At a scientific colloquium entitled "Croats as a minority in neighbouring countries: History, status, challenges," held on Wednesday in Vukovar, it was said that the status of the Croatian community in neighbouring countries ranged from satisfactory in Hungary to extremely unsatisfactory in Serbia.

"When talking about the status of the Croatian community in neighbouring countries, it varies. We wish to see the level of rights Croats enjoy in neighbouring countries and what we can do to improve their status," said Drazen Zivic, the head of the Vukovar branch of the Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences.

Tomislav Zigmanov of the Cultural Institute of Croats in Vojvodina said that the status of Croats in Vojvodina and elsewhere in Serbia is not satisfactory even though at the last election the Croatian community managed to win a seat in the state parliament after two years and managed to retain its delegate in the provincial parliament.

"Our demands are geared toward solutions like those that exist in Croatia, that is, that as a minority we have guaranteed seats at all levels of government. That was signed in bilateral agreements between Serbia and Croatia on the protection of minorities and we will see during the process of Serbia's accession to the European Union whether Serbia will implement what it has signed," he said.

"We believe that now that elections were held in Serbia in the spring and recently in Croatia, satisfactory communication will be re-established between the two countries and that the messages exchanged will be far more different to those during election campaigning," Zigmanov said.

He noted that attacks on Croats were continuing in Serbia but that they were not the rule. "We are still not satisfied with the way the judiciary is acting or those conducting investigations because these crimes are still classified without any indication of ethnic motivation, which is what we suspect is the case. We want the political and social climate in Serbian society to be more inclined toward Croats," he underscored.

He said that today there are 57,900 Croats in Serbia, whereas in 1991 there were more than 120,000. "In 1991 there were more than 81,000 Croats in Vojvodina and today there are 47,033. In 1961, for example, there were 157,000, and they are continuing to migrate, mostly for economic reasons these days. The number of Croats that have migrated because of threats or pressure is between 35,000 and 40,000 and none of them have returned because there has not been any programme to create conditions for a future for Croats," he said.

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