European Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn has said that Serbia must ensure the viability of minority language media in a reply to a letter from Croatian member of the European Parliament Marijana Petir, Petir's office said in a press release on Thursday.
In her letter, she wrote that a few days before the opening of the first two policy chapters in Serbia's European Union accession negotiations, Radio Subotica, the only station in Serbia which had a daily broadcast in Croatian, was shut down.
By shutting down Radio Subotica, the most listened to and oldest station in Serbia, Serbia has once again seriously infringed the rights of the Croatian national minority according to international agreements, which it committed to honour, Petir wrote, adding that the Serbian government should enable media broadcasts in the languages of all its national minorities and not use unsuccessful privatisation processes as an excuse not to honour minority rights.
Petir recalled that the 2014 progress report on Serbia said that legislation on minority protection must be enforced.
The EU has already warned Serbia that in adopting new media laws, it must see to the preservation of broadcasts in minority languages.
All that prompted Petir to call on the Commission to adopt concrete measures on the infringement of Croats' rights in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina, notably in the context of the opening of Serbia-EU accession negotiations.
In his reply, Hahn said the Commission closely followed the situation in Serbia regarding the media in national minority languages. He clearly underlined that the government had the duty to ensure financial support to such media and preserve the broadcasting of programmes for national minorities at local level in line with recommendations of the Council of Europe Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, said the press release.
Hahn agreed that media privatisation had posed certain challenges regarding minority language broadcasts, and recalled that in its latest progress report on Serbia the Commission underlined the need for the Serbian public broadcaster to ensure consistent access to information in minority languages, which should contribute to the preservation of minority rights in accessing media and information in their language as well as ensuring the survival of local minority media and media programmes for them, the press release said.
He also said that minority rights would certainly be a topic of the upcoming negotiations with Serbia.