At the sitting held on 15 March 2021, the members of the Committee on the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region were presented the completed and planned activities of the Office for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region on the realisation of projects of aid and cooperation with Serbs in the region and the diaspora.
At the beginning of the session, Committee Chairman Milimir Vujadinovic pointed out that this is a historic moment, because it is the first time that the Director of the Office for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region attends a Committee sitting. He stated that the Office has not had a director since 2015 and expressed hope that in the coming period, the Committee would establish successful cooperation with the Office for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region and the Fund for Refugees, Displaced Persons and Cooperation with Serbs in the Region.
He added that it is the common goal of the Committee, President of the Republic and the Government of the Republic of Serbia to help Serbs in the region, respecting the constitutional provisions of the countries in which they live.
The completed and planned activities of the Office for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region were presented by the Director of the Office for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region Arnaud Gouillon.
Arnaud Gouillon said that what the Serbs living in Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Albania, Romania, Hungary and Slovenia have in common is the push to preserve the Serbian language, culture and identity. According to Gouillon, Serbs who have been living in these countries for a very long time, contribute to the economic and cultural development of our region. He pointed out that according to statistical data, there are about 1.6 million Serbs in the region and about 16 million people in the world speak Serbian. Gouillon said that that is exactly what the Office for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region is there for, to listen on a daily and institutional level, to hear and help Serbs in the region. The question is why Serbs in the region do not have the status of a national minority when smaller communities in our country have it, why the Cyrillic alphabet is suppressed when Latin is present in Serbia.
Annually, the Office for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region invests over 50 million RSD into associations of Serbs from the region, as well as 50 million RSD into associations of Serbs from the diaspora. On average, the Office finances 250 projects each year. Currently, the most important project the Office is involved with is the simplification of competitions which have so far been done manually. The goal is to digitalise them to facilitate their implementation down to a one-click system said Gouillon. He added that the Office for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region had launched a campaign for the preservation of the Serbian language on the occasion of the International Mother Language Day, February 21.
Dusko Cutilo, Director of the Fund for Refugees, Displaced Persons and for Cooperation with Serbs in the Region, said that the Fund was recently authorised to deal with cooperation with Serbs in the region in addition to dealing with the issues of refugees and displaced persons. He pointed out that the Fund has been dealing with housing and economic empowerment of refugees and displaced persons for 14 years, primarily from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo-Metohija. Public competitions have been called concerning housing and two programs of economic empowerment, said the Director of the Fund. There were also two public calls for the region viz. information in the Serbian language and countries in the region, and a public call for associations from the region. One of the Fund’s most important goals is to improve cooperation in the field of culture and education, with special reference to preservation of the Cyrillic alphabet.
Milimir Vujadinovic said that we should pay attention to the coming census, that Serbs should be encouraged and declare the way they feel. Statistics and the census are one thing, while official citizenship is another. "It is important to encourage our people to submit a request for Serbian citizenship in the consulates, because if they do not have citizenship, the connection with the motherland is lost and with the acquisition of citizenship it becomes permanent and stronger," Vujadinovic underlined. It is important to prevent the creation of new identities in the Balkans at the expense of the collapse of the Serbian identity, concluded the Committee Chairman.
MPs Aleksandar Cotric, Radovan Tvrdisic, Jadranka Jovanovic and Aleksandar Markovic took part in the ensuing discussion. They congratulated Director Gouillon on his appointment and wished him success. They jointly opined that it is very important to put emphasis on the preservation of the Serbian language and culture, and that it is necessary to jointly contribute to the preservation of the status of the Serbian people in the countries in the region.
The sitting was chaired by Committee Chairman Milimir Vujadinovic, and was attended by the following Committee members and deputy members: Sanja Lakic, Aleksandar Cotric, MA Jadranka Jovanovic, Radovan Tvrdisic, MA Slavenko Unkovic, Goran Milic, Mladen Boskovic, Aleksandar Markovic and Haji Milorad Stosic.