Ružić to Zannier: Unity in diversity is our national heritage

Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government Branko Ružić talked today to OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Lamberto Zannier and presented him activities of the Ministry on improvement of conditions for exercising the rights of minorities in Serbia. Mr. Ružić emphasized that four regulations within the sphere of competences of the Ministry improving the legislative framework and the status of national minorities were adopted this year alone. “Those laws have been welcomed by members of national minorities and commended by OSCE and other reference international institutions which participated together with the Ministry in a transparent and inclusive procedure of preparation of those laws”, said Mr. Ružić and added that in certain segments Serbia was far ahead of certain EU Member States as regards exercise of minority rights. The Minister reminded that the Fund or National Minorities, which had not been operating for 15 years, was launched last year and that its budget amounted to RSD 1.8 million last year, while this year RSD 21.8 million had been provided. Mr. Ružić announced that contracts would be signed next week with 77 beneficiaries for which funds had been approved in a public competition for provision of information in languages of national minorities. The Minister emphasized that national minorities were very precious, and a comparable advantage of Serbia compared with many countries in the region. “The fact that national minorities account for about 13 percent of the total Serbian population shows that unity in diversity is our national heritage and this is why we are trying to improve it”, said Mr. Ružić. He expressed his gratitude to Mr. Zannier and OSCE for an exceptional cooperation and said he hoped they would continue to jointly improve legislation and the status of national minorities in Serbia. OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Lamberto Zannier said that Serbia had a good legislative framework on national minorities and supported recent amendments to the Law on National Councils of National Minorities and the Law on Protection of Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities, as well as the fact that members of national minorities also participated in this process. “Communication with members of national minorities is very important in order to hear their priorities, particularly with the forthcoming elections for national councils”, emphasized Mr. Zannier. He commended the pattern of cooperation between the state and national minorities through bilateral commissions dealing with national minority issues and welcomed Serbia’s efforts to integrate national minorities in the society. “I can see that Serbia is doing well in this field. Investing in addressing the issues relating to the status of national minorities is a resource for the entire society”, the Commissioner pointed out. Asked by journalists whether initiatives of the Albanian and Bosniak national councils which require from the Constitutional Court to review constitutionality of amended laws could cause political tensions and affect the forthcoming elections, Mr. Zannier emphasized that the fact that national minorities in Serbia can participate in passing of laws and express their disagreement and address the Constitutional Court was a good thing. “I welcome the fact that such option even exists, because in theory it should help to alleviate tensions”, said Mr. Zannier. Answering the same question, Minister Ružić said it was not possible for requests of certain national councils to affect the election cycle and emphasized that it was evidence of a democratic nature of a well-regulated system. “The process of preparation of this regulation was very inclusive and transparent, with participation of representatives of all national councils of national minorities in Serbia. On that occasion, they had an opportunity to state their reservations, many of which have been incorporated in these laws. This is a legitimate way, and the public should decide what the motivation behind this is”, concluded Mr. Ružić. 22 councils will be elected on the regular elections for national councils of national minorities scheduled for 4 November, while electoral lists must be submitted until 19 October. “So far, nine lists have been submitted for elections for national councils of national minorities which will be held in Serbia on 4 November”, said today Mr. Ružić, Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government of Serbia.