Protection of National Minorities through Bilateral Agreements

In: European Yearbook of Minority Issues Online
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  • 1 Researcher at the European Academy Bozen/Bolzano, Minorities and Autonomies, currently doctoral candidate in Law at the University of Graz.

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  • 1 On the basis of the Proceeding Points for the Restructuring of Relations between Serbia and Montenegro of 14 March 2002, the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has been transformed into the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro with a new Constitution, adopted by the three parliaments (the federal, the Serb and the Montenegrin) in March 2003. See also Vojislav Stanovcic, 'Legal Status and Rights of Minorities in Serbia and Montenegro', in this volume.In this report the previous name Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) will be used with regard to agreements concluded or initiated before the entry into force of the new Constitution. 2 Agreement between the Federal Government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Government of Romarria on cooperation in the Field of Protection of National Minorities, signed in Belgrade, 4 November 2002. See annex to this article for full text of the agreement. 3 Agreement between Serbia and Montenegro and the Republic of Hungary on the Protection of Rights of the Hungarian Minority Living in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Serbian Minority Living in the Republic of Hungary. On 21 October 2003 the agreement was signed by the two Prime Ministers. As on that occasion some changes in the wording were introduced, the full text of the agreement in the annex has been adapted as much as possible.

  • 4 The first round of negotiations took place in Bucharest, 16 November 2001, the second in Belgrade, 21 February 2002, the last in Timisoara, 30 October 2002. 5 Interview conducted by the author with Irina Donciu, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Romania, 20 January 2003. 6 Treaty on Friendly Relations, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation (16 May 1996). Article 20 can be found at http://dev,eurac,edu:8085/mugs2/ dolblo b.h tm1?type= h tm1&serial = 1 005234353486. 7 Convention between the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Hungary on the Protection of the Hun- garian Minority in the Republic of Croatia and the Croatian Minority in the Republic of Hungary (5 April 1995). 8 Treaty Regarding the Friendship and Co-Operation Relations between Romania and Croatia (16 February 1994). 9 On the other hand there are examples where the Basic Treaty was signed after an agreement on mutual minorities, as was the case of the Hungarian-Slovenian friendship treaty, which referred to the Convention on Providing Special Rights for the Slovenian Minority Living in Hungary and for the Hungarian Minor- ity living in Slovenia (6 November 1992).

  • 10 See 'Ethnic Romanians in Serbia ask for Education in their Mother Tongue', Divers - Reporting Ethnic Diversity, No. 9, (27 May 2002), at For more information about the Vlachs, their language, their history and their current situation see 'Report. The Vlachs',1(3) Greek Monitor of Human � Minority Rights (May-June 1994), at vlachs.html. According to the last census carried out in Romania 22,518 Serbs live in Romania, correspond- ing to 0.1% of the total population.

  • 11 Law of Local Public Administration No. 215/2001, published in the Official Gazette, Part I, no. 204 of 23 April, 2001, at See also Govern- mental Decision no.1206/2001 on the adoption of application guidelines for the provisions concerning the right of citizens belonging to national minority to use the mother tongue in local public administration, as stipulated in the Law of Local Public Administration No. 215/2001, at do/blob.btml?type=html&serial=1020427888394. 12 Law on Protection of Rigbts and Freedoms of National Minorities, Official Gazette of FRY No. 11 of 27 February 2002. 13 Ibid Article 11(4). 14 Emphasis added.

  • 15 An interesting detail when it comes to the question of interpretation of the agreement is that `in case of dif ference of interpretation, the English text will prevail', the Serbian and Romanian being equally authentic. 16 Emphasis added. 17 It is in fact foreseen by Article 14 of the agreement, that 'for the purpose of implementation of this Agree- ment, the Contracting Parties will conclude inter-governmental or/and interdepartmental agreements and programs'. 18 The Serb authorities used to consider the Vlachs as an 'ethnic group', without a kin-state, such as is the case for the Roma and, consequently, they had no right to speak in their mother language, no right for own school, particular religious service, press or cultural institution; in 'Ethnic Romanians ...'. '. 19 See Mercator Legislation Newsletter, no. 8 (November 2002) 20 Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, opinion on Romania, adopted on 6 April 2001, para 53. 21 Resolution ResCMN (2002)5 on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities by Romania, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 13 March 2002 at the 788th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies. 22 E.g. Article 15(2)(g) of the agreement between Hungary and Slovakia. 23 The explanatory report on the provisions of the FCNM states that'knowledge of the official language is a factor of social cohesion and integration.

