National Minorities Complain of Problems

By 14 March 2018

ZAGREB, March 14, 2018 - Even though members of the Croatian Parliament's Committee on Human Rights and Ethnic Minority Rights on Wednesday commended the objectivity of the report on the implementation of the Constitutional Law on Ethnic Minority Rights in 2015 and 2016 and unanimously supported it, they warned that there had been a lot of problems in practice.

"The report, even though it is two years late, shows the actual situation and does not hide the problems members of ethnic minorities encounter," said the chair of the Council for Ethnic Minorities Aleksandar Tolnauer. He said that one should not pretend that problems did not exist with the public use of minority languages and scripts, notably of the Serb minority, as the legal obligations in that regard were not being honoured. Tolnauer commended the accomplishment of cultural autonomy, of which, he said, minorities could be proud.

Committee chair Milorad Pupovac of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) warned about problems such as a decline in the hiring of members of ethnic minorities to work in state administration. He noted also that minority schools had not been registered as such yet and that communication about that issue was inefficient. "One should get back to the action plan for the employment of members of ethnic minorities, which was launched ahead of Croatia's accession to the EU, but then came to a halt," he said.

Some aspects of religious tolerance are not as they should be, he said. "If you look at the system of religious education, that will be evident to everyone," objected Pupovac, who had asked for a thematic session of the committee to focus on problems encountered by ethnic minorities. He said that the Ministry of the Interior was achieving certain results in the punishment of hate speech and called for a broader campaign "because threats are widespread".

Pupovac said that the reporting period as well as the year 2014 were a time when ethnic minorities faced serious challenges in exercising their rights, often in an atmosphere of intolerance. That trend has been reduced even though it has not been entirely stopped, Pupovac said.

Committee member Boris Milošević complained about the treatment of minorities by the public broadcaster which, he said, had four channels and a channel for the Croatian expatriate community, while the Serb minority was given only five hours of media coverage in a year.

Italian minority MP Furio Radin spoke about problems in Istria regarding the recognition of university diplomas obtained in the EU by people with qualifications to work in minority schools.

A representative of the government said that the prescribed representation of ethnic minorities in the parliament had been achieved as had their representation in bodies of local and regional government.

The percentage of ethnic minorities in state administration bodies, services and government offices in 2016 was the same as in 2015 - 3.40%, and the number of members of ethnic minorities employed there dropped by 24, however, this should be viewed in the context of the fact that the number of all employees in those bodies dropped by 678, he noted.

Government officials said that the problem of access to public media was evidenced by the lack of reporters who were members of ethnic minorities and lack of quality training for reporters. They called on media, notably the Croatian Radio Television as the public service, to step up efforts against all forms of intolerance in the media.

Government officials also said that significant efforts had been invested in the implementation of the Constitutional Law on Ethnic Minority Rights and that despite an unfavourable economic and social situation, around 280 million kuna had been set aside for that purpose in the two reporting years.