February 28, 2012
BELGRADE -- President of the Vlach National Council in Serbia Radiša Dragojević says that "nobody has the right to ask Vlachs to declare themselves as Romanians".
The status of one of Serbia's two dozen ethnic minorities - populating eastern districts along the border with Romania - has recently been in the spotlight, ever since Romania moved to block Serbia's bid to become EU candidate.
Dragojević spoke for the media on Tuesday to say that Romania "cannot deliver ultimatums to Serbia" on this issue for two reasons: because Vlachs do not feel disenfranchised in Serbia, and because the country recognizes both Vlach and Romanian ethnic minorities.
He noted that the 2002 census showed that there were some 31,000 ethnic Romanians in Serbia, and about 40,000 Vlachs. Romanians live mostly in Banat, northeastern Serbia, while Vlachs inhabit eastern municipalities.
"Regardless of all similarities, those are two autochthonous national minorities. Romanians consider Romania their motherland. Vlachs consider Serbia their motherland. We have no objections, nor any basis to turn to Romania, nor does Romania have any basis to make any demands on our behalf," stressed Dragojević.
According to him, " a dissatisfied group within the Vlach community believes that their language is Romanian", and they were the ones who "created the problem by turning to the authorities in Romania".
The neighboring country, Dragojević continued, asked for Vlachs to be erased as an option before the last population census - in other words, to bind all members of the Vlach community to declare themselves as either Romanians or "Vlach-Romanians". However, according to him, "Vlachs were not ready to accept that, no matter what".
He also noted that the number of Serbian citizens who declared themselves as Vlachs had significantly increased in last year's census compared to 2002, and now stands at some 64,000 people.
Dragojević noted that the pro-Romanian faction - "attempting to make the Vlach community Romanian" was small - consisting of four out of 23 members of the Vlach National Council.