OSCE: EU Statement in response to the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Ambassador Rolf Ekéus

Finnish Presidency of the Council of the European Union
Permanent Council No. 639
23 November 2006

The European Union welcomes Ambassador Rolf Ekéus back to the Permanent Council and thanks him for his comprehensive report.

The EU emphasizes the importance it attaches to respect for the rights of persons belonging to national minorities and renews its full support for the valuable work carried out by the High Commissioner as an instrument of early warning and conflict prevention.

We are pleased to note the High Commissioner’s continued involvement together with the Ukrainian Government on issues relating to inter-ethnic relations, in particular regarding the integration of Crimean Tatars. We also welcome the Ukrainian Government’s commitment to finalise the amendment of minority legislation and commend the High Commissioner’s assistance in this process. Furthermore, we encourage Ukraine to continue to work with Romania on issues of reciprocal kin-minorities.

On Georgia, the EU appreciates the High Commissioner’s readiness to provide advice and expertise on various key minority issues. We reaffirm our support for the ongoing projects in the regions of Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo-Kartli. We also support the High Commissioner’s intention to consider further concrete projects on the issue of policing in multi-ethnic societies.

The EU encourages the High Commissioner’s efforts in South Eastern Europe. We appreciate the High Commissioner’s open and constructive dialogue with the Serbian Government. We share Ambassador Ekéus’ view that, while some progress has been achieved, further efforts should be made to improve the situation in South Serbia and Vojvodina.

In Kosovo, we reiterate our support to the High Commissioner’s endeavours to promote improved relations and reconciliation between communities.

Regarding Croatia, the EU concurs with Ambassador Ekéus that, building on results already achieved, further steps should be considered to ensure proportional representation in the State administration and the judiciary, as well as to the education situation in Eastern Slavonia.

On Central Asia, the EU fully endorses the High Commissioner’s efforts in the fields of education as a means of promoting further social integration in the region’s multi-ethnic states. In this respect, we welcome Ambassador Ekéus’ initiative to organize, in cooperation with the Uzbek authorities, a conference on “The Challenge of Educational Reform in Multi-Ethnic Central Asia”.

We would also like to commend the High Commissioner for the assistance provided to Kazakhstan on best ways to advance the knowledge of the State language, while respecting the linguistic and educational rights of persons belonging to national minorities.

In Kyrgyzstan, the EU is pleased to learn that the High Commissioner is working closely with the Ministry of Interior on enhancing cooperation and communication between the police service and persons belonging to national minorities and that a memorandum of understanding has been signed to this effect. In line with the High Commissioner, the EU urges the Kyrgyz authorities to take steps to improve minority representation in the police.

The EU reiterates its appreciation for the dialogue between the High Commissioner and the Latvian authorities and welcomes the “Practical Guide for State Language Inspectors” presented last week in Riga.

The EU is particularly pleased with the High Commissioner’s co-operation with other international institutions active in the area of early warning, conflict prevention and protection of the rights of persons belonging to national minorities. We value the close contacts that the High Commissioner has developed with the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Commission and encourage him to pursue this constructive interaction.

Finally, the EU reiterates its commitment to respect for the rights of persons belonging to national minorities and its support for the High Commissioner’s valuable work.

The EU thanks Ambassador Ekéus and wish him and his staff continued success in their important work.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia, EFTA countries Iceland and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine align themselves with this statement.

* Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process