In a report released on Thursday, the Council of Europe warned that discrimination against national minorities still persists in Croatia, especially when it comes to Roma people and Serbs.
The Council of Europe’s Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities said in its Fifth Opinion on Croatia that Croatia’s “legislative framework pertaining to national minorities is overall in conformity with the provision of the Framework Convention”.
“Comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation has been enacted and structures to promote equal treatment and address individual cases of discrimination at national and regional levels are in place,” the report reads.
The report however warned that “discrimination towards persons belonging to certain groups persists, notably the Roma and Serb national minorities, including returnees.”
The Advisory Committee thus welcomed “the reconciliation process that occurred in the summer of 2020”, when Croatia’s deputy prime minister, who is a member of the Serb national minority, attended the commemoration of the liberation of the Croatian territory and when Croatia’s prime minister and members of his cabinet attended a commemoration for the Serb victims of the 1991-95 war.
The authors of the report also stress that from 2017 to 2020 the number of hate crime cases and incidents of hate speech in the media and political discourse increased, which encouraged the strengthening of radical nationalism.
They say that the implementation of the anti-discrimination act and the presence of national minorities in public media are “insufficient”.
“The public debate related to national minorities is dominated by anti-minority rhetoric and prejudice, persons belonging to the Serb and the Roma national minorities being the most affected. Historical revisionism affects the Serb, Roma, and Jewish national minorities,” the report says.
The Advisory Committee calls on the Croatian authorities “to develop a comprehensive strategy to promote inter-ethnic dialogue” and to teach the culture and history of national minorities “in all schools”.
The report also underscores as problematic access to employment for some minorities, as well as the housing conditions of Roma families living in slums and informal settlements.
The Advisory Committee also calls on the authorities to reconsider the census procedure, as the representation of national minorities in parliament, which is currently “unbalanced”, depends on it.
According to the report, “the existing thresholds to access some minority rights are too high and to the disadvantage of numerically smaller national minorities”.
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