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Minority rights downplayed in European Commissions progress reports on South East Europe

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The European Commission has paid scant attention to minority rights in its latest progress reports on the accession of South East European states, all of which are countries that have been a hotbed for ethnic tension and violence in the past, Minority Rights Group International says.

“It is striking how insufficient the information on minority rights is in these reports, given that minority protection is one of the Copenhagen Criteria to get into the EU,” says MRG’s Director Mark Lattimer.

“Inter-ethnic conflict has divided these former Yugoslavian states and it is worrying that minority rights do not get the attention they deserve,” Lattimer adds.

MRG’s statement comes ahead of a key meeting at the EU parliament in Brussels on Tuesday where a number of representatives from minority groups in the region will present their responses to the progress reports. The event hosted by MRG and MEP Kinga Gal will see presentations from six South East European states – Albania, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo.

A further criticism by MRG on the European Commission reports is that they do not sufficiently consult or consider the opinion of any of the minority groups in the region.

“We are concerned that civil society is being bypassed by both the national government and the European Commission in the EU enlargement process,” Lattimer says.

According to MRG some points made in the progress report on minority issues do not reflect the reality on the ground and appear to be based on information provided by the Government.

For example, in Macedonia a number of minority NGOs have criticised the inactivity or inefficiency of the Committees on Inter-community Relations, supposedly established in all municipalities where minorities live. MRG’s partner organisations in Macedonia say that most of those committees exist only on paper – they neither meet nor implement any activities.

However the European Commission considers the establishment of these committees as a sign of progress in the country.

“These progress reports have a strong role to play in scrutinizing a country’s human rights record and guiding them in the right direction,” says Lattimer.

“These are countries where ethnic division has been a major feature of conflict and it continues seriously to threaten the stability of the region and it is essential that the European Commission pays more attention to minority rights and consults minority groups at the local level,” he adds.

Notes to the editor

  • The event bringing together minority groups from the region to respond to the progress reports will take place on 20 November 2007, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at the European Parliament (room A5F385)
  • The European Commission progress reports on the accession process of the above mentioned countries and Kosovo, were presented on November 6.
  • Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide

Interview opportunities will include:

  • Representatives from minority communities from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo (please see details of organisations below)
  • Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director

Organisations making presentations:

  • Association for Democratic Initiatives, Macedonia
  • Roma Women’s Center Bibija, Serbia
  • Center for Peace, Legal Advice and Psychosocial Assistance, Croatia
  • Independent, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • LIBERTASK, Montenegro
  • Roma and Ashkalia Documentation Center, Kosovo
  • Roma Democratic Development Association Sonce, Macedonia

For more information, confirmation of attendance or to pre-arrange interviews please contact the MRG Press Office on press@minorityrights.org.

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