Further radicalization of minority issues in Serbia and denigration of autonomy of Vojvodina as unintended consequences of Brussels Agreement

Centre for Development of Civil Society (CDCS) continues to warn of risky and destabilizing effects of the Brussels Agreement, which has been inevitable, according to widespread public opinion. CDCS has not declared against the agreement between Belgrade and Priština, but believes that it is their professional duty to continue to warn of risk and consequences of applying the principle of ethnic segregation and the creation of territorial autonomy of Serbs in northern Kosovo.

Good intentions of Belgrade government and the international community have to take into account the following side effects:

1. Residents of the enclaves in Kosovo have supported the Brussels Agreement, unlike their compatriots from the north of Kosovo. Ethnic Serbs in Kosovo Pomoravlje (Municipality of Kosovska Kamenica, Gnjilane and Vitina) have not declared themselves regarding the agreement, and it is the largest territorially concentrated Serb population (about 40 thousand) in the whole region of Kosovo. Territorial autonomy for them poses a risk of involuntary migration, as they will remain a smaller minority in the Albanian homogeneous environment to which the Brussels Agreement does not address.

2. There is an apparent radicalization of elite Hungarian national minority, the largest national minority in Serbia outside Kosovo. The president of the parliamentary party, Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians (SVM), Mr. Pásztor István said on 27 April 2013 that the party would not support the Draft Declaration on the Protection of the Constitutional and Legal Rights of Vojvodina, if there remains a controversial clause stating that Vojvodina is a part of Serbia, as decided by the citizens of the province.

Mr. Pásztor for Magyar Szó stated that the wording is unacceptable, as it states that the citizens of Vojvodina decided it to be a part of Serbia, “When was the decision made, in 1919? The Hungarians and Germans, as the ones who lost the World War I, could not have participated. They were excluded from the process.”

Mr. Pásztor here ignores the fact that Vojvodina became part of Serbia within the Democratic Federal Yugoslavia, by the free will of its citizens, passed on the basis of the right of appropriation which they have acquired in the fight against fascism. The basis for entering of Vojvodina into the composition of Serbia does not date back to 1918, but to 1945.

The president of the Hungarian National Council Korhecz Tamás said on 28 April 2013 that those parties who object to the jurisdiction of that National Council, while at the same time are the loudest of the ones demanding greater autonomy for the Kosovo Serbs, have “double standards.” According to the news agency Beta, PhD Korhecz said that the demands of the citizens of Serbian nationality for the self-government are fully established like in Croatia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Kosovo, as the “principles should be respected.” According to him, “the one, who believes that it is in the interest of equality and preservation of the identity to have autonomy, is credible only if the attitude should be applied consistently, starting from the Basque Country, through Vojvodina Hungarians, to the Kosovo Serbs.”

Korhecz’s argument indicates to the quite possible turnaround of SVM towards the demand for territorial autonomy of Vojvodina Hungarians in the north, which is one of the objectives of this party expressed in their program. We would like to remind that the president of SVM Mr. Pásztor, on a gathering of Hungarian leaders from Vojvodina, Romania and Slovakia in Martelj (Mártély) in Hungary, on 23 March 2013, for the first time called for the Hungarian territorial autonomy in Vojvodina. Such a public demand, SVM has not yet made public in Vojvodina, but it was supported by other Hungarian parties: the Democratic Community of Vojvodina Hungarians, the Democratic Party of Vojvodina Hungarians, Hungarian Civic Alliance and the Hungarian Movement of Hope.

Territorial autonomy for Hungarians in Vojvodina patterned on the model of autonomy of Serbs in northern Kosovo would denote further deterioration of civic autonomy basis of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina and would cause the migration of ethnic Hungarian population of Vojvodina towards the north and Serbian to the south, with all the destabilizing consequences. It would significantly weaken the autonomy of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, which is based on historical and civic, rather than ethnic principle.

3. When it comes to events related to Sandžak, CDCS warns that, on 26 April 2013, the U.S. Ambassador in Serbia, Mr. Kirby, met with the president of the separated part of the Bosniak Democratic Union and the Member of the Parliament in the Republic Parliament Mr. Emir Elfić and spoke to him regarding the situation in Sandžak. On 14 March 2013, Mr. Elfić asked the reciprocal rights of Sandžak in relation to the rights of the Community of Serbian municipalities in northern Kosovo.

4. When it comes to events related to Eastern Serbia and the Vlach minority rights, in February and March 2013, Serbian government, while in preparation for the negotiations that led to the Brussels Agreement, accepted the requests of Romania to introduce the education in the Romanian language in this region. Ms Vesna Fila, Deputy Minister of Education, said on 8 February 2013, that everything is ready for introduction of the Romanian language in schools in Kladovo, Bor and Zaječar. Ms. Gordana Stamenić, State Secretary at the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration and Co-Chairperson of the Intergovernmental Joint Committee for National Minorities, Serbia and Romania, said on 18 February 2013, that Serbia “as a state met all the specific requirements of the Romanian and Vlach national minorities” and will continue to try to improve conditions for the exercise of their rights. Following these measures of the Government of Serbia, representatives of the Vlachs “Primovera” from Bor warned on 7 March 2013 about the “unequal treatment of the majority Vlach population in Eastern Serbia, in respect to the minority who according to the latest census in the region have declared themselves as belonging to the Romanian national minority.” According to the president of the association, Mr. Milivoje Janošević, “we do not make a problem for the Ministry of Education because they conducted a survey on the implementation of the Romanian language in schools in eastern Serbia, but in the last census, in eastern Serbia, 32.095 citizens declared themselves as Vlachs, while only 2,073 declared themselves as Romanians.” Mr. Janošević, according to the news agency Beta, asked whether Serbia was “stepping back” in front of EU, by making Vlachs and Romanians equal.

CRCD supports the Brussels Agreement, but continues to monitor the consequences of its application on the scope of jurisdiction on the autonomy of Vojvodina, the territorial organization of the Republic of Serbia, the respect of the provisions contained in its Constitution, and certainly not the least, the stability of international relations and the extent of exercise of the rights of national minorities.