by Vesna TASIC
Europe, then world: Lhe leader of the expert team working on the proposal of the ethnic minority law, Professor Vojislav Stanovcic, responded to possible criticism by saying that the term Muslim must also be respected, as the future law will "fully respect individual right of self-determination". If in the meantime a larger group appears, as for example Bosniaks, this group will be allowed to declare itself as such. The enactment of a new federal ethnic minorities law will in many ways depend on the changes in the FRY Constitution, on the future territorial-political division to autonomous regions or counties, as well as on the new local self-government law (also in preparation), which would in many ways regulate the status of minorities on the local level.
According to the Constitution, most minority issues are under jurisdiction of the states, Serbia and Montenegro, which means that the enactment of the new federal law should be followed by state laws. Especially as the links between the two Yugoslav states will be most likely based on a "loose" federation. As all rights and freedoms of citizens have been entered in the FRY Constitution, that means that the federation must, besides a minimal amount of certain joint functions, also keep jurisdiction over the protection of individual and collective rights of the citizens. Exactly this view was recently supported by the representatives of the Council of Europe. Without doubt, the future law will be in accordance with all European conventions regarding the status of ethnic minorities. "They do not insist on any specific article but, naturally, certain standards regarding the status of minorities must be fulfilled if we want to join the European Union. These criteria apply to all European countries and they have included them into their laws."
Improvements: According to the accepted Western European standards a minority is every group that lives surrounded by another group, even if that group is also a minority, if it speaks a different language or practices a different religion or has different ethnicity. That means, explains Stanovcic, that Serbs in Kosovo, if the UN Security Council resolution 1244 is respected, will be treated as an ethnic minority. "We are creating a draft law that will also apply to Kosovo. As experts we do not want, nor do we intend to violate the existing constitutional order and the Resolution 1244. However, the applicability of the law, the readiness of anyone to abide by it, that is outside our jurisdiction. The regulations were tolerant in the past as well, but were blatantly violated in some cases, and indirectly in others. Also, there are about five to six laws that discriminate against some minorities and regions, and are formally still valid today, such as the Ban of Real Estate Transactions Between Members of Different Ethnic Groups."
The future law will not usher a quick turnaround, but many of its articles dealing with national identity, cultural, educational and other minority institutions, as well as those that will guarantee stronger institutional organization of minorities will be improved.
Stanovcic has received criticism from Roma groups that, even though they fulfill all the criteria for an ethnic minority, they are frequently not treated accordingly, as the law does not define them in that way. Having in mind that it is in the interest of minorities to be specifically listed in the Law, that will be respected this time.
by Vesna TASIC
Optimistic trend: An interesting feature of new surveys is that for the first time since the beginning of the Yugoslav crisis, Serbs express more favorable than unfavorable opinions about Croats, while in the past during some years two thirds of Serbs expressed negative opinion about Croats. Also, for the first time since October 5, minorities view inter-ethnic relations more favorably than Serbs, and the changes are especially striking among the members of largest minorities, Hungarians and Muslims. In September 2000, 54 percent of Muslims were dissatisfied, and in late October the same percentage was satisfied with inter-ethnic relations. Having in mind that in such a short period of time the situation could not have been changed, these results are explained by the general optimistic trend. It is especially striking that more Bosniaks have favorable opinion about Serbs, with concurrent drastic reduction in negative views. The other significant change among the Muslims is a sharp reduction in favorable and sharp increase in unfavorable views with respect to the Albanians. That can be explained by the fact, believes Lutovac, that besides Serbs and Roma, many Muslims suffered in Kosovo [after the arrival of KFOR]. With respect to February 2000, the unfavorable opinions of Serbs with respect to Hungarians has dropped from 30 percent to 19 percent, while that of Serbs with respect to Muslims has dropped from 56 percent of 47 percent. At the same time, the favorable opinion of Serbs with respect to Hungarians has increased from 30 percent to 60 percent, and with respect to Muslims from 18 to 38 percent, as well as with respect to Albanians (from 11 to 23 percent).
Ingrained emotions: "The results confirm that the dissatisfaction with inter-ethnic relations in Serbia is not a result of truly bad relations and negative experiences. Rather it is the result of inadequate policies. For example, when discussing their economic situation, minorities are more inclined to say that they are in a worse economic situation than the majority nation. But if you ask them specifically about their income and average out the results, it turns out that Serbs on average earn 6,200 dinars per month, Hungarians 10,300 and Muslims 5,100. That indicates that the differences in income are not based on ethnicity, but are regional.
"Research of ethnic distance and inter-ethnic relations indicates that Serbs are not xenophobic, that unfavorable views were caused by the events in the former Yugoslavia. Ethnic tolerance is slowly returning to the level before the wars. It is obvious that political propaganda influences public opinion, but there are deeply ingrained emotions, such as ethnic distance with respect to Albanians, which is much deeper than that with respect to Hungarians, for example. Unfavorable opinions about Albanians used to be expressed even during the period of the so-called brotherhood and unity [the former Yugoslavia]. Not only did all ethnic groups in the former Yugoslavia have an unfavorable opinion of Albanians, but the Albanians also had unfavorable attitude with respect to all other ethnic groups, not only the Serbs," says Lutovac.