The forum in Zagreb pooled representatives of the Croatian minority communities from Montenegro, Serbia (Vojvodina), Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy (Molise), Romania and Macedonia. Unable to attend the event were the representatives of the communities from Bulgaria, Kosovo and Austria. The thirty gathered representatives closed the forum with the adoption of their Conclusions.

A symposium that has been successfully organised at the Croatian Heritage Foundation for over two decades has, for the 22nd time, pooled representatives of the Croatian minority communities from Montenegro, Serbia (Vojvodina), Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy (Molise), Romania and Macedonia. Unable to attend the event, staged on the 4th of November, were the representatives of the communities from Bulgaria, Kosovo and Austria.

Ahead of the gathering the participants and the acting director of the CHF Mirjana Ana-Marija Piskulić were received at the Pantovčak offices of Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović.

The gathered were first welcomed by the new head of the CHF’s department for Croatian minorities Marin Knezović, who moderated the event with CHF governing board member and fellow expert in the field Đuro Vidmarović, a renowned specialist in Croatian minority literature and issues.

Also welcoming the participants of the forum, guests and representatives of the State Office for Croats Abroad were the head of the State Office Zvonko Milas, the president of the CHF governing board Milan Kovač and CHF director Mirjana Ana-Marija Piskulić.

Director Piskulić noted that, “In this globalised time when minority rights and the standards of the Council of Europe’s framework convention on the protection of national minorities and of the European convention on regional and minority languages are being full-throatedly propagated on the Old Continent it will be very interesting to hear at one venue the prominent intellectuals from the ranks of the Croatian minority communities in our European neighbourhood, who will speak at our forum today on the challenges of growing up and being educated in the majority domicile cultures. Well aware of the fact that the status of all Croatian communities, and youth in the countries you live in, are largely dependant on the assistance provided by the homeland of origin, and in particular of the motivation of the domicile milieu to accept and develop the minority community, it’s worth pointing out that all of our countries are members of the Council of Europe. The documents of the Council of Europe oblige us all when it comes to democratic standards, especially with regard to sensitive groups like youth in minority groups. It is our desire that today’s gathering is focused on youth through dialogue and ideas in creating guidelines for a quality relationship towards our descendants in the Croatian minority communities. Following on this I sincerely hope that our discussion today will produce quality proposals and conclusions that will create a good foundation for the best possible work with youth. I welcome you most sincerely and call upon you to apply your considerations and activities to our shared objective.”
Đuro Vidmarović offered a brilliant introduction to the topic of minorities, referencing its linguistic, literary, historical, political and legislative dimensions.

This year the gathering focused its work on Youth in the Croatian Minority Communities: The Present and Perspectives.

Moderator Knezović introduced the next speaker, a new and hopeful face in our minority community in Montenegro, Adrijan Vuksanović.

Participating in the work of the forum were: Mata Matarić of the Vladimir Nazor Culture & Arts Society of Sombor, the principal of Tavankut Elementary School Stanislava Stantić Prčić, Dražen Ilić of the Croatian Culture Centre of Novi Sad, the president of the executive committee of the Croatian National Council in Subotica Darko Sarić Lukendić, the president of the Croatian National Council of Montenegro Zvonimir Deković, president Nenad Živković and vice president Branko Sekovanić of the Croatian Community in Macedonia, Lenka Koprivova of the Sdruženi občanů chorvatské národnosti association in Czechia, Čunovo Croatian Culture Society board member Kristina Maschkanova from Slovakia, the director of HOŠIG in Budapest Ana Gojtan, the principal of Miroslav Krleža Secondary School in Pécs Gabor Győrvári, the president of the Croatian national self-government in Hungary Ivan Gugan, the editor of the Croatian language programme on Hungarian state radio and television Tamas Furi, Petar Antunović and Ivan Botteri of the Croatian Association of Ljubljana, Catholic priest Marko Zadravec of the Croatian Culture Society of Velenje, the president of the Velenje Croatian Culture Society Mijo Dujmović, Đanino Kutnjak representing the Federation of Croatian Associations of Slovenia and Anca Svetlana Facraci from the Croatian community of Caraşova in Romania.

There are indigenous Croatian minority communities living in twelve European countries and, according to the available data, the largest of these communities live in Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Hungary and Austria. Their statuses differ, with international or bilateral agreements governed by the domicile legislation. The protection of minority rights, as we have had an opportunity to hear on many occasions in previous forums, depends on whether a minority is recognised in its domicile country. Some Croatian minority communities have not yet achieved a minority status – we are witness to the disturbing fact that, in the twenty-first century, this status has not yet been granted to the Croatian community in Slovenia and that the community in Italy’s Molise region has been recognised only as a linguistic minority.

It is worth noting that the Croatian Government provides logistical, moral and material support to other minority communities in Croatia to protect them from assimilation and has guaranteed their minority rights, allowing for bilingual schooling and the use of the minority language, the development of minority media and institutions and so forth. The Croatian Heritage Foundation has in various ways worked to secure these rights for the past sixty-five years, as has the State Office for Croats Abroad since 2012.
The forum was also attended by the Ambassador of Montenegro H.E. Boro Vučinić and Davor Trkulja, a minister-counsellor with the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia.

The speakers at the forum included Petar Antunović and Ivan Botteri from Slovenia, Zvonimir Deković from Montenegro, Nenad Živković from Macedonia, Dražen Petrekanić from Serbia, Đanino Kutnjak from Slovenia, Svjetlana Zeković from Montenegro, Dražen Ilić from Serbia, Gabor Győrvári from Hungary, Antonella D’Antuono from Italy, Stanislava Stantić Prćić from Serbia and Ana Gojtan from Hungary.

The forum, encouraged by the presentations of the minority representatives and the constructive discussion, worked to respond to numerous issues, including how youth in the Croatian minority communities could preserve their distinct characteristics while being integrated in the social, economic and cultural system of the majority group, and what role of the media and modern communication technology can play in preserving the minority identity and how youth could be included in the activities of the minority communities to a greater measure.

The thirty gathered representatives of Croatian communities from nine European countries closed the forum with the adoption of their Conclusions.

Text by: Diana Šimurina-Šoufek; Photos by: Snježana Radoš y Tomislav Bušljeta