5 March 2008 – In a letter sent to the Constitutional Commission and representatives of the international civilian administration in Kosovo, Roma NGOs ask for substantial improvements of the draft constitution which has been prepared by the Constitutional Commission on the basis of the provisions included in the proposal of the UN Special Envoy, Martti Ahtisaari, for the Kosovo status settlements and is currently under discussion.The organisations say that the rights which are reserved to ethnic minorities in Kosovo are ill-defined and may ultimately have no benefit at all for Roma. They claim in particular that the conditions which give access to public education in mother tongue are unclear and may be undermined by the introduction of excessively high thresholds for the benefit of these rights.
They also say that Roma should have reserved seats in all public bodies in particular those dealing with political, economic and security issues, and that important political decisions should be taken on the basis of qualified majorities in the Kosovo Parliament including a majority of those representing minority communities.
The organisations further point out to the need of ensuring a proper political representation in all public bodies and suggest to explore the possibility of introducing of so-called positive actions in order to achieve this goal. They underline the fact that minorities are currently underrepresented within public administration.
The organisations are worried about the fact, that the draft is unclear about the constituency it applies to and recommend to list all the people of Kosovo in the constitution on the example of the constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, where Roma are mentioned as people of Macedonia.
They finally express concerns as regards the deadline set as a criteria for obtaining Kosovo citizenship and argue that this will exclude many of those who left Kosovo in the 1980s and 1990s and who may now be forcibly returned. Taking into account the fact that many former inhabitants continue to be displaced, they recommend the introduction of a specific section on the rights of returnees.
“If Kosovo wants to become a multi-ethnic and democratic society and guarantee the return of the refugees it needs to reach out to its Roma population and not just seek their silent acquiescence,” the letter concludes. The organisations point out at the need to involve the diaspora whose number by far exceeds those who have remained in Kosovo.
The letter has been signed by Romano Them, Romano Dzuvipe, Voice of Roma, the Council of Roma of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Ternikano Berno. It recalls the fact that, before the war, the Roma constituted the third largest group of people in Kosovo and that their population has been decimated by war and ethnic cleansing.
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