Washington, DC – Representatives of the Hungarian American Coalition (HAC) and the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation (HHRF) made a fact-finding trip last Wednesday to the Serbian province of Voivodina, due to continuing acts of violence against Hungarian and other minorities there.
Zsolt Szekeres, President of HAC, Tamás Papp, Manager of HHRF’s Budapest office, andZsuzsa Ronyecz, an HHRF intern from Voivodina met with representatives of Voivodina’s Hungarian community as well as members of the Voivodina government and local civic groups. The meetings, which took place in three cities, provided first-hand accounts of the background and details of the recent and growing wave of violence against Hungarians. At the meetings, leaders of the Voivodina community also put forth suggestions for obtaining legal redress for the incidents and for effective prevention.
In Subotica (Szabadka), the group met with László Józsa, President of the Hungarian National Council (Magyar Nemzeti Tanács – MNT). They discussed the MNT’s activities on behalf of Hungarian interests in Voivodina. Another meeting in Subotica, with Catholic bishop János Pénzes, centered on the Church’s role in propounding peaceful coexistence among nationalities, and on developments in the restitution of Church properties confiscated under Communist rule. Károly Dudás, president of the Voivodina Hungarian Cultural Association (Vajdasági Magyar Művelődési Szövetség – VMMSZ) and Valéria Szenes, director of Concordia Minoritates Hungaricae (CMH), reported on the implementation of Voivodina’s language law.Tamás Korhecz, Provincial Secretary for Minority Affairs, gave an account of his mid-July meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and of his talks with police chiefs following the anti-Hungarian attacks.
In Novi Sad (Újvidék), the second stop of the fact-finding mission, the group met with Nenad Canak, president of the Parliament of Voivodina. Discussions centered on the political background to the anti-minority incidents and the future of the autonomy issue in light of the upcoming local elections. Mr. Canak voiced his concern that if international forums become focused on the anti-minority incidents, the question of autonomy for Voivodina will receive even less attention than before. Péter Kókai, editor of the Magyar Szó (Voivodina’s Hungarian-language newspaper), reported on the media’s fact-finding role.
In Temerin, the delegation met with Béla Csorba, vice president of the Hungarian Democratic Party of Voivodina, who discussed recent anti-Hungarian incidents in Temerin and the background of conflicts in the region.
At all the meetings, HHRF stressed the importance of accurate and credible reporting of the anti-minority incidents in Voivodina to the international public. Both HAC and HHRF discussed next steps in implementing and supporting programs aimed at peaceful coexistence and legal assistance.