Protection of National Minorities through Bilateral Agreements in South Eastern Europe

In: European Yearbook of Minority Issues Online
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  • 1 Researcher at the European Academy Bozen/Bolzano.
  • 2 Researcher at the European Academy Bozen/Bolzano, Minorities and Autonomies; Law Degree; LL.M. (University of Essex); currently doctoral candidate in Law (University of Graz).

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  • 1 See annex to this article for a list of the existing bilateral agreements touching upon minority rights in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (at Entity level), Bulgaria, Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Slovenia. For the full text of the Hungarian agreements, see at http://www.htmh.hu/bilat-frame.htm. For the texts of other agreements see also Fernand de Varennes, Language, Minorities and Human Rights (The Hague/Boston/London, 1996); Arie Bloed and Pieter van Dijk (eds.), Protection of Minority Rights through Bilateral Treaties: The Case of Central and Eastern Europe (The Hague/Boston/London, 1999); and Emma Lantschner and Roberta Medda, "Protection of National Minorities though Bilateral Agreements in South-Eastern Europe", Draft Report prepared for the Council of Europe (2001). 2 A home-state is a state in which minority groups reside. A kin-state is a state in which co-ethnics of such groups reside and form the majority of the population.

  • 3 Treaty on Friendship and Co-operation between Romania and Macedonia, signed in Bucharest, 30 April 2001. 4 Since the signing of the Agreement entitled "Proceeding Points for the Restructuring of Relations between Serbia and Montenegro" on 14 March 2002, the name of the new state union has been 'Serbia and Montenegro'. In the following text, the previous name will be used in the context of agreements concluded before that date. 5 The Agreement on Special Relations between the Republic of Croatia and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was concluded in Zagreb, on 22 November 1998. Full text to be found at http://www.ohr.int/docu/d9905I2a.htm. 6 The Agreement on the Establishment of Special Parallel Relations between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republika Srpska was signed in Banja Luka on 5 March 2001.

  • 7 Article 14 of the Convention on Providing Special Rights for the Slovenian Minority Living in the Republic of Hungary and the Hungarian Minority Living in the Republic of Slovenia, 6 November 1992 (hereinafter "Hungarian-Slovenian Convention"). 8 Article 15 of the Convention between the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Hungary on the Protection of the Hungarian Minority in the Republic of Croatia and the Croatian Minority in the Republic of Hungary, 5 April 1995 (hereinafter "Hungarian-Croatian Convention"). 9 Article 4 of the Treaty between the Republic of Hungary and Romania on Understanding, Co-Operation and Good Neighbourhood, 16 September 1996 (hereinafter "Hungarian-Romanian Treaty"). 10 Article 3 of the Treaty on Good-Neighbourly Relations and Friendly Co-Operation between the Republic of Hungary and the Slovak Republic, 19 March 1995 (hereinafter "Hungarian-Slovak Treaty"). " Article 2 of the Treaty on Friendship, Good Neighbourly Relations and Co-Operation between Romania and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, 16 May 1996. 12 Michael Shafir, "A Possible Light at the End of the Tunnel", 2(19) Transition (1996), 29.

  • " See Jan Barcz, "Poland and its Bilateral Treaties", in Arie Bloed and Pieter van Dijk (eds.), Protection of Minority Rights through Bilateral Treaties: The Case of Central and Eastern Europe (The Hague/Boston/London, 1999), 119. " See Patrick Thornberry, "Hungarian Bilateral Treaties and Declarations", ibid., 154. 's See Konrad Huber and Robert W. Mickey, "Defining the Kin-State", ibid., 38-9. '6 Note that talks on SAAs have been prepared with Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  • " This was most probably the case in the Hungarian-Romanian Treaty, where the parties - in particular Hungary - did not want to endanger its prospects of NATO membership. The Hungarian-Slovak Treaty was signed under the pressure of the Stability Pact and does not represent in all respects a sound compromise between desires, concerns and fears of the two sides. In some cases the parties put it clearly that they share the interest in acceding to these structures: Article 6 of the Hungarian-Slovak Treaty states: "The Contracting Parties confirm that their interests and endeavours are identical in relation to their integration into the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the Western European Union and in relation to the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe ...". 18 See e.g. Article 15(6) Hungarian-Slovak Treaty. " All state reports are public and available on the Internet site of the Council of Europe. See at http://www.humanrights.coe.int/Minorities/Eng/SiteMap.htm.

  • z° Huber and Mickey, "Defining the ...", 45.

  • 21 See also Art. 37 of the Copenhagen Document (CSCE 1990); Art. 21 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. 22 Thornberry, "Hungarian Bilateral Treaties ...", 143-5. 23 Art. 9(4). The Republic of Croatia shall confirm to ensure, in accordance with its domestic legislation, the right of the Hungarian minority to cultural autonomy.

  • 24 see the Preamble of the Hungarian-Slovenian Convention referring to special individual and common rights for national minorities. 25 see Article 32 of the CSCE Copenhagen Document which states that "persons belonging to national minorities can exercise and enjoy their rights individually as well as in the community with other members of their group", and Article 3(2) of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities with similar wording. zb Emphasis added. 27 Huber and Mickey, "Defining the ...", 34. z8 Minority Rights Group International, "The Role of Minorities in International and Transborder Relations in Central an Eastern Europe", A Skills Exchange Workshop, held in Warsaw, Poland, 30 April-3 May 1998, 7, at http://www.minorityrights.org/workshopreps/pics/MIFB.pdf.

