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This 2008 Status Report on fulfilling the commitments made in the Action Plan is published by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

From the report:

“A number of challenges and concerns regarding RAE in Kosovo persist, including security and freedom of movement for minorities, discrimination in obtaining identification documents, and denial of access to remedies for violent crimes committed against RAE communities.

Furthermore, RAE face racially motivated violence and threats of further violence and systemic and pervasive racial discrimination. RAE communities in Kosovo live in substandard conditions. IDPs and refugees, especially the elderly, women, and children, are particularly vulnerable in Serbia, as well as in other countries such as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro, and they continue to experience severe problems linked to their unclear civil status, as well as the lack of adequate housing, education, and employment. International organizations play an important role in providing support and protection, as well as in raising awareness of the issues faced by these communities.

Kosovo’s political, social, and economic stability has not yet improved, and limited results can be expected in the short and medium term. The economy is growing at a rate of 2 per cent per year, while its population is growing by an estimated 3.5 per cent annually. There has also been a decrease in available employment opportunities, with far more job-seekers entering the employment market every year compared to the number of jobs created. Political instability is also preventing private investment from taking place in the foreseeable future.

About 15 per cent of the population of Kosovo is estimated to be extremely poor, defined as individuals who have difficulty meeting their basic nutritional needs (with daily incomes under $1). About 45 per cent report a consumption level below the poverty line (under $2 a day). These poverty rates are very high compared to neighbouring countries, and, unlike many countries in the region, they have not improved over time (in fact, poverty rates have gotten worse since the last measurement, which indicates that about 12 per cent of the population are extremely poor). Given these conditions, the prospect for improving the situation of RAE communities is precarious.

The Roma communities living in enclaves rely principally on parallel administrative structures for public services in the areas of health, education, and social assistance. These structures are funded by the Serbian government in municipalities where there is a significant Serb presence. School attendance by Roma children continues to be poor A majority of the RAE have been residing in informal settlements. Problems relating to the restoration of property rights are particularly acute for the RAE community, as many of the deeds to the properties where they lived prior to the conflict were not formalized.

In Kosovo, the RAE IDP community, as with other ethnic minorities, continues to feel insecure. Confidence in law-enforcement authorities, both international and local, remains low. As described in the last UNHCR position paper on the protection needs of people from Kosovo, the RAE, and especially those of Roma ethnic origin, continue to fear discrimination and revenge, as well as limitations on freedom of movement, including access to economic and social services.

The pace of returning property to RAE and rebuilding their mahalas has been slow and is being carried out on a small scale. The voluntary return of Roma to Kosovo is closely related to the resolution of property disputes.  The relocation of several hundred RAE IDPs to the Osterode camp (from lead-contaminated camps in northern Mitrovica) remains unresolved after more that seven years of living in camp conditions.

The difficult issues of the return of RAE refugees or forced returnees from Western countries remain unresolved. Many RAE from Kosovo, who have temporary protection status in other states, live in anxiety because of their uncertain future. Overall, the return process stagnated in 2007, with roughly the same number of returnees as in 2006.

Spontaneous returns decreased slightly, while organized returns saw a rise. The return trend in the first quarter of 2008 was below expectations (28 Roma and 55 Ashkali and Egyptians).”

24 September 2008

The full report is available here.

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(Summer 2007 – Summer 2008)

The Mission identified 12 areas deriving from its mandate (which also constitute the 12 chapters of the report): Rule of Law, Police, Communities, Protection of Property Rights, Assembly of Kosovo, Local Government and Decentralization, Elections, Public Administration, Human Rights Institutions and Instruments, Anti-Corruption, Anti-Trafficking in Human Beings; and Media. 

In each of these chapters the following points are addressed: the development of the normative framework during the reporting period, the development on the ground and the implementation of the normative framework, main shortcomings and finally the Mission’s activities regarding these areas over the reporting period and in the future.

As an overall assessment, the main achievements and shortcomings can be summed up as follows.

Achievements:

Despite fundamental political changes in Kosovo during the first half of 2008, the political and security situation remained remarkably stable. During the reporting period, two important events involving politically motivated violence occurred on 19 February and 17 March in northern Kosovo: one related to the burning of customs posts, and the other to regaining control of the Mitrovicë/Mitrovica courthouse. However, these incidents did not escalate. At the same time, the fear that insecurity among the Kosovo Serb community would lead to a new wave of departures did not materialize.

There has been further progress in the development of democratic institutions and administrative structures, at the central level and particularly at the municipal level. Elections were successfully held for new political representatives at three different levels (the Assembly, municipal assemblies and municipal mayors); these elections met international standards. As for general policing, the Kosovo Police Service enjoys a high degree of trust among the Kosovo Albanian community.

The legislative framework has progressed and generally meets high international standards with regard to human rights and the protection of the rights of the different communities. However, the constitution and most other legislation have been drafted with significant international assistance.

Shortcomings

The continued stalemate between Prishtinë/Priština and Belgrade on the status issue makes progress in the integration of the Kosovo Serb community into Kosovo’s public life and society difficult. In northern Kosovo, with its majority Kosovo Serb population, separation has actually advanced through the extension of parallel administrative institutions into the political field. In the rest of Kosovo, the outcome of efforts to integrate the Kosovo Serb community remains unclear.

Here, despite some efforts by the Kosovo government to encourage the Kosovo Serbs to participate in the administrative and political structures, there is a widespread perception among the Kosovo Serb community of insecurity and mistrust which prevents interaction outside enclaves. A large number of unresolved property claims affect above all the Kosovo Serbs. The two separated educational systems – the Kosovo schools and the parallel Kosovo Serb schools – do not offer instruction in the other community’s language and thus drive the two communities further apart.

