Exercise of the right to bilingualism, access to the media and representation in state administration are areas which ethnic minorities see as the most problematic, it was said in the Croatian parliament on Thursday during a discussion on the implementation of the Constitutional Law on Ethnic Minority Rights in 2014.
The same problems regarding the exercise of some minority rights recur every year, including problems regarding the use of minority languages and scripts, the Committee on Minority and Human Rights said, asking the government to submit to parliament within the next 90 days amendments to the Act on the Use of Minority Languages and Scripts in line with a Constitutional Court ruling from August 2014.
The government is taking note of the proposal and will do its best to prepare the amendments as soon as possible, Deputy Justice Minister Barica Novosel said, but could not be more specific on changes the amendments would bring in relation to the law in the first reading in the previous parliament.
The government set aside HRK 144 million for the implementation of the Constitutional Law on Ethnic Minority Rights in 2014, seven million more than the year before.
In its report, the Minority and Human Rights Committee said that an analysis of compliance of towns' and municipalities' statutes with the Constitutional Law and the Act on the Use of Minority Languages and Scripts had shown that of 27 local self-government units, 12 had not made a detailed plan for the exercise of individual minority rights, while five local self-government units, including Vukovar, had not regulated the exercise of minority rights with their statutes.
"How is it possible to tolerate violation of laws by municipal heads, what kind of society are we if we think that having a Cyrillic sign with the town's name at the entrance to (predominantly Serb-populated town of) Donji Lapac is dangerous?" asked Mile Horvat of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS).
He also wanted to know how it was possible that only members of the Serb minority did not have the right to register schools with curricula in the Serb language and Cyrillic script, while the Czechs, Hungarians, Italians and ethnic other minorities were entitled to do so.
Furio Radin of the parliamentary bench representing ethnic minorities, too, said he could not understand that some municipalities in the eastern Danube region could not establish schools with programmes in minority languages even though they met all conditions.
We do not understand the opposition coming from local self-government units and government structures that are unwilling to transfer the right to found such schools from counties to municipalities, said Radin.
Hungarian minority MP Sandor Juhas objected that every time it was established that something was wrong, the situation came to a halt and no measures were further taken. Because of that, every year, before school enrollment, we discuss the number of children required to form a class in a minority schools even though the Constitutional Court defined the matter long ago, he said.
Domagoj Hajdukovic of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) said that an enviable level of quality had been achieved in education. In 2013, one of three models of education in minority languages and scripts was attended by 10,617 pupils, and a year later the number grew to 10,699, he said, adding that especially encouraging was an increase in the number of students attending model C classes, namely classes in minority languages that are also attended by pupils of the majority people.
Ethnic minority MPs also expressed dissatisfaction with the representation of minorities in bodies of state administration. Compared to 2013, in 2014 their representation decreased from 3.51% to 3.49%, Radin said, recalling that minorities accounted for 7.5% of the total population.
Of 1,100 police officers in the Zadar Police Department, three are Serbs, Horvat noted.
Ivan Radic of the ruling HDZ party underlined the importance of cooperation with countries with Croat minority communities, asking for integral data on funds allocated for bilateral agreements and noting that data for 2014 showed that HRK 3.7 million was allocated as support to the Croat minority communities in European countries.