The Activities of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities January 2001 ― May 2002

In: European Yearbook of Minority Issues Online
Author: Sally Holt 1
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  • 1 Sally Holt holds an MA in Human Rights from the University of London, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, and is Legal Officer at the Office of the High Commissioner on National Minorities. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and are not necessarily shared by the High Commissioner or by the OSCE.

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  • 1 See Walter Kemp (ed.), Quiet Diplomacy in Action: The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (The Hague, 2001).

  • 2 See e.g. 8(4) OSCE Newsletter (2001), News from the High Commissioner on National Minorities, "High Commissioner Encourages Dialogue among Parties in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"; and 8(7) OSCE Newsletter (2001), News from the High Commissioner on National Minorities, "Van der Stoel Concentrates in Final Month on Macedonians". 3 OSCE Press Release, "Van der Stoel Appointed Personal Envoy of Chairman-in-Office", 29 June 2001, at http://www.osce.org/news/generate.php3?news_id= 1854. 4 See the exchange of letters between the High Commissioner and H.E. Mr. Ismail Cem, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey: HCNM Letter to dem, 6 June 2000 and reply of 14 June 2000; HCNM Letter to Cem, 27 July 2000 and reply of 15 September 2000. For an account of the exchange, see Kemp, Quiet Diplomacy ..., 211-6. The HCNM approached the Turkish authorities on

  • two further occasions in 2001. See HCNM Letter to Cem, 13 February 2001 and reply of 1 May 2001; and HCNM Letter to Cem, 13 June 2001. 5 At http://www.osce.org/hcnm/documents/reports/. 6 Ibid. 7 The EU's 1999 Guiding Principles for Improving the Situation of the Roma in Candidate Countries are based on the recommendations of both the OSCE HCNM and the Council of Europe's Specialist Group on Roma/Gypsies. 8 In fact, while the Mission mandates were not extended, the offices were physically maintained for administrative reasons (and, in the case of Latvia, also to conclude some project activities) until the end of February 2002 (Estonia) and May 2002 (Latvia). 9 "International Terrorism and Violent Extremism as Global Challenges", speech by H.E. Ambassador Rolf Ekeus at the Bishkek International Conference on Enhancing Security and Stability in Central Asia: Strengthening Comprehensive Efforts to Counter Terrorism, 13 December 2001, at http://www.osce.org/hcnm/documents/speeches/2001/index.php3.

  • 'o OSCE HCNM statement at the OSCE Permanent Council Meeting, 12 April 2002. " See OSCE HCNM Press Release, "OSCE High Commissioner Praises Adoption of `Minority Law' in Yugoslavia", 28 February 2002, OSCE Doc. HCNM. INF/1/02. 'z Report by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities to the Permanent Council, H.E. Ambassador Rolf Ekeus, 7 March 2002, OSCE Doc. HCNM.GAL/3/02 (hereinafter "OSCE HCNM, Report to the Permanent Council, 7 March 2002"). The Law also received praise from the EU; see EU statement in response to the address by the High Commissioner on National Minorities, H.E. Ambassador Rolf Ekeus, 7 March 2002, OSCE Doc. PC.DEL/130/02 (hereinafter "EU Statement, 7 March 2002").

  • " Ibid. " The HCNM was informed to this effect in meetings with the President and Deputy Speaker of the Parliament on his visit to Croatia on 27 February-1 March 2002. '5 Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Council of Europe, E.T.S. No. 157. `6 European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, Council of Europe, E.T.S. No. 148.

  • " For a full explanation of the High Commissioner's concerns on this matter, see OSCE HCNM Letter to H.E. Mr. lndulis BerziQš, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Latvia, 8 October 2001.

  • '8 See OSCE HCNM statement on "Sovereignty, Responsibility and National Minorities", 26 October 2001, OSCE Doc. HCNM.GAL/5/01, 29 October 2001. This approach has received broad support from the international community, see e.g. EU statement of 7 March 2002. 19 OSCE HCNM Letter to H.E. Mr. Janos Martonyi, Minister for Foreign Affairs, 7 December 2001. These concerns are reflected in the Venice Commission's Report of 20 October 2001 which concludes that the granting of benefits to kin-minorities "is only legitimate if the principles of territorial sover- eignty of States, pacta sunt servanda, friendly relations amongst States, and the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the prohibition of discrimination are respected", see European Commission for Democracy Through Law, 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, Strasbourg, 22 October 2001, Council of Europe Doc. CDL- INF (2001), 19. 20 See OSCE HCNM address to a regional Ministerial Conference on National and Ethnic Communities and Minorities in South Eastern Europe on Domestic and Regional Confidence Building, Belgrade, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, 5 July 2001, at http://www.osce.org/hcnm/documents/ speeches/2001/index/php3/php3. z` A memorandum of understanding on the implementation of the Status Law in Romania was reached in December 2001. 22 On 8 May 2002, Doru Vasile lonescu, head of the government's Department for Diaspora Romanians, on return from visits to Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania, was reported as stating that "the govern- ment will demand that Romanians living in those countries be officially recognized as national minorit- ies and will extend aid to facilitate education in their native languages for members of the Vlach and Aromonian minorities which are both related to Romanian"; see 6(86) RFE/RL Newsline (9 May 2002), Part I.

