COMPENDIUM CULTURAL POLICIES AND TRENDS IN EUROPE
Print this Page
EN DE FR  ||  About Us | Contact | Legal Notice Council of Europe LOGO  ERICarts LOGO
Print this Page
EN DE FR  Council of Europe LOGO  ERICarts LOGO

Serbia/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies

There are more than 20 registered national and ethnic communities in Serbia, of which 12 are large enough to be considered relevant. Some of these groups are territorially concentrated in certain areas, such as the Hungarians living in Vojvodina and the Bosnians living in Sandzak. Other groups are more dispersed throughout the country such as the Roma, Haskalis / Egyptians, Tsintsars or Slovenes.

Table 2:    Ethnic structure of population in Serbia, 2011, 2002

 

Total (2011)

Total (2002)

Total

%

Total

%

TOTAL

7 186 862

100.0

7 498 001

100.00

Serbs

5 988 150

83.32

6 212 838

82.86

Montenegrins

38 527

0.54

69 049

0.92

Yugoslavs

23 303

0.32

80 721

1.08

Albanians

5 809

0.08

61 647

0.82

Bosniaks

145 278

2.02

136 087

1.82

Bulgarians

18 543

0.26

20 497

0.27

Bunjevtsi
(Catholic Croat minority)

16 706

 

0.23

20 012

0.27

Vlachs

35 330

0.49

40 054

0.53

Gorani
(muslim Slavic population)

7 767

 

0.11

4 581

0.06

Hungarians

253 899

3.53

293 299

3.91

Macedonians

22 755

0.32

25 847

0.35

Muslims

22 301

0.31

19 503

0.26

Germans

4 064

0.06

3 901

0.05

Roma

147 604

2.05

108 193

1.44

Romanians

29 332

0.41

34 576

0.46

Russians

3 247

0.05

2 588

0.03

Ruthenians

14 246

0.20

15 905

0.21

Slovaks

52 750

0.73

59 021

0.79

Slovenians

4 033

0.06

5 104

0.07

Ukrainians

4 903

0.07

5 354

0.07

Croats

57 900

0.81

70 602

0.94

Regional affiliation

30 771

0.43

 

 

Other

17 558

0.24

112 156

2.05

Unknown

81 740

1.14

 

 

Undeclared

160 346

2.23

 

 

Other/unknown/undeclared

 

 

208 622

2.78

Source:    Office for Statistics, the Republic of Serbia, 2011.

Following the democratic changes in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), a new Federal Ministry for National and Ethnic Communities was established. It was responsible for developing the general policy guidelines for ethnic communities, including those related to culture. On 11 May 2001, the FRY signed the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities. In 2002, a new federal Law on the Protection of the Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities was approved and, in April 2002, a new cultural centre for ethnic communities was created. The Law on the Protection of the Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities regulates the ways in which the rights of people belonging to ethnic minorities are implemented.

The law represents an additional resource to the constitutional law, which stipulates the rights of preservation, development and expression of ethnic, linguistic or other rights relevant to ethnic minorities (Article 11 of the Constitution) such as:

  • the right of national affiliation;
  • the right to co-operate with co-nationals in the country and abroad;
  • the right to use one's native language;
  • the right to use national symbols; and
  • all the other rights and solutions which protect the specificity of national minorities in the areas of special interest to them.

Unique features of this law are provisions aimed at the effective participation of ethnic minorities in decision-making on issues of relevance in government and in administrative matters. National councils representing ethnic minorities are partners and consultative bodies of the government, and their members participate in decision-making on questions of importance to them.

Questions on the rights of ethnic communities have been discussed in cultural policy debates over the past 50 years, with different effects and results. During the 1960s, a network of key cultural institutions for ethnic communities was created (but, excluding the Roma and Vlachs communities).

From 2001 to 2005, the federal government signed 51 Conventions on Minorities. However, in spite of the good will and intentions, ethnically based conflicts persist, especially after sports events and certain political decisions. 

