Networking as a potential for strengthening the position of national minorities in Europe
The 16th International Scientific Meeting in Golubić (Croatia) will be held from August 24, 2023 to August 28, 2023. years. The organizers of the meeting are the Center for History, Democracy and Reconciliation from Novi Sad and the Association for History, Cooperation and Reconciliation from Obrovac.
The significance of this year’s political part of the meeting in Golubić is reflected in the fact that, in addition to political representatives of the Serbian minority in Croatia and the Croatian minority in Serbia, the meeting was attended by political representatives of the German minority in Denmark and the Danish minority in Germany.
Comparative challenges faced by cross-border minorities
The President of the CHDR Board of Directors , Darko Gavrilović, assessed that people “are ready to turn their nationality and origin into a virtue, as if it were a great success – to be born.” Unfortunately, extremists are ready to abuse it for their wars. And when the wars stop, a period of peace and reconciliation begins. Unfortunately, peace is achieved much more slowly than war and hatred. Peace is achieved year by year, slowly and carefully, like eating bread, bite by bite.”
Member of the National Assembly of Serbia and president of the Parliamentary Group of Friendship with Croatia in the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, Janko Veselinović , pointed out that the key problems are not being solved but left for the future, with the risk of them being the cause of new conflicts. “Our goal is for this part of Europe, the Balkans, to become a place of peace and economic prosperity, rather than waiting for new conflicts.” Our goal is the Scandinavianization of the Balkans, not its political scandalization, which we are often present for. This can only be achieved by marginalizing nationalism and chauvinism, which is still tolerated within its borders, and of course seen as a threat by others. There must be no more war in the Balkans, because that would be the economic end for these areas, and for the survival of the Balkan nations. Our non-governmental organizations (CHDR and AHCR) are never satisfied with what has been achieved, but look at how to proceed, and that is why we invited our colleagues from Denmark and Germany to cooperate and exchange opinions.”
Milorad Pupovac , Member of the Parliament, former president of the Serbian National Council and president of the Independent Democratic Party of Serbia, assessed that relations between Serbs from Croatia and Croats from Serbia have improved significantly. “Last year, the Declaration on Cooperation between Serbs from Croatia and Croats from Serbia was initialed in Golubić, and that is the main reason for my arrival today. We have significantly improved our relations, but also the relations between the two countries. That agreement is the basis for ending hostile rhetoric between Croatia and Serbia. Thanks to this agreement, Žigmanov became a minister in the Government of the Republic of Serbia, and thus Croats in Serbia began to be better represented. With the breakup of Yugoslavia, minorities became targets and victims of wars. Thanks to the rhetoric of war, minorities are getting smaller in the countries of the region. Silencing nationalism is difficult. Nationalisms here are generally anti-minority. That is why the meaning of our policy is to reduce the level of nationalist rhetoric. Treatment of traumas and recovery from traumas caused by persecutions is the basis for the protection of minority rights. This is why we are committed to the policy of reconciliation, because it enables the survival of minorities. Cross-border cooperation is very important to us – economic, scientific and cultural, because it enables the survival of the minority. We hope that you will be able to recognize this path of ours and that you will have the opportunity to send it to the wider world. We would like to create a communication with you about how you live together.”
Tomislav Žigmanov , Minister for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue from 2022. years. President of the Democratic Union of Croats in Vojvodina since 2015. pointed out that these gatherings are a rare opportunity to discuss the political and economic conditions of minorities in Croatia and Serbia, especially at a time when they were at a low level. “In transition states and unconsolidated democracies, consolidating minorities is crucial. The key challenge that must be resolved is that the minority parties are committed not only to their interests but also to the seeds of democracy. Otherwise, the interests of the minority may be abused, and the minority may dissipate and disappear. In the past, we had obstacles to the interests of the Croatian community in Serbia. It was a sophisticated punishment of what we lived in the nineties. All of this had tragic consequences for the Croatian community, which led to the persecution and murder of Croats in Serbia. However, today the situation is improving significantly. Cooperation with the Serbian community from Croatia has been showing this for more than twenty years. Cooperation with other minority communities is important. There is little uniformity, but there is a lot of experience and they can be a source of learning for the future. That is why cooperation with the Danes and Germans is important.”
