Serbia’s candidate status delay: Romania, the Vlachs of Serbia and the EU

After everybody expected a smooth confirmation of Serbia’s EU candidate status today, following the agreement between Belgrade and Prishtina last week and the support for status by Germany that had earlier blocked Serbia’s bid, the decision seems to have hit an unexpdected snag. Romania has blocked a final decision over the treatment of the Vlach minority in Serbia. This blockage is both surprising and worrying, even if it ended after just a few hours:

Romania had not indicated earlier any intention to block the EU candidate status for Serbia. It appears to have been a surprise by many observers . Such last minute efforts to push ones own agenda on such an important issue is clearly worse than a little sneaky. It undermines the already weak credibility in the region and leave the impression that accession countries can fulfill conditions, but member states will come up with their own ecclectic agenda. As a result, legitimate conditions are tainted by such requests. There is a further problem with Romania’s blockage: While the status of Vlachs leaves much to be desired, the treatment of the community certainly does not merit such an intervention. The most recent report of the Advistory Committee for the Framework Convention notes a number of problems, but nothing either that substantial or specific for the community that would merit such a drastic kin state intervention (if Romania is a kin state at all, a role not accepted by all Vlachs in Serbia).

Delaying Serbia’s candidate status is also likely to doubly hurt the Vlach, Romanian and other minorities in Serbia. The use of the kin state to block (even if it will turn out for a few hours) progress towards the EU over minority rights is only going to have a negative impact on minority rights. Of course, the EU accession process is a key tool to improve minority rights, but not like this: Giving Serbia candidate status and beginning negotiations is much more likely to improve the status of minorities than letting Serbia wait. As with other aspects of the accession process, the actual negotiations are the most effective tool to secure change rather than punishing a country. As a result, the Vlack minority will be more likely to benefit from the candidate status for Serbia as soon as possible rather than from Romania’s intervention at this point. Of course, once negotiations start, the minority rights agenda will be driven by the Commission, not by member states. This means that kin states like Romania now might be less interested in genuine minority rights and rather in flexing their smallish muscle and present themselves as the protector of national interests. Considering the large number of cross border minorities and kin states in the region, the Romanian delaying tactic is a worrying signal for the EU enlargement process and unfortunately unlikely to do much good for minority rights.



10 Responses to Serbia’s candidate status delay: Romania, the Vlachs of Serbia and the EU

  1. Vunastas says:

    I am somehow not surprised and expect at least a few more occurrences like this in the future (BG vs RS, GR vs AL, BG vs MK, CRO vs RS, RO vs MD etc). The best case scenario is that we just witness ridiculous arguments on (non-existent) minority issues, as well as history and historical rights in the EP made by nationalist MEPs, however, it only takes a populist leadership and we can see each of the potential dispute escalating into a new “name dispute.”

    • Zoran says:

      Completely agree, this ethno group has been a part of Serbia population for centuries, but asking for something that in any country does not exist. Ridiculous! There is a Romanian national minority and sometimes their right are more protected than mine as a Serb. For me Vlahs are Romanians with every human rights possible.

      • From a romanian says:

        You must be missinformed, the rights that vlahs want is to be able to have their own churches, schools in romanian language, just like serbians have in Romania in serbian language.
        But they were not granted such rights, instead the vlah leaders in Serbia got attacked by gunmen at their homes. If you dont know this, please inform yourself.
        Just like Calin said down he has a point.

      • Zoran says:

        But they have all that you mention domnule, i for example was learning Romanian as second language in my school, my folks are from Romanian village in Banat. Kinder-garden, primary, highs school… on Romanian language so.. there is no way to say that they don’t have rights.
        And what happen with Romanian saying
        “we have two real friends Black Sea and Serbia”?????

        Neroc si larevedere

  2. Calin Klaus says:

    I have a question for you: why when hungarians ask for rights, and they say their rights are not respected , and telling LIES (despite the fact that In Romania they have schools, universities, radio’s Tv in their language, and their names are NOT romanianised,, like hungarians made with romanians from Hungary: hungariazing their names) they are believed by Western countries, and when romanians are asking for rights , and they speak the truth because they don’t have schools, tv’s , radio’s , churches in romanian language in Timoc region, and their name are serbized, they are not listened?
    Also hungarians in Romania , where they are majority in a small region (centre of Romania) they refuse to learn and speak in romanian language.
    They also can speak in justice courts in their language, in administration, where they are at least 20 % of population.
    So, where are the equal rights , or the equal measures of minorities rights?
    ROMANIA give minorities all the rights in the world, but romanians (vlach is the old name of romanians) are not receiving the same rights in Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria (zero rights), Greece,etc
    And other thing: Serbia forced the romanians from Timoc, to declare themselves vlachs not romanians, to create a confusion in Western countries about his PROBLEM which is the lack of rights “offered” to romanians.
    I wait for an response from you.

    • Zoran says:

      I just can not agree with you, i wrote in previous reply they have all that you mentioned. Vlach don’t like to call them Romanians, if you ask a Romanian from my folks village if a Vlach i a Romanian he/she will say NO.

      And again, schools tv shows, festivals etc in Serbia on Romanian language exist. My godparents are Romanians, ask them if they fear for they rights. Am not an nationalist but we are tolerant more than needed.


    Well Serbs and Vlakhs(who were originally Romanian) are so intermixed in centuries that
    you can say that nearly all Serbs have also Vlakh heritage!

    Not only in Serbia but also in Bosnia and Croatia!

    From the Bosnian Muslim side the term “Vlakh” is even used pejorative for all Serbs!

    Then you have especially in the Timoc area a lot of Romanian speaking Gypsies who call themselves “Vlakh” or “Karavlakh” although they are definitely not Romanians!

    So where to begin when counting the Vlakhs in Serbia?
    Oficially there live 40 thousand of them in Serbia.

    There are possibly one hundred thousand people who speak or understand Romanian.
    Then exclude the Romanian speaking Gypsies.

    Then you get so 70 thousand Vlakhs who speak Romanian.
    Then you have probably the same number of Vlakhs who do no more
    speak or understand Romanian!

    If you will count all the Serbs who are of Vlakh/Romanian ancestry then you will easily get the number of 2-3 million people in Serbia alone ,
    not to forget one million of Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia!

  4. Ovidiu says:

    Serbia is playing a silly word game. The Vlachs are Romanians ( “Vlach” is an exonym, like “German” instead of the endonym “Deutsch”).

    They speak the Romanian language and they call themselves “Rumanians”. They are living along the border with Romania (Timoc Valley).

    Serbia is behaving very badly. The Romanians of Timoc do not have even elementary schooling in their native language and they are not allowed by Belgrade to have their own churches with Romanian as the language (a small one was raised by them few years ago in a village and the Serbs threatened to demolish it !) .

    What respect ?

    Serbia is on her way to blow up her historical good relation with Romania and the Romanians.
    Everybody here in Romania knows what’s going on in the Timoc Valley ( I live in Banat, close to that region) and the silly valch/romanian game that they have been playing.
    We had enough patience (the talks with Serbs have been going on for years on this issue) and expected that our “friends” the Serbs would solve the issue.

  5. robert from Romania says:

    This is only because of basescu our president we all hate him and protest against him. We have nothing with Serbia we allways respected Serbia.

  6. Maik says:

    I linked you. Good article

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