On 29 October, ECPM organized an important event in the Festive Room of the Vrsac City Hall in Voivodina (Serbia) together with the Alliance of Romanians in Voivodina and the National Council of the Romanian Minorities in Voivodina. Representatives of different communities that are living in the Voivodina province came together to discuss about ways for collaboration with each other and with the central government in order to promote the accession of Serbia into the European Union. The conference was attended by members of National Councils and representatives from the Croatian, Hungarian, Macedonian, Romanian, Rusynean, and Slovak communities in Voivodina, Besides the meeting was attended by the Provincial Secretary of Voivodina for Education, Self-Government and National Communities, A deputy from the parliament of Voivodina, vice President of the Vrsac community, and the local executive (and member of the community council of Vrsac) for minorities and religious affairs.
As motivation, Ms Lenuca Caran, organizer mentioned in a local newspaper: “When I heard, from Mr.van Doesburg, about the Dutch "Matra" programme, whose purpose is to implement democratic Christian values, I set my mind to write a project for Serbia, that is, on how I see that Serbia and Vojvodina, could fit into this project. I wrote the project under the name “The positive – active role of Voivodina – Serbia minorities in Serbia’s EU integration process”, because I believe that national minorities in Vojvodina - Serbia can be promoters of the Serbia’s faster integration into the EU and a bridge between Serbia and the countries of origin of respective minorities that are already members of the EU, or are on the path of EU integration..
The guests were welcomed by Mr. Mirko Dobrosavljević, deputy of the Municipal President of Vrsac and Nicolae Moise, member of the Municipal Government. They mentioned that it was an honor to host a conference that brings international European guests and local representatives of national communities together. It was an opportunity to understand the vision of the European Union concerning the coexistence and cooperation of the majority with smaller communities. Vojvodina is an example of how a multicultural environment can function. The Provincial Secretary of Voivodina, Mr. Mato Groznica mentioned that Voivodina should not be multicultural but intercultural: sharing the diversity, cultural and religious differences with each other. This is a treasure that we should cherish. Therefore we should not speak about the minority groups living in Voivodina but the different communities.
Leo van Doesburg explained more deeper about the theme of the conference, splitting it in three topics (click here for the whole speech)
1) The different communities in Voivodina where he stressed how personal identity is formed within a field of social values, norms, behavior and collective symbols. That people are associated in groups, communities which form each other social identity. Therefore from the Christian Democratic point of view, the society is based on communities with the family as core community. He highlighted also the positive points and advantages of diversity which can be an effective instrument for diplomacy.
2) He spoke about the positive role and called upon the different communities not to fight, but to work as minorities with the majority, to collaborate also as communities with each other, to focus on manageable concrete issues and to use their unique position between main political forces.
3) The Serbian EU integration process. Leo van Doesburg mentioned that European collaboration started as a reaction of the wars held on the continent. The hunger to peace and stability was the basis for the European Community for Coal and Steel and the European Economic Community: unity through diversity. This does not mean that the own identities and communities should be given up. The subsidiarity principle is important in order to cherish the cultural and religious diversities in Europe. As a conclusion he is calling the different communities to develop a constructive collaboration in order to promote Serbia to enter the EU and to spread the basic values of peace and reconciliation based on unity through diversity in Serbia.
The Round table was followed by constructive discussions where the different situations of the National Councils of minorities were explained. In a positive atmosphere, the situation of the minorities were discussed and especially how they could collaborate with each other. Also difficult topics were not avoided, for example the way how the legislation concerning the minorities is implemented or not at all implemented. It was interesting that it seemed to be the first time that the different communities came together to discuss about these important topics. There was an agreement to continue these meetings and to form a platform where the different communities could meet with each other.
The accepted conclusions of the conference:
- The political parties of smaller ethnic groups should work together in coalitions
- To becoming larger in number and gain more influence on the political scene.
- To organize future conferences on additional topics that have been opted during the conference and are related to problems that smaller ethnic groups encounter like the situation of education and religious affairs
- To look critically at the current legislation for ways how smaller ethnic parties could be better represented on all levels (local Parliament, the Provincial Parliament, Parliament of the Republic).
- To improve the collaboration between Serbia-Vojvodina minority parties and the authorities in the country. Efforts based on respect, integrity, cultural and religious characteristics of national ethnic minorities
- To organize activities in collaboration with ethnicities’ countries of origin (which are already EU members or are on a firm path towards integration), that aim to emphasize Vojvodina’s role, through its multiethnic, multicultural and multireligious richness, as a promoter and bridge for Serbia as a state, towards a faster EU integration.