on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 30 March 2011
at the 1110th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Articles 24 to 26 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (hereinafter referred to as “the Framework Convention”);
Having regard to Resolution Res(97)10 of 17 September 1997 setting out rules adopted by the Committee of Ministers on the monitoring arrangements under Articles 24 to 26 of the Framework Convention;
Having regard to the voting rule adopted in the context of adopting Resolution Res(97)10;1
Having regard to the instrument of ratification submitted by Serbia on 11 May 2001;
Recalling that the Government of Serbia transmitted its state report in respect of the second monitoring cycle under the Framework Convention on 4 March 2008;
Having examined the Advisory Committee’s second opinion on Serbia adopted on 19 March 2009, and the written comments of the Government of Serbia received on 26 October 2009;
Having also taken note of comments by other governments,
1. Adopts the following conclusions in respect of Serbia:
a) Positive developments
The Serbian legislative framework contains commendable guarantees regarding the protection of national minorities. This includes a detailed chapter on minority protection in the 2006 Constitution.
Serbia adopted the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination on 26 March 2009 and the Law on National Councils of National Minorities on 31 August 2009. A new Criminal Code was adopted with some important provisions as regards the prohibition of discrimination. The state level Ombudsman has started his work and is to launch promising initiatives in the field of monitoring national minority protection in all regions of Serbia.
Increased possibilities for persons belonging to national minorities to learn their language have been made available, in particular in the Province of Vojvodina.
Valuable initiatives have been taken by the authorities of the Province of Vojvodina to increase inter-ethnic dialogue.
Measures have been taken to increase signposting in minority languages, although some practical difficulties remain.
Positive steps have been taken to address the problems faced by Roma in their access to education, health, housing and employment.
Serbian public media includes a large and diverse programming in minority languages.
There have been welcome measures to increase participation of persons belonging to national minorities in decision making. The national minority councils which have been established so far have already contributed positively to addressing national minorities’ needs, notably in the field of education and culture.
b) Issues of concern
Notwithstanding the overall progress, there still remains scope for improvement and further progress towards full implementation of the relevant norms and values in practice.
In its Resolution 1632 (2008), adopted on 1 October 2008 based on its special report on the “Situation of national minorities in Vojvodina and of the Romanian ethnic minority in Serbia”, the Parliamentary Assembly identified a list of concrete issues to be addressed in regard of the situation of national minorities in Serbia.
Some shortcomings and difficulties have been reported with regard to the participation of persons belonging to national minorities in the process of election of the National Councils of National Minorities.
Measures to increase intercultural dialogue have been largely limited to the Province of Vojvodina. A more active role of the central authorities in promoting mutual understanding throughout Serbia is needed.
While there are several positive experiences in some municipalities, engagement of local authorities in national minority issues is, on the whole, too limited and lacks continuity. There is a need to ensure a more consistent approach to the use of minority languages in the public sphere. The legal framework for the participation of national minorities through the councils for interethnic relations at the municipal level lacks clarity.
Acts of discrimination and violence against persons belonging to national minorities are still not sufficiently and adequately addressed by the judicial system. There is a need to increase the confidence of persons belonging to national minorities in referring cases alleging discrimination to the existing judicial and non-judicial mechanisms. Recent events have also shown that the approach of the police to interethnic issues is still not satisfactory.
Even though minority language education is in general well developed, the teaching of some minority languages and culture remains optional in the Serbian educational system. Further measures are needed to address the shortage of teachers and increase the availability of textbooks adapted to the Serbian curriculum. The issue of recognition of diplomas from educational institutions from the region has still not been approached in a comprehensive and satisfactory manner.
Persons belonging to the Roma minority still face discrimination in a number of fields, including health, employment and housing and the undue practice of channelling Roma children to “special schools” still continues to be reported.
The lack of personal identification documents of many Roma continues to hamper their access to fundamental social rights.
There are concerns about the consistency of the legal framework pertaining to minority language media. In addition, the exemption of minority media from the privatisation process has prompted criticism regarding its negative impact on the sustainability of private media outlets and its consequences in terms of media content.
The participation of persons belonging to national minorities in decision making could be made more effective and the numerically smaller minorities given more attention in this context. The representation of persons belonging to national minorities in the law enforcement structures and the judiciary remains to be further developed. Further information on the representation of persons belonging to national minorities in the public administration is needed in order to obtain a clear view on the situation in this field, while paying due attention to international standards in the field of data protection.
The situation of persons belonging to national minorities living in economically disadvantaged areas requires urgent attention and the adoption of temporary positive measures.
2. Adopts the following recommendations in respect of Serbia:
In addition to the measures to be taken to implement the detailed recommendations contained in sections I and II of the Advisory Committee's opinion, the authorities are invited to take the following measures to improve further the implementation of the Framework Convention:
- ensure that conditions are in place for the effective implementation of the newly adopted Laws on the Prohibition of Discrimination and on the National Councils of National Minorities;
- consolidate the legislative framework regarding minority media in a way that maintains the obligation of the state to provide national minorities with adequate conditions to create and use their own media;
- ensure that acts of violence and discrimination against persons belonging to national minorities are adequately investigated by law enforcement bodies and the judiciary, notably by increasing awareness and training measures;
- expand the measures aimed at promoting tolerance and interethnic dialogue throughout Serbia;
- expand opportunities for minority language education, including by addressing the needs expressed by the Vlachs and other national minorities and review the current optional character of some minority language teaching in consultation with national minority representatives;
- ensure that legal and practical conditions are such that signposts in minority languages in the areas concerned can be put in place;
- address the issue of recognition of diplomas from educational institutions from the region in a comprehensive way and take measures to tackle the problems of delay and complexity of procedure which have been identified;
- ensure that measures to be taken in the context of the National Strategy on Roma are given adequate support by both central and local authorities in order to eliminate obstacles to the participation of the Roma in employment, housing, health and education;
- address as a matter of priority, both at legislative and practical level, the lack of personal identification documents of the Roma;
- pursue further efforts to increase the representation of national minorities in the judiciary and in law enforcement bodies and take steps to obtain a clear view on the representation of national minorities in the public administration;
- pay increased attention to the situation of persons belonging to national minorities living in economically disadvantaged areas and ensure that their representatives are adequately involved in both identifying priority projects to be funded and in their implementation in the areas concerned;
- take measures to increase the effectiveness of the councils of interethnic relations at municipal level, inter alia, by clarifying further their composition and functions.
3. Invites the Government of Serbia, in accordance with Resolution Res(97)10:
a. to continue the dialogue in progress with the Advisory Committee;
b. to keep the Advisory Committee regularly informed of the measures it has taken in response to the conclusions and recommendations set out in section 1 and 2 above.
1 In the context of adopting Resolution Res(97)10 on 17 September 1997, the Committee of Ministers also adopted the following rule: “Decisions pursuant to Articles 24.1 and 25.2 of the Framework Convention shall be considered to be adopted if two-thirds of the representatives of the Contracting Parties casting a vote, including a majority of the representatives of the Contracting Parties entitled to sit on the Committee of Ministers, vote in favour”.