Serbian province votes for autonomy

9th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

The plan would enable Vojvodina -- a province bordering Hungary with more than 25 ethnic minorities and a Serb majority -- to sign contracts with other regions, but not with states.

Belgrade -- A Serbian province approved a plan Sunday that would give it wide autonomy, sparking sharp criticism from nationalists who claim it could later follow Kosovo and seek independence, local media reported.

More than two-thirds of the MPs in the parliament of Vojvodina province in northern Serbia adopted the government's decentralisation plan.

The plan would enable Vojvodina -- a province bordering Hungary with more than 25 ethnic minorities and a Serb majority -- to sign contracts with other regions, but not with states.

Ethnic Hungarians make up around 14 percent of the two million population in Vojvodina, which has rich agricultural land.

Supporters of the plan, which must still be adopted by the Serbian parliament, said it will give the province decision-making power that will help improve its economic prospects.

But opponents insist the new regulations are separatist in nature and anti-constitutional, allowing Vojvodina to become a state within a state.

Vojvodina's executive council chairman Bojan Pajtic rejected opposition claims that the draft would pave the way for the province to separate from Serbia as Kosovo has done, Tanjug news agency reported.

Kosovo has been recognised by 62 countries since its declaration of independence last year, including the United States and most European Union members. Serbia, backed by Russia, opposes Kosovo's independence.

"Vojvodina will now have more autonomy but still less than other regions in Europe," Pajtic said.

AFP/Expatica

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