Vojvodina: Euro-Atlantic Prospects and the Concept of Human Security
In public discourse of the political elite, Vojvodina is nominally being called a bridge to Europe, but the constitutional abrogating of its political subjectivity finally verifies the victory of the traditional, anti-liberal and centralized matrix, which does not see Vojvodina as a European project, but rather as war chest and pillage, a compensation to frustrated ethno-nationalist forces. An ethno-centric concept legitimatized by the new constitution seriously questions the restoration and strengthening Vojvodina’s democratic potentials, and alongside the strong process of ethnification of politics and emphasizing of ethnic exclusiveness in public service, in all likelihood those capacities will keep being undermined. The possibilities for a legitimate and efficient articulation of the interest of Vojvodina’s citizens are narrowed, the identity of Vojvodina is annulled and Vojvodina’s political structures, in communication with the elite of Serbian unfinished state, are left without any real power of decision.
The alternative to parochial-traditionalist matrix in the form of a liberal-democratic, civil engagement is still weak, but there are forces (political options, civil organizations) which promote the need for forming integrative, civil matrix which would confirm the commitment of Vojvodina’s citizens to the set of liberal values. A consensus to accept this legitimate set of values calls for a stabile and clearly defined legal-democratic framework of a formed state, which Serbia is not. Anti-modernization processes, the straining of regional affairs, the halting of negotiations for joining the EU, denying the importance of transitional justice and accepting responsibility, are the dominant processes which are slowing down the transition of Vojvodina as a European region as well as making it difficult to articulate new forms of political culture. New forms of political culture should demonstrate the commitment of citizens to numerous different identities which would negate the exclusiveness of ethnic identities. Vojvodina’s identity has a strong integrative potential that is being systematically disavowed by the political and cultural elite by manipulating the fears of citizens accusing the Vojvodinian identity for separatism and breaking up the organic unity of the Serbian nation. It is being disregarded that the identity absorbing capacity of the individual, of the citizen, is virtually unlimited, that the civic identity presupposes openness, inclusiveness, tolerance but also an ethno-neutral state in which public government means responsibility, transparency and active engagement of all citizens on different levels.
The task of the future reform elite will be to articulate new political strategies, to demonstrate a commitment to a new set of liberal-democratic values, to demonstrate a true understanding of European values and standards, as well as to struggle for constituting and defining a new political-economic context - a context of a secure, free and safe citizen. Therefore the primary task of the new political, economic and cultural elite will be to accept and promote the Euro-Atlantic values, the values of a liberal society. The security of a citizen rests on freedom and the possibility of choice but also on the certainty that the dignity and basic human rights of the individual are being protected. The security of a society and the state is being measured by the security of a citizen. The citizens of Vojvodina, a region that paid a high price for the wars in former Yugoslavia (a ruined economy, a changed demographic structure, an annulled political subjectivity), are subjected to numerous security risks. The basic human and minority rights are being called to question. In order to negate the idea of autonomy and establish Vojvodina as a historically Serbian region, despite its multi-ethnic character, the ethno-nationalists are willing to overturn the important legacy of European political modern – the idea of civic equality. The efforts of Vojvodina as an autonomous province to exercise full executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government are invalidated by the new constitution and the political elite is incapable to articulate a complete and optimal strategy of Vojvodina’s development, which would also determine a new list of basic and ensured values and interests.
The inability to define a basic set of liberal-democratic values makes it difficult to identify their causes and violators, hence the inability to define the forces and means which would substantiate a Vojvodinian concept of integrative security. In a globalizing world it is no longer possible to develop a concept of security in isolation, and bearing in mind that Vojvodina is surrounded by members of the EU and NATO, that security is getting ever less separable, Vojvodina’s autonomy is a precondition of a constructive joint regional elimination of security challenges, risks and threats. Vojvodina is a paradigm of delayed and/or simulated transition, and in that sense of various simulated reform measures, including the reform of the army, police and security services. The legacy of war in these services in Vojvodina, their place and role in the wars of the nineties remains untackled. Dealing with the legacy of the wars of the nineties is one of the preconditions of regional safety since it makes room for public debate about the causes of war, different dimensions of responsibility and for dealing with the past and thus excludes the possibility of another war experience.
