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April 24, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 186
Platforms and Projects

Battles For Vojvodina

by Dimitrije Boarov

The key document in the series of documents collected in the "Book on Vojvodina" (170 pages) is the Platform for the contemporary independence of Vojvodina, adopted in September 1994. This club which is presided over by Stanimir Lazic, organized a round table discussion which attracted 50 participants-experts and former politicians who wished to hear "if the Platform was good and how it could be achieved." Editor of the book and one of the main authors of the Platform Slobodan Budakov, explained the long term interests of the Vojvodina Club, with the thesis that "states are formed by force, while autonomous provinces are created in a peaceful manner".

In spite of the underscored peaceful tone, this Platform launches unequivocal and firm claims that the present Constitution of Serbia has retained only the formal concept of Vojvodina as an autonomous province, and that the centralized state doesn't leave it any elements of autonomy, that economic exploitation and political dependency are more expressed than ever before.

The Platform's proclamation clearly states the motives of this political stand. It finally brings together autonomy and the "right to protect one's own economic interests." The thesis is further corroborated with the assessment that "it is possible to see from the historical point of view that exploitation was greater, inasmuch as Vojvodina's autonomy diminished."

The round table debate did not reduce the problem to the simple exploitation of Vojvodina and the question of how to avoid this through autonomy. Ranko Koncar sees the need and opportuneness of autonomy in the fact that it relativizes national radicalism and exclusiveness, because it substitutes links which were mediated only through the nation. He cautions, however, that one should not urge a supranational or non-national model of autonomy, such as it never had, and was therefore, never anti-Serbian. Dusan Janjic, however, criticized the Platform of not specifying a model which would prevent national conflicts and of not drafting solutions to the question of ethnic minorities, and that it didn't comment DZVM demands for the autonomy of Vojvodina Hungarians.

Aleksandar Fira said that autonomy must be part of the state organization and that it was a Constitutional question, because it wasn't the result of local self-management.

A lot more courage was shown by those deputies of the Provincial Assembly rallied round Novi Sad journalist Miodrag Isakov in the Independent deputy group for Vojvodina, when they proposed the forming of a federal autonomy between Vojvodina and Baranja along the principle of dual autonomy. Isakov underscored that Vojvodina and Baranja, the federal units of the autonomous province, would also be the federal units of the mother state, with Vojvodina in Serbia and Baranja in Croatia. Both republics would guarantee the federal autonomy.

Even though this initiative wasn't explained in detail, it is based on historical arguments and other similarities and specific moments. Member of the deputy group Milan Ramjanc said that Baranja had entered the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes as part of Vojvodina (with Backa and Banat) and declared itself on the matter at a referendum. He believes that in this way Vojvodina would finally get back Baranja, and show the whole world how national issues were resolved.

Some historians in Novi Sad believe that it is ludicrous to say that Milovan Djilas and his Partisan demarcation committee lost Baranja for Serbia, but that it was lost by those authorities in Belgrade which never allowed Vojvodina to appear as an independent subject of the Yugoslav federation, not as a state but as an autonomous province. Namely, Croatia was prepared to agree to the wholeness of Vojvodina in spite of the fact that a large number of Croats live in Northern Backa and in Baranja (where Croatian fascist leader Ante Pavelic settled Herzegovinians during WW2) if it didn't enter Serbia, but remained independent. The Serbs allegedly thought it important to get Vojvodina, even if it wasn't whole, and to establish the border with Croatia along some natural obstacle, so they agreed to the Danube.

The initiate launched by Isakov and his group of deputies in the Provincial Assembly was turned down (8 positive votes, 65 negative and 24 abstained), but a general confusion remained. Did the group wish to raise some dust, attract attention or push up its political ratings?

Even though Isakov hinted that his project could include, with some modifications, the Hungarian minority in a "three-degree autonomy", the DZVM does not enjoy the support of Serbs in Vojvodina for their idea that Serbia should give Hungarians some special privileges in exchange for loyalty and the confirmation of the inviolability of the Trianon border with neighboring Hungary. Many believe that DZVM leader Andras Agoston is torn apart because Ferenc Cubel broke away with a large group of activists and founded the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, and this new organization is practically in power in all seven municipalities in Northern Vojvodina, in which he planned to achieve "territorial autonomy" through a special Hungarian district. This is the reason that Agoston is now talking more of personal autonomy (with a two chamber assembly), rather than territorial autonomy, while the opposite is true of Cubel.

At the above mentioned celebration in Becej, republican deputy Pal Sandor was very open with journalists who don't speak Hungarian - he told them that the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were also fighting for the rights of minorities in Serbia. When this quibble is elaborated, we get the explanation for the numerous initiatives over the organization of a future Serbia and a future Yugoslavia, because in Vojvodina all believe that a definite solution is close, and as someone said, no one believes that that which will be agreed in strict confidence between the nationalist leaders will be any good, acceptable or stable.

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