  • 23 see Annual Report on OSCE Activities 2001 (hereinafter "OSCE Annual Report 2001"), at http://www.osce.org/publications/annual_report/. z' OSCE HCNM Report to the Permanent Council, 7 March 2002. 25 See 9(3) OSCE Newsletter (2002), News from the High Commissioner on National Minorities, "High Commissioner Deepens Involvement in Georgia". 26 Although as Stephen May notes, while language represents only one contingent marker of ethnic identity (which is anyway a shifting and nebulous construct), the use of language plays a dominant role in the identity claims and political mobilization of minority movements; see Stephen May, "Uncommon Languages: The Challenges and Possibilities of Minority Language Rights", 21(5) Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Developments, Special Issue on Language, Nationalism and Minority Rights (2000). 27 For an analysis of the approach of the HCNM in addressing specific language-related issues that have commonly arisen in the course of his involvements in various states, see Sally Holt and John Packer, "OSCE Developments and Linguistic Minorities", 3(2) MOST Electronic Journal on Multicultural Societies (2001), at http://www.unesco.org/most/jmshome.htm.

  • za He did so, for example, in response to the publication of an interview with the Director of the State Language Centre (the responsible body for implementation) in which she stated that she considered the Language Law to be an "enemy" of the Latvian language, see OSCE HCNM Letter to H.E. Mr. Indulis Berzir;tš, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Latvia, 15 June 2001.

  • z9 See e.g. 8(4) OSCE Newsletter (2001), News from the High Commissioner on National Minorities, "HCNM Urges Acceleration of Naturalisation Process in Latvia". 30 see OSCE HCNM Letter to H.E. Mr. Indulis Berzins, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Latvia, 13 April 2001(hereinafter "HCNM Letter to Berzins, 13 April 2001"). 31 Delegation of Latvia, reply to the statement by the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE at the Meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, 20 February 2002, OSCE Doc. PC.DEL/101/02. 'z On 12 February, the Cabinet of Ministers suspended indefinitely the approval of the latest lists of candidates submitted by the Naturalization Board until completion of the inquiry; the number waiting mounted to over 1,800 before being approved on 7 May 2002. See "Naturalizacijas Parvaldes", The News of the Naturalisation Board, Monthly Newsletter, 15 April-15 May 2002. " OSCE HCNM Letter to H.E. Mr. Indulis Berzins. Foreign Minister of the Republic of Latvia, 12 February 2002. '° Ibid. 3s Ibid. '6 See 44 Minority Issues in Latvia (February 2002), Prepared by the Latvian Human Rights Committee. at http://racoon.riga.lv/minelres/archive//02192002-18:42:09-3205.html.

  • " Funding from the Society Integration Foundation has been sought by the Naturalization Board. 's OSCE HCNM Letter to H.E. Mr. Toomas Henrik lives, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, 25 May 2001 (hereinafter "HCNM Letter to Ilves, 25 May 2001"). 39 Letter to the OSCE HCNM from H.E. Mr. Indulis Berzins, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Latvia, 12 December 2001 (hereinafter "Berzins Letter to HCNM, 12 December 2001"). '° OSCE HCNM Letter to Berzi4�, 13 April 2001.

  • 41 Ibid. "z See e.g. EU statement in response to Ambassador Hertrampf, Head of Mission to Estonia, Permanent Council No. 345, 28 June 2001, OSCE Doc. PC.DEL/484/01 (hereinafter "EU statement, 28 June 2001"). " The conclusion that a language proficiency of any kind for a candidate for election is incompatible with international law is supported by the View of the UN Human Rights Committee adopted on 25 July 2001, in which the Committee noted that Article 25 secures to every citizen the right and the opportunity to be elected at genuine periodic elections without any of the distinctions mentioned in Article 2, including language. The Committee found a violation of Article 25 in conjunction with Article 2 of the ICCPR. See UN Human Rights Committee, Communication No. 884/1999, Ignatane v. Gatvia, views of 25 July 2001, CCPR/C/72/D/884/1999. This case is reported in Alexander H.E. Morawa, "The Jurisprudence of the United Nations Human Rights Committee and Other Treaty Monitoring Bodies", in this volume. 44 see OSCE HCNM Letter to H.E. Mr. Indulis Berzins, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Latvia, 17 December 2001 (hereinafter "HCNM Letter to Berzins, 17 December 2001"). "5 See statement by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, 22 November 2001, OSCE Doc. HCNM.GAL/6/01. "6 HCNM Letter to Barrio§, 17 December 2001, in response to the request of Minister Berzins in his letter to the HCNM of 12 December 2001.