Vojvodina – the challenges of the Euro-Atlantic partnership
The assertion of Vojvodinian autonomy is needed for optimal use of its resources and for adequate legal and political establishment in Serbian as well as in a broader regional context. As the most developed Serbian region and the one closest to Europe, its role in modernization, through constitutionally guaranteed jurisdiction, would consist of deciding on issues of crucial interest to the citizens of Vojvodina, and the crucial interest of Vojvodinians is a right and responsibility to independently decide on issues of their own future. The concept of human safety lies on the responsibility of regional institutions for political, economic and social safety of its citizens. The centralization of political, economic and financial power has lead to the undermining of the role of provincial institutions, dissipation of capital, impoverishment and widespread unemployment. In a word, insecurity and fear are pervasive in Vojvodinian political, economic and cultural contexts. The citizens of Vojvodina are not liberated from fear, uncertainty, insecurity, prejudice, apprehension which comes from dealing with new challenges and risks. Moralia minima, satisfying the basic economic needs and economic development, protecting human and minority rights and liberties, the rule of law, strengthening of democracy and the good governance and the protection of environment are all suppressed and degraded. The needs and interests of citizens of Vojvodina can be protected and advanced only in a stabile democratic environment of law and state, with an active participation in the processes of European integration of both Serbia and Vojvodina. Various aspects of cooperation of local communities, cities and subregions within Vojvodina contribute to the affirmation of Vojvodina as a European region. The fact that Vojvodina is surrounded by members of the EU and candidates for EU membership is a convenient opportunity and a chance which should not be missed.
Constricting into the narrow limits of ethnicity in a plural environment such as Vojvodina brings numerous problems. Above all, it contracts inter-ethnic tolerance, narrows down tolerance and benefits radicalization and conflict. Truth be told, there is no climate for substantial ethnic confrontation in Vojvodina but in the situation of massive unemployment, slow economic recovery, suspended Stabilization and Association Agreement negotiation, and limited capacity of Vojvodinian administration, low intensity conflicts should be reckoned with for a long time to come. Those are all indicators of the safety risks that Vojvodina is facing. The character of inter-ethnic relationships in the region depends on the ability of the political society to solve problems. Ignoring the problems which we faced in 2004 has deepened the belief that the government in Belgrade is not a trustworthy partner and that in dealing with problems of that kind Vojvodina should rely on help and support from mother countries and the institutions of the international community. Internationalization has proved to be a useful solution, because it led to a decrease of ethnically motivated incidents, but the ethno-cultural gaps remained wide. The possibility of their further widening is real, and above all it depends on the result of the negotiations on Kosovo’s final status. The negative outcome of the negotiations could again result in a new wave of violence and increased pressure on minorities in Vojvodina, as was the case in March 2004. Depending on the minority group, that pressure would lead either to a decrease in aspirations if the group is small, or to a certain kind of apartheid if the minority group is large. In any case, the competition between different ethnic elite groups on the issue of liberal values could be suspended.
Euro-Atlantic integration opens the possibility and prospect for Vojvodina to join the processes of regional democratization and modernization as a credible and politically relevant subject. In the European security structure, by sharing the common values and interest and as the most European part of Serbia, Vojvodina should promote a concept of a secure and stable region, which focuses on the needs and interests of the liberally oriented citizen. The necessary preconditions of personal safety are stable institutions and decentralization, which transfers the responsibility for the protection and safety of citizens to the institutions of local autonomy, and finally to civilian actors. The reform of all segments of executive, legislative and judicial power, as well as decentralization are a starting point of development and adoption of liberal-democratic standards, which promotes the interest and needs of citizens and local communities through constant dialog of all participants of the political and civilian sectors.
By actively engaging in the EU and in the programs of the PfP (and in NATO in the future), and also through promoting the Euro-Atlantic standards, Vojvodina gets the opportunity to inaugurate the concept of a secure citizen, free of fear and pressure in a community of equal opportunities. The concept of a secure and safe citizen is a concept of minimizing and abating the fear of different risks and threats to which they are directly or indirectly exposed. The threats brought by economic insecurity, exposure to health hazards and risks brought on by ecological disasters, lack of personal safety and exposure to violence from other ethnic groups (ethnic, language, religious and sexual minorities, the poor, the disabled, children), as well as political insecurity which implies the risk of threatening the realization of basic human rights and liberties.
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