SAT, 22 NOV 1997 20:03:10 GMT
For years stable and firmly secured in the Voivodina multiethnic space along with 24 ethnic groups, the Hungarian ethnic minority in Yugoslavia is undergoing tumultous changes in the past few years
AIM Belgrade, 9 November, 1997
According to the latest investigation of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia in the past five years more than 30 thousand Voivodina Hungarians have emigrated from Voivodina. At the 1991 census this largest non-Serb ethnic population in Voivodina had 339,491 inhabitants or more than 16 per cent of the total population of Voivodina. Nowadays, about 300 thousand Hungarians live in Voivodina. Many young people have emigrated out of fear of the war and mobilization, because of pressure exerted by extremist nationalists and failure of the regime to react to it. The latest stimulus for further emigration was last year's success of Seselj's Radicals in the elections in Voivodina and mass colonization of refugees from Bosnia and Croatia espeially in the towns populated by the Hungarians.
Tibor Pal, deputy of the Democratic Party of Voivodina Hungarians accused the Radical municipal authorities in Temerin of manipulating the refugees who are given plots for constructing houses in the part of the municipality populated by the Hungarians. This Voivodina town of 24 thousand inhabitants, 9,600 of whom are Hungarians, received 5.5 thousand refugees. Representatives of Hungarian parties and political organizations interpreted this as a "move made on purpose to change the composition of the poppulation". Mixed Voivodina has received more than 200 thousand refugees or 42 per cent of the total number of people who had fled to Serbia. The change of the number of the inhabitants and "silent" policy of ethnic reconstruction of Voivodina - by the abuse of refugees - has caused limitation of other ethnic minority rights which are warranted by constitutions of both Serbia and Yugoslavia: from use of mother tongue and script to participation in the authorities where the Hungarians are the majority population.
In this school year, elementary education in Hungarian was organized in 29 Voivodina municipalities, or more precisely in 83 elementary schools and 35 detached classes. It was attended by 22 thousand elementary-school pupils. In comparison with last year, the number of classes has been reduced by 18 in municipalities of Subotica, Senta, Baƒka Topola, Sombor, Novi Knjazevac. According to the regulations which are currently in force, classes for education in languages of ethnic minorities can be organized if at least 15 pupils enrol in the first grade. With the approval of the Serbian minister of education this number may be even smaller. The number of members of all ethnic minorities who are studying in their mother tongue has decreased, the Hungarian inclusive. The Hungarians in secondary schools and at the universities cannot use textbooks from Hungary even for subjects such as mathematics or physics which have no ideological colouring. Hungarian deputies have been pointing out for years, and the state is not reacting, to the problem of the lack of teachers and textbooks for teaching in their mother tongue. They are not allowed to take entrance exams at the university in Hungarian, even for the studies which are taught in Hungarian. This means that a Hungarian secondary-school student who graduates from high school in Hungarian cannot take the entrance exam at the Faculty of Philosophy, Department of Hungarian Language - in Hungarian. In the past few years students are not even studying national history. Due to the lack of money but even more due to the lack of political will, Voivodina Hungarians have increasing difficulties in acquiring education in their mother tongue, regardless of the law.
Gradually, the multilingual street signs and names of administration agencies and orgaizations are disappearing even in Novi Sad. In municipalities where the Radicals are in power it is needless to even speak about this problem.
The threatened human rights of the Hungarian ethnic minority in Voivodina are also evident in political life. Multiparty elections in Voivodina are the best example of ethnic remodelling of electoral districts with which the regime prevented in advance the electoral success of the Hungarians. It is true that undoubtedly the Hungarian political parties themselves have contributed to this. Having quarrelled, they were busy "snatching" votes away from each other at the expense of interests of their own people.
According to the report of the Helsinki Committee, at the latest local elections in August this year for the assembly of the local community in Debeljaca, municipality of Kovacica, a nonvalid regulation prescribed introduction of a two-chamber assembly with the chamber of nations and chamber of citizens. The Serb Radical Party is in power in Debeljaca and its local officials have simply applied the law intended for Kosovo which prevents the Albanians from winning local power, in order to prevent the Hungarians who form 60 per cent of the population of Debeljaca from taking over the local community. There were two columns in the election list: in the first the voters could vote only for 12 Serbs, and in the second they could choose for 13 representatives regardless of their ethnic origin. Complaints of the Hungarians, even that of the mayor of Subotica Joszef Kasa remained unanswered.
The Helsinki Committee also warns against decline of representation of Voivodina Hungarians and other ethnic minorities at leading posts in the police, the judiciary, schools, state enterprises in municipalities where majority of the Hungarians live. The example of Subotica is stated where the Hungarians form 42.5 per cent of the population, the Serbs and the Montenegrins 16, the Croats 22.5 per cent and others 19 per cent: the chief of police is a Serb like majority of policemen, president of the municipal court is a Serb, and out of 29 judges 15 are of Serb, Montenegrin or Yugoslav nationality, seven of them are Hungarians, and just as many are Croats. Similar is the situation at the district court which covers the territory mostly populated by the Hungarians. All the presidents of courts and prosecutors are Serbs, and the percentage of members of ethnic minorities among the judges is below 40 per cent, although they form over 70 per cent of the population of the region of Subotica. Among 14 managers of enterprises in Subotica, only one is a Hungarian, and in 23 Subotica elementary schools 17 directors are either Serbs or Montenegrins, four are Hungarians and two are Croats.
By quick impoverishment of Voivodina due to centralized distribution of resources and outflow of money to Belgrade which disposes of the money from Voivodina, the population of Voivodina which feeds the entire country can hardly make ends meet. Peasants who work the land are especially threatened, since they are affected by tha chaos in agricultural policy and unprecedented plundering by the state and they have lived in the past few years literally on the verge of poverty. Voivodina is the producer of more than 80 per cent of market surplus of agricultural products in Yugoslavia. Such policy especially threatens the Hungarian minority which is, according to the official data of the union of farm cooperatives of Voivodina, the greatest producer of market surplus of food.
And while the Yugoslav state brags with constitutional provisions in which ethnic minorities indeed enjoy all human rights all in accordance with international codes, according to all public opinion polls, ethnic minorities in Voivodina live in fear of growing nationalism, they are increasingly enrolling their children in Serb schools, and according to the latest polls, even contemplate emigration. Their parties established during homogenization of the Serbs have a more urgent matter to attend to: how to win power. And when they do, they quarrel with each other, reminding irresistably of the Serb political scene.
In Yugoslavia, the political elite has no wish to deal with ethnic minorities. The state requires that the be loyal citizens of this country, although they are do not enjoy equal rights in it. As a reminder its should be said that in the former government of Milan Panic, there used to be the ministry of human rights and rights of ethnic minorities. At the time, back in 1993, a dialogue was initiated with representatives of ethnic minorities in Yugoslavia. In the meantime, Mr Panic was discharged from the post and this ministry is silent as if it did not even exist. Nowadays, Seselj has become fashionable in Voivodina and in Serbia. Emigration of Voivodina Hungarians seems to be just as trendy.