The Forum for Ethnic Relations (FER), the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM), in cooperation with the City Parliament – Free City of Vršac (GP), organized a workshop in Vršac, at Hotel Serbia, on the subject of the Role of Leaders of Romanian-Vlach Minority Communities in Self-organization for Democratic Minority Policy
Led by Virdžinija Marina, GP president, Biljana Kovačević – Vučo, president of YUCOM, Dušan Janjić, FER Coordinator and Ion Cizmaș, president of the Romanian Community and a member of parliament of the Republic of Serbia, the workshop passed in an atmosphere of free exchange of views and experiences of the leaders of Romanian Vlach minority communities on the possibilities of joint activities in the creation of a new democratic minority policy.
Representatives of associations of Vojvodina Romanians and Vlachs from Timočka Krajina, media representatives (Libertatea, Radio Novi Sad, TV Novi Sad, as well as representatives of local media) participated in the workshop.
A total of 19 panelists participated in the discussion on subjects such as legislative changes and their place in building democratic minority policy; Problems of self-organization and self-administration of minority communities within the framework of democratic minority policy, and the self-image of Romanians and Vlachs.
Special attention was given to the issue of application of Law on the Protection of the Rights and Liberties of National Minorities. The solutions included in the draft thesis for the Republic Constitutional Law on the rights and freedoms of minority communities and their members, prepared by the FER, were also discussed. It was emphasized that legislative reforms and changes in the federal legislation so far indicate strong political will of the new government to implement a new, democratic policy. However, it is much too early to speak of democratic minority policy being implemented in Serbia. In the legislation of the Republic of Serbia, in the practice of government bodies, and among citizens, the attitude toward members of minority communities is marked by discrimination, mutual mistrust and ethnic distance. This is certainly a consequence of the Milosevic’s ten-year rule, numerous ethnic conflicts and wars across former Yugoslavia and Serbia.
A good starting point for full realization of the right to self-organization of minority communities, as one of the important institutions of democratic policies, could be the federal law. It was noted, however, that this issue requires full and consistent regulation. From this point of view, the solution contained in the offered Theses was supported.
Solutions from the federal law were analyzed at the workshop, in an attempt to break down the existing ambiguities concerning the elections of National Councils. A general conclusion was that solutions provided by the federal law are not professional, and politically not the most practical. It was pointed out that many problems can be expected, including political conflicts, due to the introduction of the possibility election of Interim national councils before regulating the matter of National Councils and of the minority self-government. One of the arguments for this is that behind the elector of national councils is a concealed monopoly of minority political parties and leaders within the DOS coalition with most seats in the local and republic parliament, which is not representative of the total needs of minority communities, or the actual political influence within these communities. It has been shown that too much power and freedom are left to the Federal Ministry and the Minister in drafting the rules for the election of the interim national councils; even, in cases of dispute, the right to decide which national council is legitimate and which is not. It was pointed out that, under current legal solutions, it is difficult and almost impossible to comply with the provisions of the Federal Law that one community has only one National Council. This applies to Bosniaks, Hungarians and Roma who foster deep inner political and leadership divisions and animosities.
As concerns the Vlach community, it was noted that this is a complex issue, adding that it concerns one of the old communities that acquired the minority status only in the past few years. Before that it was treated as an ethnic group, and even within the Vlach community there are different views and attitudes on own national identity. One view is that Vlachs are Romanians and should form a national council together with Vojvodina Romanians. Another view is that Vlachs basically share the same ethnic origins as Romanians, and should be treated as Vlacho-Romanians, and therefore should have a common or separate national council. Yet another view is that Vlach community is unique and completely different to Romanian, but its national shaping and development was systematically prevented by discriminatory politics which then prevented the development of the language standard. That is why they should their own national council, and the state should set up a program of affirmative action to help this community.
Considering that one community can have only one national council, the general conclusion on this issue was that best solution would be to leave up to the members or leaders of each community to come to an internal political compromise and form a national council. Before doing that they should push for a clearer and more comprehensive regulation of this issue.
It is recommended to organize a meeting between representatives of Vlachs from Timočka Krajina, Vojvodina Romanians and the republic government. It was pointed out that it would be necessary to initiate a joint project with non-governmental organizations from Romania concerning comparative monitoring of the status of the Romanian and Serbian minority communities in Serbia and Romania.
Many examples of discrimination against Vlachs from Timočka Krajina were cited during the workshop. It was agreed to organize a special meeting in Majdanpek, in Timočka Krajina, to discuss the issues of the status of Vlachs