  • 24 Recommendation 1, The Lund Recommendations on the Effective Participation of National Minorities in Public Life, September 1999 (OSCE HCNM), emphasis added. 25 For such an example see: The Federal (Article 18) and the National (Article 19) Councils of National Minorities in the Yugoslav Law on Protection of Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities. 26 See in this respect Recommendations 6-13 of the Lund Recommendations.

  • 27 As was also stated by (then) Yugoslav president Vojislav Kostunica, see Mediafax, November 11, 2002. 28 Francesco Palermo and Jens Woelk, 'No Representation without Recognition. The Right to the Pohtical Participation of (National) Minorities 25(3) Journal of European Integration (2003). 29 In Hungary the number of Serbs is 3,816, which corresponds to 0,04 % of the total population. In Serbia (the last census took place only there) around 300,000 (4% of the total population of Serbia) declared themselves as belonging to the Hungarian minority. This group is mainly concentrated in Vojvodina, where the Hungarians represent 17%.

  • 30 Report of the Venice Commission on the preferential treatment of national minorities by their kin-State, adopted by the Venice Commission at its 48`" Plenary Meeting, (Venice,19-20 October 2001), CDL-INF (2001) 19. 31 Act LXII of 2001 on Hungarians Living in Neighbouring Countries, entered into force on 1 January 2002. 32 Charter of the United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights; UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education; International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Dis- crimination ; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; UN General Assembly Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities; Declarations, positions and recommendations expressed within the framework of CSCE/OSCE, such as: the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference of the Human Dimension of the CSCE (Copenhagen, 1990); the Helsinki Document of the CSCE (1992); and the OSCE Charter for European Security (Istan- bul, 1999) ; the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms; the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, and; the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Only recommendation 1201(1993) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on an additional protocol on the rights of national minorities to the ECHR, is not mentioned. Arti- cle 11 of this recommendation provides: `In the regions where they are in a majority the persons belonging to a national minority shall have the right to have at their disposal appropriate local or autonomous authorities or to have a special status, matching the specific historical and territorial situation and in accordance with the domestic legislation of the state'. For an interpretation of this article see opinion of the Venice Commission, CDL-INF (96) 4. Recommendation 1201(1993) was included in Hungary's Basic Treaties concluded with Romania and Slovakia, both of which denied to have recognized the principle of collective rights for the minorities and to have admitted the creation of autonomous structures on (the) ethnic principle.

  • 33 Convention between the Republic of Hungary and the Republic of Croatia on the protection of the Hungarian minority in the Republic of Croatia and the Croatian minority in the Republic of Hungary (5 April 1995). Article 9(3): 'The Republic of Hungary shall confirm to ensure the material conditions for the establishment and effective operation of the Croatian minority self-governments in Hungary within the framework of current regulations and the appointed date.' Article 9(4): 'The Republic of Croatia shall con- firm to ensure, in accordance with its domestic legislation, the right of the Hungarian minority to cultural autonomy .... 34 Law No. LXXVII/1993. 35 Jeno Kaltenbach,'Die Rechtsstellung der Minderheiten in Ungam', in Georg Brunner and Boris Meissner (eds.), Das Recbt der nationalen c\1inderheiten in Osteuropa (Berlin, 1999), 135-48; Jozsef Petretei, `Die ver- fassungsrechtliche und einfachrechtliche Ausgestaltung des Minderheitenschutzes in Ungam', in Gerrit Manssen and Boguslaw Banaszak (eds.), Minderbeitenscbutz in Mittel- und Osteuropa (Frankfurt am plain, 2001), 168-76; Dirk Stahlberg, Minderheitenscbutz durtb Personal- und Tmitorialautonomie. Ein Vergleicb (Miinchen, 2000),104-12.

  • 36 This is the case in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Südtirol (Italy) where all public posts are distrib- uted among Italians and the German and Ladin minorities according to their numerical strength in the overall population in the province. In this region the German-speakers constitute the majority with 68% of the population, whereas the Italians hold 28% and the Ladins 4%. 37 The Hague Recommendations regarding the Educational Rights of National Minorities, October 1996 (OSCE HCNM).

  • 38 For further reference concerning the implementation of bilateral agreements see Emma Lantschner, `Bilat- eral agreements and their Implementation', in Alexander Morawa (ed.) Mechanisms for the Implementation ofMinority Rights (Strasbourg, forthcoming).

  • 39 Dnevnik, Utrinski Vesnik, 15 May 2003; MIA, Al TV, 14 May 2003. 40 RFE/RL 30 October 2002. 41 RFE/RL 10 January 2003. 42 RFE/RL 6 January 2003. 43 RFE/RL 17 January 2003. 44 RFE/RL 18 December 2002.

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