News 29 Jan 13

Tensions Rise over Status of Serbian Province

Strongly conflicting arguments continue over the future of Serbia's northern province of Vojvodina, with some demanding more autonomy, and some less, or none at all.

Bojana Barlovac
BIRN
Belgrade
Photo by Beta

A poster war on the theme of the status of the Serbian province of Vojvodina has been launched in the city of Novi Sad.

The Vojvodina Party, which backs the province's independence, put up blue-green posters, reading "Republic of Vojvodina - for a Free Vojvodina", across Novi Sad on Monday.

The posters were put up over those reading "Novi Sad - capital of Serbia", previously put up by the Treca Srbija party, which wants to see Vojvodina's autonomy abolished.

Tensions over the future of the province, which was part of Austria-Hungary before World War 1 and is more multi-ethnic than Serbia proper, rose in July, after a Constitutional Court ruling curbed Vojvodina's powers.

The Constitutional Court disputed around 20 provisions of the law of the jurisdictions of Vojvodina, including those naming Novi Sad as capital of the province, and entitling Vojvodina to open its own representative office in Brussels.

The law on Vojvodina was implemented on January 1, 2010. The provincial assembly previously proclaimed its own statute on December 14, 2009.

Earlier in January, the conservative Serbian Progressive Party, which overthrew the more centrist Democratic Party in Novi Sad three months after the May 2011 elections, started introducing names of streets and institutions in Serbian Cyrillic letters alone.

Both the Cyrillic and Latin scripts are officially recognized in Serbia, but the use of Latin letters is especially important in Vojvodina for its 250,000 or so ethnic Hungarians as well as for other, smaller minorities.   

On Monday, the Vojvodina Party said it would never allow the abolition of the autonomy of the province, which effectively occurred in the late 1980s under the regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

"We will fight for our rights and identity with all possible democratic means, because it is the duty of our generation," the party said.

The statement also called for the adoption of a new constitution, which would define Vojvodina as a republic within a federal Serbia.

Meanwhile, Cedomir Antic, historian and leader of the Serbian Progressive club, urged parliamentarians to form a group to abolish the autonomous province of Vojvodina altogether. 

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