OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities calls for renewed dialogue between all political and social actors in Croatia

By KKoponen

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors visited Croatia from 9 to 10 May 2016. During her visit, Thors focused on promoting the effective implementation of the Constitutional Act on the Rights of National Minorities, in particular the provisions regarding languages and scripts; on education matters; and, on issues pertaining to national minorities and good neighbourly relations.

Concerned that marginalizing or stigmatizing national minorities poses a threat to the cohesion of society and to bilateral relations, Thors urged the systematic condemnation of discriminatory rhetoric or conduct.

“Divisive rhetoric has proven a dangerous path. The more diversity, the richer a society is, as different cultures are the shared wealth of all,” Thors said. “It is crucial to foster a sense of belonging for all members of society in order to effectively promote the integration process,” she added. Thors called for ensuring the protection of the rights of national minorities whilst avoiding polarization of the society along ethnic lines, consistent with The Ljubljana Guidelines on the Integration of Diverse Societies, published by HCNM in 2012.

The High Commissioner also emphasized the need for a renewed dialogue between all political and social actors to overcome difficulties, including those related to the protection of minority rights, in a consultative manner. In this context, Thors welcomed the thorough process of the curricular reform and reiterated her support to teaching of a common curriculum, regardless of the instruction language, as an effective way to integrate diverse societies and provide for common points of understanding.

Thors was encouraged by the prospect of further co-operation with Croatian institutions. She also welcomed the attention given to the existing joint bilateral inter-governmental commissions. “Co-ordination of efforts with neighbouring countries in this field and the active role played by all ministries under the auspices of the State Office of Croats Abroad could consolidate the shared European aspirations in the neighbourhood,” Thors noted.

The High Commissioner met a variety of key interlocutors in Zagreb. These included Zdravka Bušić, Deputy Foreign Minister; Dubravka Jurlina Alibegović, Minister of Public Administration; Predrag Šustar, Minister of Science, Education and Sports; Furio Radin, Milorad Pupovac, Ivan Radić, and Marko Sladojev, Chairperson and members of the Parliamentary Committee on Human and National Minority Rights, respectively; Aleksandar Tolnauer, President of the Council for National Minorities; Lora Vidović, Ombudsman; Branko Sočana, Director of the Government Office for Human Rights and Rights of the National Minorities; and Zvonko Milas, Head of the State Office for Croats Abroad.

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