Strategic foreign politics cooperation between Serbia and Hungary and minority policy

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.

Today, however, the strategic foreign politics cooperation between Serbia and Hungary is of crucial influence. It enables Serbia to (partly through the intervention of Brussels and Berlin) resist pressures of Croatia and Romania in terms of meeting their requirements, and to prevent similar requirements of Bulgaria, once expressed through pointing of the Vice-President of the Republic of Bulgaria to dissatisfaction of Sofia with the situation of the Bulgarian minority.

Excellent cooperation with the Hungarian government has not only been expressed through a series of bilateral meetings of leading people of the two countries and their solving of historical issues related to the status of Hungarian civilian victims after World War II, as well as rehabilitation of Horty’s ‘honved’, but through the open support by the President of the Hungarian government to SNS at the recently past elections. Huge donations of Hungary to Vojvodina Hungarians, the amount of close to two hundred million euros, has made this country, the state mother of the largest national minority in Serbia, a key factor in terms of the realization of minority rights in Serbia. It can be said that by the selection of Hungary as a strategic partner on the path of European integration and by the behavior of the Budapest Prime Minister Viktor Orban, he has become the Minister for Minority Rights in the Government of Serbia. The latest decision of SNS and the SVM to re-elect Pasztor Istvan, the head of the Vojvodina Hungarians, as the President of the Vojvodina Assembly, is directly caused by the agreements of the governments of Hungary and Serbia.

Since the political issues are interrelated, this strategic cooperation between Serbia and Hungary will leave consequences to the position of a number of other national minorities. The alliance with Hungary effectively prevents Romania to intensify the pressure towards achieving the Vlach minority rights and, in particular, the recognition of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Eastern Serbia. This alliance essentially hampers efforts of Croatia to condition the opening of chapters 23 through obtaining immediate representation of the Croatian minority in the National Assembly as provided by the inter-state agreement from 2004. Last but not the least, despite the election results just achieved in the municipality of Bosilegrad, it is unlikely that the Bulgarian national minority will be able to obtain full education in their native language, nor will be canceled the already carried out extinguishing of the only newspaper in the Bulgarian language.

The Alliance of Belgrade and Budapest will be useful to the Bunjevac national minority thus weakening the influence of the Croatia and its minority.

In such relations, restoration of the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights could only be formal and ineffective act; its role was taken over by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which corresponds to the altered external political situation in Serbia. Serbia has been a member of the Council of Europe since 2003, and since 2012, a candidate for membership in the European Union. Where there was the earlier question of meeting the international standards, the external realpolitik came into spotlight.

CDCS reminds that insisting on strengthening the institution is more than necessary; but if you ignore the real situation, the results have to be very modest. The issue of minorities in Serbia is no longer a problem of meeting the international standards, but a question of foreign policy, which, when it comes to national minorities in Serbia, determines the strategic alliance between Serbia and Hungary.