  • " Eur. Ct. H.R. Appl. 46726/99, Podkolzina v. Latvia, judgment of 9 April 2002. 48 Following the Podkolzina v. Latvia judgment, the HCNM made a statement reiterating his support for the intention of the Latvian Government to amend the election laws by removing linguistic requirements to stand for elected office, as a necessary condition in a functioning democratic society. See OSCE HCNM statement "High Commissioner Supports Amendments to the Election Laws in Latvia", l April 2002, OSCE Doc. HCNM.INF/3/02. The EU also expected that the Latvian Electoral Law be amended as soon as possible by the abolition of language requirements for candidates, see EU statement of 7 March 2002. '9 OSCE HCNM Press Release, "Statement on Adoption of Amendments to Latvian Election Laws", 10 May 2002, OSCE Doc. HCNM.INF/4/02.

  • so Art. 18 of Amendments to the Latvian Constitution, Bill No. 1214, 10 May 2002. 51 With reference to the 1991 Provisional Book of regulations of the Assembly of the then Socialist Republic of Macedonia which allowed for this possibility. 52 OSCE HCNM letter to H.E. Ms. lngrida Labucka, Minister of Justice of Latvia, 4 August 2000. 53 OSCE HCNM statement regarding the adoption of regulations implementing the Latvian State Language Law, 31 August 2000.

  • 54 In this respect, the High Commissioner expressed his regret that the adopted text "has neither taken into account all my recommendations nor fully rejects the results of consultations with experts in my office", see HCNM Letter to Ilves, 25 May 2001. sus Ibid. The EU likewise stressed the need for a "liberal interpretation of the principles of justified public interest and of proportionality in its implementation", see EU Statement, 28 June 2001. ss `

  • 57 See e.g. OSCE HCNM Letter to Berzips, 13 April 2001. ss OSCE HCNM Report to the Permanent Council, 7 March 2002.

  • 59 See e.g. the Appeal of Latvian NGOs on Minority Policies in Latvia, Minelres Archive, at http://www.riga.lv/minelres/archive.htm. bo See OSCE HCNM Letters to H.E. Mr. Igor Ivanov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and H.E. Mr. Anatoly M. Zlenko, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, 12 January 2001, for the HCNM's full recommendations.

  • 61 8(9) OSCE Newsletter (2001), News from the High Commissioner on National Minorities, "High Commissioner Supports Inter-ethnic Initiatives in Moldova". 62 See SEE University Foundation, Annual Report 2001 for a historical account of the university's development. For more information, see http://www.see-university.com/english/general/frameset.html. 63 OSCE HCNM Press Release, "South Eastern European University Opens in Tetevo, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", 20 November 2001, OSCE Doc. HCNM/INF/3/01.

  • 6' OSCE Annual Report 2001.

  • bs In Latvia, a significant part of the minority population (especially Russian-speakers) have signalled their opposition to the proposed changes, their primary concern being the wish for more choice in instruction in the minority language for cultural reasons (among others). 66 Delegation of Latvia, reply to the HCNM Rolf Ekeus at the Permanent Council Meeting No. 383, 7 March 2002, OSCE Doc, PC.Del/142/02. 6 8(5) OSCE Newsletter (2001 News from the High Commissioner on National Minorities, "Concerns Over Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Remains a High Priority for HCNM".

  • 68 OSCE Annual Report 2001.

  • 69 For the full text of the Lund Recommendations (available in several languages), see http:// www.osce.org/hcnm/documents/recommendations/lund/index.php3. 70 OSCE HCNM Letter to the H.E. Mr. Anatoly Zlenko, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, 4 December 2001 (emphasis in the original). " OSCE Press Release, "OSCE Chairman-in-Office Welcomes Law on Local Self-Government Passed in Skopje", 25 January 2002, OSCE Doc. SEC.INFO/27/02, at http://www.osce.org/news/ generate.php3?news_id = 2258.

  • 72 Framework Convention Arts. 10 (2), 11 (3) and 14 (2).

  • 73 "Minority Rights, Participation and Bilateral Agreements", address by Max van der Stoel at the international seminar on Legal Aspects of Minority Rights: Participation in Decision-Making Processes and Bilateral Agreements on Minority Rights, Zagreb, Croatia, 4 December 2000, at http://www.osce.org/hcnm/documents/speeches/2000/. It is noteworthy that the importance of the issue was highlighted in the last address of Wolfgang Petritsch as High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, who urged the OSCE Delegations to lobby their governments for support for the process of return of refugees and displaced persons in the Balkans "at a time when return is politically possible and really happening". See OSCE Press Release, "High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Urges OSCE to Give More Support to Return Process", 9 May 2002, at http://www.osce.org/news/generate.php3?news id=2445.

  • " The "Strategy of the Government of Romania for Improving the Condition of Roma" was the focus of discussions between the High Commissioner, Rolf Ekeus, and the Romanian authorities during visits to that country in 2001. 'S See "Implementing Good Intentions", address by H.E. Ambassador Rolf Ekeus to a conference on Equal Opportunities for Roma and Sinti: Translating Words into Facts, 10 September 2001, at http://www.osce.org/hcnm/documents/speeches/2001/index.php3.

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