  • 29 Act LXII of 2001 on Hungarians Living in Neighbouring Countries. 3o Report on the preferential treatment of national minorities by their kin-state, adopted by the Venice Commission at its 48th Plenary Meeting, Venice, 19-20 October 2001, CDL-INF(2001 )019. Full text to be found at http://www.venice.coe.int/site/interface/English.htm. 31 Rolf Ekeus, "Sovereignty, Responsibility, and National Minorities: Statement by OSCE Minorities Commissioner", press statement of 26 October 2001, see at http://www.osce.org/news/ generate.php3?news_id = 2095. 3z See Art. 2(5) of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious, and Linguistic Minorities, and Art. 17 of the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

  • 3 Huber and Mickey, "Defining the ...", 45. " Minority Rights Group International, "The Role of Minorities ...", 7.

  • 35 At the multilateral seminar on The Role of National Minorities in Bilateral Relations held in Brdo (Slovenia) in 2000, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia expressed an interest in the drafting of an agreement on the Roma people. 36 Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Opinion on Denmark, adopted on 22 September 2000. Text to be found at http:// www.humanrights.coe.int/Minorities/Eng/FrameworkConvention/AdvisoryCommittee/Opinions/ Denmark.htm. details on the work of the Advisory Committee, the published opinions and the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee of Ministers may be found at http:// www.humanrights.coe.int/minorities. '8 In this context it is relevant to stress that there is growing consensus in many countries to consider the Roma as a national minority, coming thus under the Council of Europe's Framework Convention. See Milena Klajner, "Report on Bilateral Agreements", Seminar on Legal Aspects of Rights of National Minorities, Stability Pact, Report for the Working Group II, Zagreb (4-5 December 2000), 3. The issue of Roma in bilateral agreements has been discussed at the OSCE ODIHR Conference on Equal Opportunities for Roma and Sinti: Translating Words into Facts, Bucharest, 10-13 September 2001, and at the Exploratory Meeting on the Issues of Roma in Bilateral Treaties, Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 18-19 February 2002.

  • '9 The Federal Republic of Germany and Denmark agreed on a common policy on their respective minorities living in their border provinces. These countries made in 195� official commitments towards the Danish and German minorities living in their territories by recognizing several rights, such as the right to use the minority language, the right to establish institutes for education, and the right to enter into religious and cultural contacts with the kin-state. For more details see Jorgen Kuhl, "The National Minorities in the Danish-German Borderlands", in Andrea Teebken and Eva Maria Christiansen (eds.), Living Together: The Minorities in the German-Danish Border Regions (Flensbure. 2001 ), 18-9.

  • 40 Full text to be found at http://www.htmh.hu/bilat-frame.htm.

  • " For more details, see Report of Informal Brainstorming Meeting, "Exploratory Meeting on the Issue of Roma in Bilateral Treaties", Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 18-19 February 2002. 12 The President of the Republic of Finland, Tarja Halonen. in her speech at PACE on 24 January 2001 stated: "I propose that serious consideration be given to a need to create for the Roma some kind of consultative assembly to represent them on the pan-European level". Sami people in the Nordic countries have, for example, a Sami Council (representing Sami of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia) appointed by Sami Conference, and national assemblies.

  • 43 Eva Sobotka, "They Have a Dream-The State of Roma Affairs in the Czech Republic", 3(18) Central Europe Review (2001), at http://www.ce-review.org/01/18/sobotkal8.html. '° See Regional Table of the Stability Pact, held in Thessaloniki on 8 June 2000. Working Table I - Human Rights and National Minorities and the Joint Statement und Framework Programme of Action adopted by the Pororoz Stability Pact Conference on Inter-Ethnic Relations and Minorities in South Eastern Europe, 16-17 March 2000.

  • 45 Francesco Palermo and Jens Woelk, "Cross-Border Cooperation as an Indicator for Institutional Evolution of Autonomy: The Case of Trentino - South Tyrol", paper presented at the International Conference "Organising Cohabitation: The Trentino - South Tyrol Experience and Prospects for the Balkans" in Trento, 26-27 January 2001, 27.

  • '6 See Report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (Rapporteur M. Binding), Doc. 8920, Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe, 29 January 2001. " Kinga Gal, "Bilateral Agreements in Central and Eastern Europe: A New Inter-State Framework for Minority Protection?", ECMI Working Paper 4 (1999), 17. 41 See e.g. Art. 2 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, or Art. 15 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. See Gudmundur Alfredsson, "Disadvantages of Bilateral Agreements", in Arie Bloed and Pieter van Dijk (eds.), Protection of Minority Rights through Bilateral Treaties: The Case of Central and Eastern Europe (The Hague/Boston/London, 1999), 171.

  • " The Copenhagen Political Criteria ( 1993 ) include democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities. 50 See Chapter III of the present contribution.

  • 51 Minority Rights Group International, "The Role of Minorities ...", 2. sz Ibid. 53 It has to be mentioned that in order to strengthen cooperation and stability in the region, the Heads of State/Government of the SEECP countries adopted a "Charter of Good-Neighbourly Relations, Stability, Security and Co-operation in South Eastern Europe" (SEECP Summit of Bucharest, February 2000).

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