3 June 2008- Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe High Commissioner on National Minorities Knut Vollebaek addressed the protection and promotion of minority rights in Kosovo. Once he noted his neutral position on Kosovo’s legal status, he described the tense inter-ethnic relations and poor minority rights implementation that persist in the society.

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.) of the Helsinki Commission was in full agreement of Vollebaek’s assessment of the minority conditions, referring to them as “plain appalling.”

A group often brought up during the address was the Roma (gypsies) of Kosovo, among other minority groups in the region. Implementation of minority rights is a big hurdle as Vollebaek points out that “many norms exist on paper but not in reality.” Reasons for this are the lack of financial means, human resources, goodwill between countries and economic development.

Along with Vollebaek’s assessment of the minority situation in Kosovo, he offered his recommendations to alleviate the negative conditions of the minority communities in Pristina, northern Mitrovica Serbs and rural dwellers were encapsulated in four distinct points. Firstly, government institutions should be clear on which areas of minority rights implementation they should be responsible. While an office for community affairs has been created by the Prime Minister, its paradigms remain undefined. Secondly, it is vital that a substantive amount of minority rights should be implemented. Third, the status of the Roma and other minority groups needs to be raised such that all are on par. In an attempt to deal with this, the Roma Strategy was drafted to aid all aspects of living. Finally, a systematic approach to reconciliation between each other and Kosovo’s institutions is pertinent in achieving fluent dialogue in multi-ethnic Kosovo.

Source: The Talk Radio News Service

See also: OSCE: Reconciliation a Challenge for Kosovo, 27 June 2008, BalkanInsight.com