As the countries of South East Europe move towards EU accession, the European Union’s annual country Progress Reports offer a unique opportunity to improve the daily lives of the region’s marginalized minorities.
The Reports, and the priorities they identify, carry significant political weight, which creates implementation obligations on governments aspiring to bring their countries into the EU. They also provide an important advocacy tool for human rights and minority rights activists. But close examination of these Reports and consultation with minority groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, shows a wide divergence between the EU messages and the realities that minorities face in their day-to-day lives.
This report considers three crucial areas for minorities: participation in public life, employment and education. Lack of equality in these areas serves to keep minorities disadvantaged over generations: if this goes consistently unaddressed, the seeds for future conflict can begin to grow. Given that one of the main concerns of the EU in this region has been inter-ethnic conflict prevention, it is vital that more attention is given to reporting on minorities.
The greatest weakness of the Reports is that EU officers do not engage with minorities themselves in a systematic and structured manner while the Reports are being written. Here, alongside in-depth analysis of the Reports and comparisons with treaty body monitoring, grassroots minority rights organizations give their views and show how the EU Reports could be strengthened to effect real change.
1 July 2008