While acknowledging some progress on Roma issues and emerging potential for moving towards integrated schools, the Council of Europe’s Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities concludes in its new opinion that national minorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina do not enjoy effective access to their rights.
Examining the progress made and providing recommendations on the basis of information submitted by the authorities and last year’s visit, the Committee says that in the country deeply divided among the three constituent peoples(*), national minorities are institutionally discriminated against and unable to fully participate in political processes.
Despite a European Court of Human Rights ruling, the right of the so-called “Others”(**) to be elected and hold high public offices continues to be restricted due to a lack of political will to amend constitutional and legal provisions.
Public life continues to be marked by segregation, with persons belonging to constituent peoples residing outside a territory corresponding to their ethnic affiliations also suffering discrimination and in some cases violence and abuse. Political leaders and other public figures continue to make divisive and discriminatory statements, exacerbating ethnic divisions. Because such statements are not condemned they set the tone of impunity.
Very little effort has been made to teach minority languages. There are no publications or broadcasts in these languages and they are not used in relations with the administrative authorities. Though recognising that civil society initiatives show a potential for moving towards integrated schools, the Council of Europe experts find little progress in eradicating segregation in education.
Roma continue to face serious difficulties and discrimination in terms of access to employment, health services, mainstream education and housing. Many live in segregated communities, often in substandard living conditions. Whilst identifying some progress in providing Roma with identity documents and as regards school enrolment, the Committee points to persistently high dropout rates, in particular among Roma girls.
As an immediate measure, the opinion recommends amending the constitution and other legal provisions to eliminate the exclusion of “Others” and persons whose ethnic affiliation does not match their place of residency from running and holding public offices. It also calls for unequivocally condemning public statements that incite ethnic hatred; promoting intercultural, interethnic and interreligious dialogue; doing away with segregation in education; and ensuring adequate access of Roma to housing, employment, health services and education.