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news 24 Oct 13

Romania and Serbia Cross Swords Over Vlach Symbol

The Romanian Foreign Ministry has urged Serbia to respect the rights of the Romanian minority following a disagreement over a cross erected in eastern Serbia.

BIRN
Belgrade

Romania's Foreign Ministry has called on Serbia to respect the rights of the Vlach minority, warning that it is hindering good neighbourly relations.

“A Romanian delegation will travel to Serbia to assess the situation as its attitude towards minorities is unacceptable in a European country," Mircea Dolha, Vice President of the Commission for the Romanian diaspora, said on Wednesday.

This comes after Serbian authorities launched an investigation this week into a cross that Vlachs, who are close to Romanians, erected in the Timocka Krajina area of eastern Serbia.

The Vlach minority in the area reportedly did not ask for permission to put up the cross, which the local authorities say is obligatory.

According to Dolha, Romania is planning to expand its constitution to include new provisions concerning the Romanian diaspora, Vlachs included.

This is not the first time that Bucharest has complained about the treatment of Vlachs in Serbia.

During the European Affairs Ministers meeting on February 28, 2012, Romania tried to veto Serbia's EU candidacy, saying Serbia must do more to protect the rights of its Vlachs.

Serbia obtained candidate status in March that year, however, and is hoping to start accession talks next January.

The issue of Vlach minorities in the Balkans is important in Romania. Many Vlachs speak a Romance language and Bucharest considers them ethnic Romanians.

However, the Vlach community is in fact divided in Serbia, between some who consider themselves Serbian and others who declare themselves Romanians.

The two groups are divided mainly on the questions of their origin and language.

Most Vlachs in Serbia live in eastern Serbia, while a separate ethnic Romanian minority is concentrated in the north, in the province of Vojvodina. According to the 2011 census, about 35,000 Vlachs and about 29,000 Romanians live in the country.
 

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