Pristinë/Priština, 9 July 2008 – The OSCE Mission called today for municipalities in Kosovo to make more effort to comply with legislation on use of languages. In a report examining how Kosovo municipalities have implemented the Law on Use of Languages, the Mission said that the authorities needed to inform the public about their language rights and help ensure the rights of minority communities.
“Persons belonging to minority communities rely on this law for their equal access to public services and equal participation in public affairs,” said Oliver Schmidt-Gutzat, the head of the OSCE communities division.
The report also recommended that the Kosovo education system provide classes in all official languages in order to maintain the traditionally multilingual environment. According to the law, Albanian and Serbian are the official languages in Kosovo, and any language spoken by five percent of the population in a municipality should also be recognized as an official language in that municipality. The report found that a lack of adequate resources, both human and financial, has often hampered the rights of minority communities in particular. Many municipalities lack funds for translation equipment and language assistants.
“The establishment of a Language Commission, whose role is to promote and monitor the implementation of the law, was a very welcome initiative. However, the Commission lacks a dedicated budget and office space, said Schmidt-Gutzat. “The government should also conduct a public awareness campaign in order inform the public about the law and about the work and mandate of the Commission. Very few people are aware of their rights when it comes to the use of language.”
The Language Commission has received only one complaint since it was established in May 2007. However, a survey conducted for the report found that 40 percent of the respondents had experienced problems in receiving municipal documents in their own language.
The report is based on OSCE Mission monitoring activities, a survey, direct assessments and interviews with municipal civil servants, language assistants and persons belonging to minority communities. The OSCE Mission in Kosovo is mandated to ensure protection and participation of communities through local and central government.