities, monuments of apologies are not found in Paris, among the castles of Versailles, not in the Felvidék, Erdély, Partium, Délvidék and the Transcarpathian”. Mr. Lázár stressed that the former Allied powers did not apologize to Hungarians and showed no signs of dealing with the past. Mr. Lázár said that Hungary did not require a revision of borders, nor a “return of the land”.
On the same occasion, Deputy Prime Minister of Hungary, Mr. Zsolt Semjén said that “Trianon tragedy happened because the government that came into power did not consider the existence of national value and deliberately wrecked the army, government and paralyzed defensive reflex of the Hungarian nation.”>>>
Centre for Development of Civil Society (CDCS) noticed some, by no means, insignificant changes in this year’s marking of the anniversary of the killing of innocent Hungarian civilians during the liberation of Vojvodina in 1944.
Namely, like in the previous years in Vojvodina, the end of October and the beginning of November 2016, was marked by a public reminder of the civilians of Hungarian nationality, who were killed by Yugoslav partisans, after the liberation of Vojvodina from fascism, in 1944.
At various commemorations, in Čurug, Subotica, Temerin, Senta, Horgoš, Martonoš and elsewhere, speeches were given by the descendants of the slain civilians, Ambassador of Hungary Dr. Atila Pinter, president of the Assembly of Vojvodina Mr. Ištvan Pastor, the presidents of political parties, the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians and the Democratic Party of Vojvodina Hungarians, mayors, Roman Catholic and Calvinist priests, the president of Hungarian National Council, and others.
In organization of the Hungarian National Council the issue of the mass graves of the innocent Hungarian victims from 1944/1945 was released, which includes GPS-coordinates of the mass graves.
In Novi Sad, Mr. Bela Čorba, the president of the Democratic Party of Vojvodina Hungarians among other things said: “The people of Novi Sad during the Second World War and its aftermath could experience the sins of two terrible ideological misconceptions of the 20th century: fascism and communism: thousands of innocent have become victims of ideological fanaticism and national hatred. (…) The war was still in progress and in Eastern Europe winners over Nazism immediately repeated this inhumane practice and principle. Examples of this are the six death camps and many labor camps that were created by Tito’s forces and the calvary of interned Germans and Hungarians (among them citizens of Novi Sad). ”
The media in the Hungarian language conveyed the title from the commemoration from Adorjan: “killed by freshly mobilized Banat partisans.”>>>
Centre for Development of Civil Society (CDCS), on the occasion of the visit of Viktor Orban to Belgrade, believes that it is quite evident that a cordial political alliance between the Serbian Progressive Party and the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, based on a very close relationship the governments in Budapest and Belgrade, means the consistent implementation of minority rights in regions where the Hungarian minority has the majority and the rapid assimilation of the Hungarian minority where most of the ethnic population is Serbian.
This behavior of the governments in Belgrade and Budapest, as well as the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians and the Serbian Progressive Party, is the road towards the realization of the Bosnian scenario of destruction of the modern civil state at the ethnic seams.
In the light of the launched action of civil society, to reconstruct the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights during formation of the new Serbian government, Centre for Development of Civil Society (CDCS) has found it necessary to draw attention of the public to the following facts:
This request for re-establishment of the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights is more than understandable, given the basically good experiences of the post- fifth of October ministries in the governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Council of Ministers of the State Union and the Government of Serbia. The special importance to these thoughts and the proposed action is given to the upcoming opening of chapter 23 of the negotiations with the European Union.
Circumstances have, however, changed significantly. More generally, Serbia, in terms of regulating minority rights today, depends more on bilateral relations with the mother countries of national minorities, which are already members of the EU, than by the standards of international organizations. Serbia has largely fulfilled liabilities to international organizations in this field, with the exception of Roma issues. It is enough in this regard, to see the last few reports of the European Commission on progress in the areas relating to the rights of national minorities.
With the candidate status, and in the light of the forthcoming opening of Chapter 23, the issue of the rights of national minorities in Serbia, from internal issues turned into a variety of bilateral issues. Every EU member state has the right to veto. Candidate status was directly caused by the signing of the Protocol with the Government of Romania with which Serbia has accepted the obligations towards the Romanian / Vlach national minority on the day of receiving the candidate status for the EU (March 2012).
Lately, Croatia has conditioned opening of chapters 23 by direct political representation of Croatian national minority in the National Assembly.>>>
The incomplete autonomy of Vojvodina is slowly fading away. When Belgrade formally accepts the independence of Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, the autonomy of Vojvodina will be impossible. The nucleus of the state organization and all of social activities shifted to the northern parts of Serbia: the city of Belgrade is incomparably stronger, not only economically and politically, but also in the sense of cultural activities and potentials, than Vojvodina with all of its cultural peculiarities and diversities. In the context of demography, when we examine the population according to educational and professional structure, the predominance of the capital over the devastated yet semi-autonomous province is even stronger.
Predictions are uncertain, but it can be assumed that semi-autonomy of Vojvodina will survive another election cycle. It will be carried by the Progressive party (Naprednjaci), with their allies, Čanak’s private party, with Pásztor’s Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, and perhaps with the Socialists. Small parties will pursue the policy of dumping, waiting for the Serbian Progressive Party to fall apart before or after the first regular election. In the meantime, many members of the Progressives will join to the drones from uncountable provincial administration, and as well as to the board of directors and various parastatal bodies.
It is unrealistic to expect that the system of protection of national minorities, which is still working great in Vojvodina after the abolition of its autonomy, will be extended to the whole national territory; acquired rights, which allow the Slovaks, Romanians, Bunjevci, to have their information programs, teaching in their own language, the official use of languages and alphabets, even when they take up only a few percents of the population, will be facing the national standard which prescribes threshold of fifteen percents share of national minorities in the population of the municipality in order for them to be able to exercise certain rights. The Vlachs will not get what they traditional Vojvodina’s minorities have, and Bulgarians, who’s only newspaper in their native language is already abolished, and who in the municipality where they make up three-fourth of the population (Bosilegrad) do not have complete education in their own language, will not get the implementation of minority rights.
The demography of Vojvodina still interfere with the abolition of its autonomy. Two-thirds of its population are ethnic Serbs. One-fifth belong to ethnic minorities. One-sixth declare themselves as regional, Yugoslav, or inarticulate, opposing to divisions along ethnic criteria.>>>
On Friday, the 8th of May, the representatives of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia, Luca Bianconi, the First Secretary and the Head of Political Section, and Gordana Arackić-Nikolić, Adviser for Human and Minority Rights of the Delegation, visited the CRCD. The topic of conversation was the position of ethnic and religious minorities in Serbia.
For many years CRCD has an exceptionally developed cooperation with the Delegation and since 2007 it provides regular contributions to the European Commission annual Progress Report for Serbia.