Project addresses rights of ethnic minorities in EU candidate countries

Матични улица в городе Устье-на-Эльбе, 2000 г.

Two years ago, the Budapest-based Open Society Institute launched a project called 'EU Accession Monitoring Programme'. The project focuses on assessing among other things how well the rights of ethnic minorities in EU candidate countries - and some EU members - are observed. Last week, the results of this year's surveys were published.

I met programme officer Farimah Daftary at the Senate, and she told me more about the main objectives of the project:

"This project, EU Accession Monitoring Programme, was started by the Open Society Institute two years ago. The aim of this initiative is to follow or monitor the implementation of the Copenhagen political criteria, which were adopted by the European Council in 1993. These criteria include several institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, especially the respect for and the protection of minorities. We have published this year for the second time a series of reports on minority protection in the ten candidate countries for EU membership and in addition we have also published reports on issues of corruption, judicial independence and equal opportunities for men and women."

You also did the survey in the EU countries....

"Yes, absolutely - to emphasize one of the main points which we would like to set forth: that respect for and protection of minorities should be part of the core values of the European Union, so they should not be only a requirement to enter the EU, they should also be respected within the EU itself, we decided this year to monitor the minority protection in the five largest member states of the EU."

The results in the five largest EU countries - Germany, Spain, France, Britain and Italy - were not too positive. They showed that the Roma and Moslem minorities in particular meet a lot of prejudice there, have little access to public services and their participation in public life is almost non-existent. The situation is not likely to improve soon, as there are not enough monitoring mechanisms.

The survey in the Czech Republic revealed the existence of many obstacles as well, although the Czech government seems to be a step ahead thanks to the adoption of several relevant political documents aimed at solving the problems the Roma population encounters here. The Open Society Institute chose the Roma people, because they believe the Roma are the most vulnerable ethnic minority in the Czech Republic. They mainly complain about racially motivated crimes against them by neo-Nazis, but also about bad access to education and jobs. So what did the results of the survey in the Czech Republic show? Here's one of its authors, Barbora Bukovska.

"The concepts that addressed the situation of the minority we found in certain extent inadequate, we've found out that there's no sufficient evaluation mechanism that would evaluate the programmes, their effectiveness, assessment and so on, then we've found out there's a very little attention paid to the connection between the programmes on the level of the government and the local administration which we've found absolutely terrifying in regard to the change to the local administration at the end of this year - and we fear that the situation at the beginning of 2003 will be much worse than it is now, and that it would be a certain step back instead of step forward."