The Political Action Conference and Workshop entitled “Promoting Human and Minority Rights in a Presidential Election Year” was held on June 5, 2000 in Letts Hall at the main campus of The American University in Washington, DC. Participants came from Connecticut, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington, DC.
“No one model fits Central Europe or the Balkans” said Ms. Julie Mertus, Professor at the School of International Service of American University, “…other options, including legal systems for minority protection and autonomy must be considered for the region”.
Within the context of the former autonomous province of Vojvodina the participants examined the ways the Hungarian American community can more effectively access decision-makers and influence policy.
The Washington correspondent of the daily Magyar Szo of Novi Sad, Mr. Tibor Purger examined the situation of Vojvodina a year after the NATO air war saying that “while there is no significant support for Vojvodina’s independence, most Belgrade-based democratic Serbian opposition parties play only lip service to the autonomy of the province, and it is only the local Vojvodina parties that advocate a significant level of autonomy for a region almost as large as Maryland, with a population of over 2 million and economically self-sustaining. The Hungarian minority seeks a three-tiered personal, local and cultural autonomy as a guarantee for its survival in a Serb-dominated state.”
Mr. Laszlo Hamos, President of the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation, gave the audience an overview of the situation of the Hungarian minorities in Romania and Slovakia, focusing on the upcoming elections. The lecture included an outstanding audiovisual presentation of the views of key minority leaders from Romania, Slovakia and former Yugoslavia on the current situation of their respective countries.
The final sessions of the Conference included a discussion of the role of human and minority rights in the Democratic Campaign 2000, which was presented by Mr. Tom Albert of the Democratic National Committee and a session to explore practical ways to communicate more effectively with the Hungarian American community to advance our common goals.