The judiciary remains the weakest of the public institutions. There are widespread violations of fair trial standards. There is no indication that a further increase in the high number of backlogged court cases can be prevented, let alone that the number can be reduced. There has been very limited progress in the fight against corruption, organized crime and human trafficking.

While the laws meet international standards, their implementation is often hampered by, the lack of financial and human resources, administrative shortcomings and adequate political initiative or will.

There are indications of increasing political interference in key institutions, which under international human rights standards should remain independent: the civil service, the judiciary, the police and the media.

The full report is available here (in English/Serbian/Albanian).

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

 The Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC) – Kosovo assessed that the Law on the Use of Language is generally implemented in view of the Turks, Bosniaks, Ashkalies, Egyptians, and a part of Goranies who attend schools in Bosnian language. Students, members of these ethnic communities, attend schools organized according to the Kosovo Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (Kosovo MONT) curriculum. Curricula enacted by this Ministry are prepared not only in Albanian language, but also in Bosnian and Turkish. Kosovo MONT regulated the educational curriculum in Bosnian and Turkish language in view of the following subjects: Language, History, Art, and Music because of their need to preserve the identity of the minority groups, who attend schools in their mother tongue. Ashkalies and Egyptians’ mother tongue is Albanian and therefore they attend schools in Albanian language. Serbs and a part of Goranies attending schools in Serbian language are following the educational curriculum regulated by the Serbian Government in Serbian language. The HLC – Kosovo underlines that the Kosovo Government still has not enacted the educational curriculum in Serbian language. On the other hand, Serbs refuse to join the process of negotiation with Kosovo MONT regarding the outline of the educational curriculum in Serbian language enacted by this Ministry, even though the Kosovo Government sent them an official and public call. Education in Roma language has not been organized either in schools under the Kosovo MONT jurisdiction or in schools under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Government Ministry of Education. Parts of the Roma people, who live in predominantly Albanian environment, attend Albanian schools, while Roma who live in Serb enclaves attend schools in Serbian language. A smaller number of Roma children attend schools in Bosnian language.

The survey is available here (in Albanian/Serbian/English).

In Deutschland leben schätzungsweise 50.000 Roma-Flüchtlinge, davon 20.000 Kinder. Sie stellen eine äußerst heterogene Gruppe dar, nicht nur, weil sie aus unterschiedlichen Herkunftsländern stammen, sondern weil ihre Fluchtbiographien uneinheitlich sind.

Auch weitere Faktoren sozialer Binnendifferenzierung sind zu berücksichtigen, wie z.B. das regionale Umfeld und die Siedlungsstruktur, aus der sie kamen, die Gruppenkohäsion und der Sozialstatus. Bei aller Differenzierung und Heterogenität teilen die unterschiedlichen Gruppen allerdings die Erfahrung, immer wieder mit traditionellen Stereotypen vom „Zigeuner“ konfrontiert zu werden.”

2007

Die Studie ist verfügbar unter:

http://www.unicef.de/fileadmin/content_media/mediathek/UNICEF_STUDIE_roma__Deutschland.pdf

The report relates to the period January-December 2006, coinciding with the Vienna talks on the future status of Kosovo between the Serbian Government and Kosovo Negotiations Team. Given the circumstances, the monitoring of respect for the human rights of ethnic communities is an activity of the utmost importance.

During 2006 a team of Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC) – Kosovo investigators collected 262 statements by persons belonging to ethnic communities and by Kosovo local and central government representatives on the situation of the Kosovo minorities. The investigators paid special attention to the situation of returnees. With every interviewee the investigators discussed security and freedom of movement, access to administrative institutions and the use of his/her mother tongue in his/her communication with local and central institutions, social issues, employment prospects, education in minority languages, use of private property, participation in political life, information, return, and his/her views on the Kosovo future status talks and the problem of decentralization. The object of the report is to produce a well-documented account of the situation of the minorities in Kosovo in 2006, to highlight the problems, and to make recommendations to the Kosovo institutions and UNMIK with a view to improving the situation of the minorities and enabling their full integration into Kosovo’s society. The report is available here.

“Almost half the number of school-age RAE children in Montenegro are refugees. Data regarding Roma participation and performance in education are very limited, and affected by the broader lack of information. This lack of reliable data that could facilitate informed decision-making with regard to Roma policies in general and education-related programmes more specifically must be urgently addressed by the Government, as it seriously calls into question the accuracy of continuous monitoring and evaluation of Roma-related programmes.”

December 2007

http://www.eumap.org/topics/minority/reports/roma_education/national/montenegro/romeduc_montenegro.pdf

The report seeks to a) raise awareness of the extent children, especially Roma children, suffer from social exclusion; b) identify the key critical causes of exclusion and the limitations in the capacity of individuals and institutions  responsible for enabling children to enjoy their rights; and c) present available information and identify data gaps which need to be filled for the development and implementation of effective interventions.

February 2007

The full text of the report is available at:

http://www.unicef.org/ceecis/070305-Subregional_Study_Roma_Children.pdf

The Roma (Gypsies) remain in particular need of international humanitarian assistance programs, as discrimination and traditional practices combine to limit their integration into local communities when return is not an option. Some 25,000 Roma, who fled Kosovo after the 1999 Kosovo war, remain displaced in Serbia and Montenegro, most living in huge collective centers. Social and racial discrimination, as well as traditional Roma practices and customs, limit their access to education, health centers and employment, particularly for girls.” 

September 2001

The report can be downloaded at:

http://www.womenscommission.org/pdf/yu.pdf

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