Prizren, 1 September 2008  – Lack of education, political representation, decentralization and information and inability to use their own language are some of the problems faced by the three Kosovo minorities RAE, Slavic Muslims and Turks. These issues were discussed during a round table meeting that was organized by the Center for Integration of the Minorities. Through these discussions, problems of the minorities living in the Kosovo town of Prizren were identified.

During the discussion a clash of interests and differences of opinion between political representatives of the Slavic Muslims and Gorani community came forth. These representatives blamed each other for not respecting and disregarding the interests of other minorities. At the same time institutions at the local and central level were criticized for their failure in implementing various laws regarding the minorities.

The Turkish community strongly criticized non-implementation of the law on the use of language, the law which is a basis of the community’s rights. Deputy Vezira Embrush, who represents the Gorani community, mentioned that the entire community is being discriminated against on the issue of employment by public institutions. She further mentioned that the decentralization process has made no progress. Jurist Bajram Latifi told that the RAE community was the hardest hit, and the reason for that was no-existence of Roma language schools, and, for that, the blame rested on Republic Kosovo institutions. He sought cooperation in raising the standards of law and its enforcement. He is urged for a mechanism that would in the future monitor the implementation of the Ahtisari Plan.

Roma deputy Mr. Haji Zylfi Merja requested all communities to have an integrated approach in their dealings with Kosovo’s Institutions. “You Turks and Slavic Muslims have all your rights, and it never occurs to you to say that the Roma do not have elementary schooling in their mother tongue, and that they don’t have political representation at the local level”, said Mr. Merja and he continued by accusing the Gorani community that it received big help from Serbia, The Republic of Macedonia, and Bulgaria.

Journalist Mr. Kujtim Paqaku mentioned that (Roma) children starting their first year of school get the worst teachers while the children of the doctors, engineers and other affluent parents get the best teachers and schooling. He proposed that the Office of the Minorities monitored schools, investigating the reasons for situations such as Roma children being compulsive back benchers.

Osman Osmani representative of the NGO “Iniciativa 6” stressed on the need to deal with the negative stereotyping of the Roma community. Bayram Galush representative of the NGO “Durmish Aslano” mentioned that one of the problems was that the RAE integration strategy; initiated by the Kosovo prime minister in the 2006 had not made much progress. He did not forget to mention implementation of the RAE strategy (2007-2017) and remarked that we were now in 2008, all processes have stagnated because of the activities related to independence, and that the concerned ministry had not yet started work.

Another center coordinator, Mr. Refik Kasi, said that the round table was an opportunity for the identification of priority problems that minorities faced, and in the future it was necessary to initiate projects and create mechanisms to solve these problems.

Nexhip Menekshe