David Hudson on Tue, 13 Apr 1999 12:04:44 +0100


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Re: Syndicate: UPDATE 13.04., 10.30 - syn-bud 23-25 april


Thought I'd pass this along in light of the budding plans for syn-bud.

Key sentence, I think: "The situation in Vojvodina is not nearly a crisis
-- nowhere near the situation in Kosovo -- but the two are not unrelated."

--

Date: Mon, 12 Apr 1999 21:29:18 -0500 (CDT)
From: alert@stratfor.com
To: alert@stratfor.com
Subject: Hungary/Yugoslavia

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STRATFOR's
Global Intelligence Update
April 13, 1999

Ethnic Tensions Rising in Vojvodina

Summary:

The Hungarian media has been filled with stories of increasing
tension between ethnic Hungarians and the Serbian population in
the Serbian autonomous province of Vojvodina.  Should the debate
over ethnic division of southern Serbia spill over into the
north, reviving an issue suppressed in the interest of Hungary's
entry into NATO, it could spell trouble for Central European
relations for years to come.

Analysis:

Hungarian radio, on April 11, reported that ethnic Hungarians
living in the Vojvodina autonomous province of Serbia are
becoming increasingly wary of an influx of armed Serbian refugees
fleeing NATO attacks in Kosovo and the rest of Yugoslavia.  The
radio report went on to say that these refugees were organizing
themselves in some villages, stepping up their verbal attacks
toward ethnic Hungarians, and allegedly seizing and then dividing
up the Hungarian houses among themselves.  Jozsef Kasza, chairman
of the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians (SVM), expressed his
concern over these developments, though he attempted to downplay
the situation, saying, "This danger is not so explicit at the
moment as to allow an atmosphere of panic to prevail in
Vojvodina."  Still, reports of ethnic Hungarians being drafted
into the Serbian army have further increased tension in the
province, and Budapest has begun to express its concern about the
plight of Yugoslavia's ethnic Hungarians.

The situation in Vojvodina is not nearly a crisis -- nowhere near
the situation in Kosovo -- but the two are not unrelated.  As
NATO searches for a resolution of the Kosovo crisis, two ideas
are emerging -- the possible partition of the province along
ethnic lines and the possible use of ground troops to force a
settlement.  Both options threaten unsettling repercussions for
Vojvodina and Hungary.

First, there is the long term issue of discontiguous ethnic and
national boundaries in Europe.  Yugoslavia's constituent
republics were wracked with civil wars when they attempted to
declare independence, as enclaves of ethnic Serbs attempted to
redraw the Balkan map such that Serbia's national boundaries
matched the region's ethnic distribution.  NATO attempted to
block this process in Croatia and Bosnia, condemning it as
"ethnic cleansing" and declaring existing boundaries inviolable,
though it appears to be supporting ethnic Albanian self
determination in Kosovo.

For new NATO member Hungary, this issue hits close to home.
Major enclaves of ethnic Hungarians were left behind the newly
defined borders of neighboring Slovakia, Romania, and Serbia
following World War I.  Hungary's desire for return of those
populations and regions was suppressed under the mantle of
socialist unity during the Cold War.  And it was again forced to
abandon its claim to be protector of the rights of Hungarian
minorities in neighboring states in order to win entry into NATO.
NATO had no interest in inheriting the border disputes of new
members.

But now NATO is fighting for an enclave of a mistreated ethnic
minority in Serbia.  It has toyed with the possibility of
matching national borders to ethnic distributions.  And suddenly
the Serbs are getting belligerent toward the Vojvodina
Hungarians.  Should the situation deteriorate in Vojvodina,
Hungary will be certain to seek a quick remedy.  And if
Vojvodina, why not reopen the question of the Hungarian
minorities of Slovakia and Romania.  Kosovo is rejuvenating a
long-term seething diplomatic problem that NATO had tried to get
Hungary to lay aside.

If the crisis in Kosovo soon ends in a diplomatic resolution,
then the Vojvodina issue may just revert to being a long-term
low-grade diplomatic irritant.  But if NATO's bombing and the
UN's diplomacy does not soon cow Milosevic, then NATO will begin
to seriously consider a ground attack.  That is not to say that
NATO will carry through with such an attack, but it must keep its
options open.  One option for a ground attack is to strike from
the north -- from Hungary, through Vojvodina, to threaten
Belgrade.  This route has an advantage over a thrust into Kosovo
as the Vojvodina terrain is open and flat, though marshy, and a
threat to Belgrade is a great deal more persuasive than a threat
to Prizren.

However, if Hungary begins to make an issue of the plight of the
Vojvodina Hungarians, neighboring Romania and Slovakia will balk
at what appears to be a NATO slicing off a chunk of Serbia for
the Hungarians like it appears to be doing for the Albanians. In
addition, Slovakia, which will have to agree to allow NATO troops
to pass through to Hungary in the event of a full-scale invasion
of Serbia, does not want to see any rectification in Hungary's
borders. This is not a Hungarian desire either Romania or
Slovakia will want to see satisfied.  Now no one is saying that
NATO will attack Serbia on the ground at all, let alone through
Vojvodina, but the diplomatic struggle with Belgrade depends on
NATO appearing to have credible options.  As NATO does not want
to fuel the territorial aspirations of its new member, nor to
alienate Romania and Slovakia, this option may be closing off.

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