The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung with its offices in South Eastern Europe besides its national projects of democracy building and conflict prevention is also working on different issues on a regional level. The
aim of these regional activities is mainly to 1) interconnect people, institutions and already existing networks 2) to promote best practices and lessons learnt 3) develop strategies and policies for the region and its specific needs 4) get the region as a whole closer to the EU. One of the topics that are dealt with on a regional level is the question of national and ethnic Minorities. For all countries of the former Yugoslavia and also for the neighboring countries, the Minority question is crucial for internal stability and their approach towards the EU.
The Skopje Office of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung dedicated the last two years in further developing the regional project regarding minorities and minority participation. The project initially began as a joint project between FES and Ethnicity Research Centre from Belgrade as a collection of reports that have compared the existing legal framework for the protection of Minority Rights in SEE and the reality on the ground. The project was further developed in 2005 when it began gaining a defined form and directions of development.
At the moment there are two interconnected directions that the Regional Project on Minority Rights is growing in:
1. Monitoring of Implementation of Minority Rights on Local Level
2. Minority Participation
Monitoring of Implementation of Minority Rights
The evident lack of implementation of minority rights, even when legislation exists in the country, has produced the need to come up with a functional model that will provide an appropriate approach to minority rights for both citizens and public administration. The idea behind it was to increase, in a bottom-up approach the implementation of minority rights on the ground and to make the local public administration and the citizens an active part of the process. The main goal of the decentralization process – to bring the state administration closer to its citizens – is one of the motivating factors to guarantee success to the model. The aim is to raise awareness of people acting inside the local public administration and of the citizens and to increase local ownership at the same time.
The activities of this part of the Minority project included two workshops in 2004 preceding the pilot projects in 2005. The workshops were dedicated to forming and agreeing upon a specific model for monitoring that was to be used as basis for the pilot projects for monitoring of implementation of minority rights. Discussed was the existing model of participative local democracy was discussed as the basis for a monitoring model for SEE, which provides local ownership and an opportunity for both sides, the administration and the citizens, to assist each other in reaching the same goal. This model was modified to become applicable to the specific question of Minority Rights and the region of SEE especially for the countries where a pilot project was carried out (Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria and Romania).
More detailed descr
iption of each pilot project is available at the web-sites of our partners:
- Romania: Ethnocultural Diversity Research Centre
- Bulgaria: International Centre for Minority Studies and International Relations
- Serbia: Ethnicity research Centre
- Albania: Albanian Helsinki Committee
- Macedonia: Macedonian Helsinki Committee
While the part of Monitoring of implementation of minority rights has taken a more practical and distinctive form, the Minority Participation activities have developed a more academic air and are more directly connected to the idea of the fostering the debate on an academic level.
The first event was a Conference “Minority Participation – Striking the Balance” that created the basis for Minority participation in terms of regional, national and local level in SEE. Present were representatives of international organizations, academic and research community, Ngo activists and government officials. One of the main ideas was to create a core group on a academic level that will pursue the debate on minority participation and will eventually produce written materials to aid it. One of the results of the conference was a publication with some of the proceedings available here.
The following event was a Workshop with a more focused subject: “Minority Participation at the Local Level”. Present were experts and academics, NGO activists and representatives from municipalities. The discussion was dedicated to the monitoring model, among the discussion regarding public administration and the role of institutionalized interethnic bodies. The researchers were asked to agree on a research agenda for 2007 and to write analytical reports during the year of 2007. These reports shall be presented on a follow up workshop in 2007. The topic agreed upon is The role of political parties for minority participation.
Monitoring the Implementation of Minority Rights on Local Level
A model proposed by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, elaborated by Stefan Dehnert and Harald Schenker and including expert opinions as discussed on a seminar on 24-26 June 2005