The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers has published a new report on the application of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) in Serbia, along with its recommendations. The charter applies to Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Bunjevac, Croatian, Czech, German, Hungarian, Macedonian, Romani, Romanian, Ruthenian, Slovakian, Ukrainian, and Vlach.
The Council of Europe’s experts welcomed the progress made in the training of teachers for minority-language education, the publication of textbooks, and the broadcasting of new public radio and television programs, as well as a significant number of cultural activities in all minority languages. However, there are also causes for concern, such as relatively high thresholds for establishing minority-language classes and the discontinuation of preschool education in Romani.
The experts observed a very high level of minority language presence in public radio and television broadcasts in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. However, the privatization of public broadcasters has reduced the offer of broadcasts available in minority languages at the local level in Serbia, the report said.
Despite the possibility spelled out in the charter of using minority languages before courts, this provision is rarely implemented in practice. Minority languages are also rarely used by administrative authorities, except for the administration of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina.
National minorities in Serbia are represented by national councils. These councils enjoy a certain level of autonomy and have the competence to take initiatives in the fields of culture, education, information, and official use of the language and script.
However, their capacity to effectively promote the minority languages needs to be strengthened.
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe recommends that Serbia, as a matter of priority:
- Make available adequate teaching of Romani and Ukrainian in preschool, primary, and secondary education and extend the existing teaching and study in/of German, Czech, and other languages covered only by Part II of the charter;
- Facilitate the broadcasting of public and private radio and television programs in the minority languages in order to reach an appropriate total broadcast time for each language;
- Strengthen the use of all regional and minority languages in the judiciary and administration;
- Strengthen the capacity of the national councils of national minorities to effectively promote the regional and minority languages in public life;
- Promote awareness and tolerance in Serbian society at large with respect to the minority languages and cultures as an integral part of the heritage of Serbia.
The charter entered into force in Serbia, as the successor to the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, on June 1, 2006.