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(E) Vojvodina - Where Catholic Hungarians and Croats make up the majority
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  07/30/2004 | Politics | Unrated
(E) Vojvodina - Where Catholic Hungarians and Croats make up the majority

 

Where Catholic Hungarians and Croatians make up the majority

interesting article here, from a
website(www.balkanalysis.com) not known for
criticising serbs.

Brian

Serbia & Montenegro: Vojvodina: A Hungarian View
Posted on Wednesday, July 28 @ 12:00:00 EDT by CDeliso

With this article from László Szentesi Zöldi, a
Hungarian journalist and foreign affairs adviser in
Budapest, our readers are treated to the Hungarian
view on current relations with Serbia. Formerly a
reporter for Hungarian Television and Duna Television,
László is presently editor of Budapest's Magyar Nemzet
newspaper.

Vojvodina, the northern province of Serbia, is one of
the most multi-ethnic regions in Europe. It is a land
that has been home to more than twenty different
ethnic groups for centuries. Vojvodina could become
the symbol of tolerance and fellowship of men, but at
present it is rather a sort of time bomb, having
ramifications for the whole region.

In September 1990, Serbia stripped Vojvodina of its
autonomy. Previously, it was an autonomous province
with considerable self-government authorities.
Starting in 2003, tension between some Serbian groups
and individuals of other ethnicities sharply
increased, which has led to some violent incidents. At
the moment some 300,000 Hungarians are living in
Vojvodina, mostly in the northern part of the
province. This means that they make up almost 15
percent of Vojvodina's two million-strong population.

Over the past few years, Hungarians have been targeted
by extremist Serbian nationalists.

The story began in the early 1990s when up to 300,000
Serb refugees came from Bosnia, Croatia, and then
Kosovo. The main problem is that these refugees do not
believe in peaceful solutions between the local
communities. Outside analysts have also noted the
effect of such unhappy immigrants on the “Hungarian
Kosovo.” The incidents in question have included acts
of vandalism against cemeteries, graffiti on Hungarian
churches and schools, and death threats against
individuals. Slogans like “death to Hungarians” and
“Hungarians go to Hungary” cover walls in many towns
of Vojvodina. In March, vandals desecrated a Catholic
cemetery in Subotica, where Catholic Hungarians and
Croats make up the majority.

However the problem goes far beyond slogans. Many
politicians have received threatening phone calls,
including József Kasza, leader of the VMSZ (Federation
of Hungarians in Vojvodina). Physical incidents have
increased dramatically. Young Serbs have beaten up
young Hungarian kids in many places. Minority girls
have been publicly sexually molested by Serbs. The
latter have provoked fights, in which minority
youngsters in many instances have required hospital
care. Some of these cases were reviewed in a recent
article in the Budapest Sun by American researcher
Andrew Ludanyi.

On the other hand, in June five Hungarian young men
severely beat a Serb in the town of Temerin. The
Serbian press used this attack as the first sign of
Hungarian anger against the Serbs, but failed to
mention the previous attacks carried out against local
Hungarians.

The crisis has reached a point where the two
governments had to begin talks about the situation.
Hungarian foreign minister László Kovács phoned
Serbian PM Vojislav Kostunica in April to call on
Belgrade to “take a firm stance with respect to
violent incidents against the Hungarian minority in
Vojvodina.”

Then Hungarian interior minister, Mónika Lamperth said
on 18 June during her visit to Subotica that the
Hungarian government is concerned about the attacks
against local Hungarians. “If the Serbia & Montenegro
authorities put an end to attacks on the members of
minorities and enable them to live a peaceful and safe
life, Hungary will do everything in its power to help
Serbia & Montenegro prepare well and quickly for
European integration processes. Otherwise, we will
have to seek the protection of the Hungarian minority
through the Council of Europe,” she added.

At the same time, two major Hungarian-American
lobbying groups in the US have begun to focus the
attention of American policy-makers on the situation
in Vojvodina.

The Belgrade response is not clear. “We do not want to
underestimate these incidents in any way but it is a
mistake to give them an importance they do not have,”
Rasim Ljajic, human and minority rights minister of
Serbia and Montenegro, recently told Reuters. Serbian
PM Vojislav Kostunica has responded by saying that
these racially motivated attacks were “not
characteristic of Serbian society.”

After talks with minority leaders, Mr. Kostunica has
proposed that a multiethnic police unit be established
in Vojvodina “in the very near future.” Local
Hungarian leader József Kasza told the Novi Sad daily
Dnevnik that this new unit would be deployed in
multi-ethnic areas of the province to prevent
inter-ethnic problems and incidents such as had
occurred over the past seven months. The Belgrade
daily Politika responded by warning Kasza that he was
“playing with fire.”

In response, the Hungarian newspaper Nepszabadsag
carried an editorial by Gabor Miklos, that posed the
rhetorical question, “who is playing with fire?” and
threatened that new EU member Hungary could make life
difficult for the Serbs:

“…Serbia's European integration is out of the question
as long as such incidents happen. The roads will be
closed, there will be no talks about a visa-waiver
system, investors will not come, and the pressure will
not decrease.”
 

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