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news 24 Nov 14

EU Urged to Focus on Balkan Minority Rights

The EU is not doing enough to ensure that would-be members in the Western Balkans respect minority rights, a workshop in Sarajevo concluded.

Elvira M. Jukic
BIRN
Sarajevo

An international workshop on minority rights, held in Sarajevo, entitled “EU Integration and Minority Protection in the Western Balkans: mapping the way ahead”, said more needs to be done to anchor minority rights protection into the EU integration process.

The workshop gathered experts, civil society activists, politicians and EU officials to discuss EU policies and improve minority rights protection in the region.

Adam Fagan, Professor of European Politics at Queen Mary's University in London, told Balkan Insight on November 21 that one of the key topics was what the EU could do concerning rights of minorities in countries that aspire to membership.

“One topic is what the EU can do for Bosnia that it didn't do for Hungary - in other words, how it can make sure that institutions are stronger and that there is no backsliding on minorities rights,” he said.

Fagan said that Bosnia and Herzegovina needed to sort out the Sejdic-Finci rights ruling and then deal with minority rights issues more generally.

The 2009 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in a case brought by Dervo Sejdic and Jakob Finci - a Roma and a Jew respectively - told Bosnia to change its constitution to allow minorities to run for posts currently reserved for the three largest ethnic groups, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.

However, politicians in the country have failed so far to agree on a way forward.

Nadir Redzepi, of the Open Society Foundations – Budapest, said minorities were suffering all over the West Balkans, and were often more affected than majority communities by societal problems like corruption.

“Minorities are also exluded from the labour market, health care and educational systems, and always get less than the majority,” Redzepi said.

“The EU always mentions minorities in its progress reports,” he noted.

“What could be done is that, in the conditions they set before our countries [in the Western Balkans] in the integration process, that they integrate rights of minorities, too," he said.

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