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J. Joksimović: A special Action Plan on the Rights of National Minorities is only required of Serbia

January 05 2020 | Belgrade

J. Joksimović: A special Action Plan on the Rights of National Minorities is only required of Serbia

Recent developments in Montenegro regarding the Law on Freedom of Religion indicate that the process of accession negotiations has not had unique criteria for Serbia and Montenegro, as candidate countries for EU membership, especially when it comes to minorities and adherence to international standards and conventions in this field, Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has said.

"Enlargement policy and European integration policy represent a peaceful and voluntary way of connecting European peoples into a mutually-agreeable community of fundamental values, including respect for minority and religious rights in Europe. In addition to the EU, this value should also be guaranteed by politically stable institutions of the candidate countries, which should guarantee, within the rule of law, respect for human rights and minority rights, and which do not abuse religious issues in order to highlight political ideology," Joksimović has told Tanjug.

She has stressed that a credible regional cooperation policy cannot be built on discrimination against a significant part of citizens, especially in a country that is one of the frontrunner candidates for EU membership, such as Montenegro.

She has recalled that Serbia was the only country in the negotiation process that had to adopt, under Chapter 23, an additional special credible Action Plan for the exercise of national minority rights, which was not the case with other countries in the region that in the meantime became EU Member States, or with Montenegro as a candidate for membership, which, like Serbia, are multi-ethnic countries.

"Serbia was the only one willing to take the issue of improving the rights of national minorities to a higher level by adopting the said Action Plan, which puts it far ahead of all other countries in the region when it comes to adhering to international standards," she has said.

These standards concern the strengthening of the personal status and status of persons belonging to national minorities, the prohibition of any form of discrimination on religious and national grounds, the protection of the rights of national minorities in the field of culture and the media, guaranteed freedom of religion, where churches and religious communities are equal and free to exercise their property on their own and regulate their internal organization and religious affairs.

They also apply to the use of the mother tongue and script in all domains of work and life, education in the mother tongue, ensuring democratic participation of persons belonging to national minorities, representation of national minorities in the public sector and public enterprises, the existence of credible National Councils of National Minorities, as well as to the strengthening of economic position of members of minority communities.

Joksimović has also said that Serbia, as a candidate country, is actively contributing to the strengthening of European civilizational heritage and regional cooperation, and that it has adopted a specific legal framework for the promotion of national minority rights, contributing in its entirety to the effective and uniform implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and ECRI (The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance).

"This is a topic for everyone in the region, as well as for the EU, which must pay more substantive attention to others, at least as much as it is required and expected of Serbia, and we on our side are credibly implementing it," Joksimović has said.

Source: Tanjug