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INFO   :::  Panels and Conferences > The Role of the Hungarian Community in Defining Vojvodinas Autonomy


The Role of the Hungarian Community in Defining Vojvodinas Autonomy


Having posited that the support from members of the Hungarian community was crucial for defining the status of Vojvodina and its constitution as a truly autonomous province that rests on democratic values, neighborly relations and the idea integration into Europe, the Helsinki Committee organized - in mid-October 2008 in Novi Sad - the first in the series of panel discussions planned under the project "The Role of the Hungarian Community in Serbia."

The panel, held under the title "The Role of Hungarian Parties in Defining the Status of Vojvodina," assembled public figures with different ideological, political and professional orientations. In her opening address, Sonja Biserko, chairwoman of the Helsinki Committee, reminded of the fact that the panel was organized soon after the Provincial Assembly adopted the Draft Statute and submitted it to the republican parliament for consideration. The Hungarian community, she said, is an autonomous political subject concerned not only with conventional minority position and protection but also with crucial issues of the Serb society and state such as European integrations, cooperation with the tribunal in The Hague, facing the past, the Constitution, decentralization or Vojvodina's autonomy.

According to Istvan Pastor, leader of the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, the party has been perceiving Vojvodina's autonomy a high priority ever since its establishment. Vojvodina Hungarians are vitally interested in having inasmuch as possible issues decided on in Vojvodina proper, he said. Pastor underlined that the Alliance had advocated larger autonomy for Vojvodina than the one provided by the Statute. However, the existing Constitution sets a frame that limits a search for better and more adequate solutions, said Pastor.

Agos Agoston reminded that back in early 1990s the Democratic Party of Vojvodina Hungarians said Vojvodina's autonomy was a Serb-Serb concern. Therefore, he said, it is the autonomy of Vojvodina Hungarians that should be the top priority of the community's representatives. He also said that his party had not taken part in drafting of the Statute because the document failed to provide the number of guaranteed mandates for minority representatives.

"In Vojvodina, we have the tradition of ethnic tolerance. The fact that Vojvodina is so ethnically mixed can hardly support the argument for territorial autonomy," said Miroslav Samardzic, politicologist. Reminding that according to the last census, 53 percent of Hungarians and 25 percent of Serbs would inhabit this "imagined" territorial autonomy and that the size of the Serb population has grown since, Samardzic warned that establishment of an ethnic autonomy could destabilize interethnic relations. He also said that Vojvodina Hungarians were disadvantaged by the brain drain caused by the war, violence and drafts. According to Samardzic, in a personal autonomy ethnic elites would be in the position to totally control identity-defining resources, particularly in the domain of education.

Some participants in the panel spoke about the role of the Council of national communities envisaged under the Draft Statute of Vojvodina. Whereas for some such as Andras Agoston such an institution was quite unnecessary, the others took that its competences should be expanded by, say, the right to veto the parliament's decisions contrary to the interests of Vojvodina's minorities.

Political actors caring for democratization and European integrations could have always relied on the support from the Hungarian community, said Sonja Biserko in conclusion. She informed the participants that the next two panels would be dealing with Hungarian community's cultural identity and its role as a "bridge" between Serbia and the EU.


The Helsinki Committee implements the project "The Role of the Hungarian Community in Serbia" with the assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Hungary.









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