Danish - German cooperation as a model
Head of the Secretariat of the German Minority in Copenhagen (Denmark) Harro Hallman spoke about the importance of institutions that keep the minority alive, such as numerous kindergartens, schools in German, and newspapers. “We are very well integrated in Danish society, so having a whole range of institutions does not mean singling us out, but only preserving our identity.” What we are trying to do in cooperation with the Danish government is the international recognition of our minority and giving us as a positive example of the life and survival of a minority. However, we must be aware that our model does not have to be a model for others. That’s why we shouldn’t talk about a model, but about a whole range of different ways of achieving minority rights.”
Jens A. Christiansen, the general secretary of the organization representing the Danish minority in Germany, gave an overview of the history of the development of the Danish minority in Germany and its inclusion in FUEN and the struggle for its international recognition. “We have 45 schools in the northern part of Germany, we have 57 kindergartens and a total of about 10,000 young people attend them. Danish libraries are also important to us, then our churches, newspapers, television as well as smaller organizations dealing with culture. All of these are important for sustaining our life in that area. We see ourselves as one of the ways to preserve identity. We are an option, but not a mandatory way to exercise minority rights. We can be an inspiration to others how to achieve greater minority rights. Political talks and improving the political position of minority parties is not enough, we need to make the lives of ordinary people better, we need to open schools, but also jobs, and we have been insisting on this for decades. The Bonn-Copenhagen Declaration is very important for regulating the relations between the two minorities and the majority in the two countries, but also a good basis for future life. Already 15 years after the Second World War, the two minorities started working on how to attract the governments of the two countries to the idea of a better position of the minorities and their survival. That Declaration became the foundation for the future progress of the two minorities. Finally, I would like to point out that dialogue is the most important form of any progress of minorities in our region. In this sense, we meet three to four times a year, but we also try to solve problems with representatives of the majority and through dialogue. I want to say: I don’t want to be a minority. I am already a Dane in Germany. The focus must be on one’s national identity – to be a Dane, not some kind of minority.”
Minorities - institutions, structure, common life
In the second session on the first day of the meeting, the institutions, structure and common life of minorities were discussed. Vello Pettai (Director of the European Center for Minority Issues, Flensburg, Germany), Darko Baštovanović, President of the Commission for Monitoring Violations of Minority Rights in the Republic of Serbia of the Croatian National Council of the Republic of Serbia, Matthäus Weiß (Roma/Sinti Minority in Schleswig) presented their overview of the situation -Holstein), founder of the Landesverband Sinti und Roma Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, Caroline Honervogt (Coordinator of the Minderheiten-Kompetenz-Netzwerk project, Flensburg, Germany), Tomislav Vodička (General Secretary of the Institute for Migration and Nationalities, Zagreb, Croatia), Ivana Blešić ( Head of the Department of Hotel Management, Department of Geography and Hotel Management, University of Novi Sad, Novi Sad, Serbia)
SCIENTIFIC PRESENTATIONS AND DISCUSSIONS
The second day of the meeting is reserved for scientific presentations and discussion on two topics: Dealing with the past – facing the future and Reconstruction after conflict: how do minorities continue after the end of armed conflicts?
Ljubica Đorđević (ECMI), Martin Klatt (ECMI), Saša Milošević (SDSS), Ivana Blešić (University of Novi Sad), Snežana Besermenji (University of Novi Sad), Ana Mrgan (Pozega Polytechnic) presented their views on these topics. , Jasmina Mlađenović (Pozega Polytechnic) Radomir Kukobat (FIPISR).