The Ministry of Culture supports a number of cultural projects and programmes by ethnic communities from all over Serbia, but all these programmes are created and facilitated by the National councils representing ethnic minorities. There are also two long-term actions supported by the Ministry: reconstruction of the Cultural House in Ruski Krstur (house for Ruthenian cultural activities and programmes) and building the International ethno centre Babka in Kovacica (a centre for presenting Slovakian traditional and naive art).

The reality of the situation in this domain is demonstrated by a fact published on the Ministry of Culture website as a response to a question from Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (Informator, page 9): within the employees of the Ministry, there are no members of minority groups, no persons with special needs, in spite of the Law which demands equal employment.

Municipalities and the province of Vojvodina have developed their own special programmes for ethnic communities within their territories. The examples include:

  • the Secretariat for Culture launched the project "Awareness and Understanding of Human Rights – Perception and Attitudes Towards the Right of Cultural Autonomy of Ethnic Minorities in the Region". The idea behind the project was to gain insight into people's attitudes towards ethnic minorities in the context of the permanent conflicts between ethnic groups and to find the most efficient way to implement tolerance and reconciliation programmes.

In 2003, the Ministry of Culture and the Media joined the Council of Europe project on cultural diversity. The most important achievements in this area are, however, efforts made by NGOs and some cultural institutions. Special focus has been placed on the Roma people due to almost complete neglect in former times. 

In 2005, the Ministry of Culture joined the action programme on the Decade of Roma, but it can be said that the Ministry really started working on this programme in 2008, and later, in the year of the Serbian presidency, when it launched a programme consisting of a series of activities, measures and projects. The objective of the project is to enhance the cultural and informational capacities of the Roma community, and also to introduce training for Roma community representatives in a number of towns across Serbia. The state is showing positive steps by investing in social care and preschool education for Roma children (which was a precondition of the European banks to fund the reconstruction of the "Gazela" bridge in Belgrade, under which hundreds of Roma people lived in temporary homes).

In spite of this important step forward, it must be said that more is being done for the Roma people by artists and activists from the civil sector. This was the case when the City of Belgrade authorities organised a fence around the Roma people living around Beleville (a sports village for the Belgrade Universiade 2009), to hide them away from the participants of this large sporting event, and dismantled some of their camps; artists and civil rights activists were there as a corrective factor, supporting the Roma people and campaigning for them to be treated equally to all other citizens. The Roma Museum was opened in October 2009 in Belgrade, as an initiative of the Roma Community Centre, which has a small space of 70 m2. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE9_PsH2Nx4)

Having acquired autonomy in decision-making, National Councils representing different minorities provide the largest proportion of funds for culture, festivities and events. There is no coherent cultural policy, nor instruments to foster links between the cultures of the minorities and the culture of the majority. Nevertheless, the festivals of ethnic cultures are supported by the Ministry of Culture, as well as the Provincial Secretariat for Education and Culture of Vojvodina (as events with high levels of visibility). One example of this type of activity is the holding of regular festivals of amateur theatre companies by the Ethnic Slovaks. The "Winter Meetings of Slovak Scientists" are devoted to the fostering and promotion of Slovak literature, while the festival "Na Jarmoku" celebrates Slovak arts and crafts.

Ethnic Romanians in Vojvodina hold literary meetings "Doctor Radu Flora", festivals of song and dance companies as well as the encounters of the amateur theatres of the ethnic Romanians of Vojvodina.

The Czech Cultural Society "Czech Beseda" traditionally organises the "Days of the Fancy Dress Ball or Masopust" in Bela Crkva.

Hungarian, Slovak and Roma ethnic communities living in Vojvodina have a tradition of holding cultural days. A good example of multi-cultural co-existence is "Duzjanica", a multi-ethnic event of Croats, Bunjevtsi (Backa Croats) and Sokci (Uniates of the region).

In 2014, the BITEF Polyphony programme celebrated 15 years of existence, presenting the work of a number of groups working with theatre in education, with disabled people, and prisoners.

Consequently, a policy of inclusion is increasingly on the agenda of different ministries and other public authorities.


Chapter published: 17-08-2015

Your Comments on this Chapter?