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Dr.Karoly Gruber (Szechenyi Istvan University of Gyor): Autonomy and Regionalism in South-Eastern Europe, the case of Vajdaság/Vojvodina The Glasgow-Győr.

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Presentation on theme: "Dr.Karoly Gruber (Szechenyi Istvan University of Gyor): Autonomy and Regionalism in South-Eastern Europe, the case of Vajdaság/Vojvodina The Glasgow-Győr."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dr.Karoly Gruber (Szechenyi Istvan University of Gyor): Autonomy and Regionalism in South-Eastern Europe, the case of Vajdaság/Vojvodina The Glasgow-Győr summer school Győr, 6 July 2010

2 Historical traditions of regionalism and autonomy in Central and South-Eastern Europe since the 19th century The region has been multinational and multiethnic for centuries in spite of a number of waves of ethnic cleansing and homogenising campaigns. Therefore, it is still simply impossible to draw “ethnically pure” administrative and state borders. In the 19th century, the region was dominated by major imperial powers (Ottomans, Romanovs and the Habsburgs). Small nations defined themselves against these empires and their most important goal was to achieve their “national state”. Roger Brubaker`s famous triangular theory (nationalising state, national minority, external homeland) is a very useful tool to understand the dynamics of nationalism in the region. After the Austrian-Hungarian compromise (1867), there was a number of intellectuals (e.g. M.Hodza, A.Popoviciu, O.Jaszi) who proposed the federal reorganisation of the dual monarchy. Their work was heavily influenced by the Austromarxists (Bauer and Brenner) who suggested to separate political and cultural autonomy. Their work is still very popular. The problem with federalists in the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy was that as soon as they came to power they had forgotten about power-sharing and advocated unitary centralised state and cultural homogenisation.

3 Historical traditions of regionalism and autonomy in Central and South-Eastern Europe since the 19th century After the First World War, all the new nation-states were more or less semi- authoritarian states (Poland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia) which started nationalising campaigns against national and ethnic minorities or were following irredentist campaigns (Hungary, Bulgaria). With the emergence of communist states, the totalitarian regimes swept the issue of national minorities under the carpet. Quite often, nationalism was used as a legitimasing force (national communism). The centralised communist state did not offer any chances for regionalism and autonomy. Yugoslavia, as a result of special multi-ethnic character was an exception. Yugoslavia was a quasi-federal state. Nationalism did contribute largely to the collapse of communism. “Frozen” national conflicts returned to the surface (e.g. Collapse of Yugoslavia). The newly established post-communist states were afraid of their national minorities because their fragile statehood and returned to nationalising campaigns. Examples for power-sharing or regionalism and autonomy were always result of bloody ethnic conflicts (e.g. Dayton and Ohrid). The European Union does not have a direct policy for managing multi-ethnicity, but with a clear emphasis on regional development, cross border cooperation, it has a rather positive indirect impact (more powers and competencies for local and regional authorities). The examples of Western European ethno-nationalist movements (Scotland, Catalonia etc.) has a positive echo for the region. More and more minority parties accept the idea of shared sovereignty and multinational governance.

4 Hungarian minorities in Central and South-East Europe Hungary was to use Brubaker’s terminology a “nationalising state” within the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy at the expense of Slovaks, Serbs and Romanians between 1867 and Hungarian communities in Yugoslavia, Romania and to a lesser extent Czechoslovakia became subjects of nationalising campaigns between 1918 and 1945, but in these semi-authoritarian political systems their organisations, parties and churches enjoyed relative freedom, their civil society was thriving. Between 1945 and 1989, during the totalitarian regimes, minority groups underwent “double suppression”, since quite often, these “national communist” states were running campaigns against minorities (e.g. Ceacescu`s campaign against Germans, Jews and Hungarians) offered a new beginning, Hungarians abroad organised their parties, and they were always a modernising force and chief supporters of EU accession (Slovakia, Serbia and Romania). They always used parliamentary and democratic tools for their political activities and refrained from political violence. 3 million Hungarians live in the neighbouring countries, while 10 million in Hungary. EU accession did not automatically improved inter-ethnic conditions, but indirectly contributed to better relations (Hungarian-Slovak state relations are frosty, but the border-region is booming after the introduction of Schengen system).

5 The positive case for regionalism and autonomy, the case of Vojvodina Different historical legacy. Between 1945 and 1989, Vojvodina was a relatively liberal political system in comparison to other communist states, where minorities could enjoy their minority rights and the generally high standards of living in comparison to other communist states (Tito’s federal constitution of 1974). The collapse of Yugoslavia and the wars afterwards had a very negative impact on the region, but it kept its relative quietness in comparison to other post-Yugoslav regions. Since 1989, the competencies, powers and budget of the Vojvodina regional parliament have been curtailed. With collapse of the Milosevic regime, there were more chances for regaining competencies, but these hopes were not realised during the Kostunica-government. With the victory of pro-European forces, there is a fair chance for a better settlement (local Hungarian party is member of the pro-EU coalition). The current population of Vojvodina is 2.2 million ( ,000 Hungarians concentrated in the northern part of the province). The regional government is a coalition of pro-Western Serbian parties and the Hungarian party. On 14 October, 2008 the Vojvodina Parliament passed legislation on its political statute. It does not really create new rights, but by setting out clearly its competencies and powers, it is a major step forward. It talks about equal national minorities and envisages the establishing the Council for national minorities, which ensures cultural and educational autonomy for minorities. The legislation was/is sharply opposed by nationalist opposition (Kostunica`s national democrats and the Radical Party). Last fall, the Serbian parliament ratified both the law on National councils and the Vojvodina statute.

6 The legislation was sharply opposed by nationalist opposition (Kostunica`s national democrats and the Radical Party). Last fall, the Serbian parliament ratified both the law on National councils and the Vojvodina statute. The first elections for the national councils were held on 6 June. The turnout was highest in the elections for the Hungarian National Council, which have 35 members. This is a path-breaking event because the legitime body of real cultural autonomy was born. This solution is unique in Europe, and must be considered as a very democratic and exemplary solution for a settlement of national minority rights.


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