The proclamation is designed to promote mutual respect, officials said.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 07/02/13
Macedonian is added to the official languages in the Plandiste municipality, Serbia. [Nada Bozic/SETimes]
A gesture of political goodwill by Serbia's Plandiste municipality, proclaiming the Macedonian language official in the jurisdiction, has been lauded by citizens and officials.
"[It is] the first time the Macedonian language [has been] proclaimed official anywhere outside the Republic of Macedonia," Dusan Janevski, president of the Democratic Party of Macedonians' section in Kacarevo, Serbia, told SETimes.
"This development boosts the friendly relations between Macedonia and Serbia, and is especially significant in light of a couple of other countries' attempts to negate the Macedonian ethnicity and language," Janevski said.
Serbian law stipulates a national minority's language may become official if the minority group constitutes 15 percent of the population in a municipality.
In Plandiste, located in Serbia's Vojvodina province, Macedonians constitute 11 percent of the population.
"[I]t is not forbidden to declare a language official if the percentage is smaller. We did not want to wait. The Macedonian community here is significant and it is important to show them respect," Rade Klasnja, president of the Plandiste municipal assembly, told SETimes.
The gesture is an example of how Serbia cares for its citizens no matter their nationality or religion, according to Milan Salakovic, president of the Plandiste municipality.
"Why should not the Macedonians have their language recognised and equal like all the others, especially because they are loyal citizens of this country," Salakovic said.
Various minority languages -- Hungarian, Slovakian, Romanian, Croatian, Ruthenian, Czech, Bulgarian and Montenegrin -- are official in many municipalities in Serbia.
Representatives of the Macedonian national council in Serbia said relations with Vojvodina's regional government and institutions are excellent.
"This decision is also a clear signal for local government in Pancevo, Vrsac and other places where Macedonians live, to heed the positive example of Plandiste," Borce Velickovski, president of the national council of the Macedonian minority in Serbia, told SETimes.
According to the 2011 census, 22,300 citizens in Serbia are Macedonians.
Velichkovski said the Macedonians in Serbia derive their rights -- and responsibilities -- from many laws, but especially from the Law on National Councils.
"This law stipulates a minority national council in the municipalities where their language is in official use can participate in placing directors or board members in schools, cultural and other institutions as well as delegate one council member," Velickovski said.
Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Macedonia have signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages that was adopted by the Council of Europe in 1992. The charter ensures state support for regional minority languages to be spoken in private and public life.
Macedonia has granted official status to Albanian, Turkish, Roma, Vlach, Serbian and Bosnian in municipalities where minorities constitute 20 percent of the population.