Monday, 29 July 2013

14th Sitting of the Committee on the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region

At the sitting held on 29 July, the members of the Committee on the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region discussed the position of Serbs in the Republic of Croatia and the exercise of their minority rights in line with European Union standards.


Committee Chairman Aleksandar Cotric said that the sitting was called to discuss the impact of Croatia’s accession to the European Union on Serbs in Croatia, the arrest of 12 Serbs in the village of Tripnja near Vukovar on 11 July 2013 and the case of Mile Dakic who was arrested at Raca in May 2011.
In the course of the debate, the Committee members discussed other problems Serbs living in Croatia have, such as property recovery, employment of members of the Serbian national minority, war crime trials, assimilation of Serbs in Croatia, non-implementation of the Constitutional law on national minorities, problems of refugees, missing persons, poverty and the development of areas populated by Serbs.
In addition to the Committee members, the sitting was attended by representatives of the National Assembly Speaker’s Cabinet, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice and Public Administration, Office for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region, Council on Serbs in the Region, War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office, Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, representatives of the Serbian people in the Croatian Parliament (Sabor), parishes, local self-governments, representatives of political parties, organisations and associations in the Republic of Croatia.
After the debate, the Committee members adopted the following conclusions:

1. The Committee endorses the full normalisation and improvement of relations between the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Croatia;
2. The Committee urges the representatives of the governments of the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Croatia to open dialogue on an Agreement on dual citizenship and revision of the Social Welfare Agreement and intensify activities on the implementation of ANNEX G of the Vienna Agreement;
3. The Committee commends the full membership of the Republic of Croatia in the European Union and expects it to contribute to raising the level of respect and protection of national minority rights, including the Serbian minority which is the largest in the state;
4. The Committee expects international organisations, among them primarily European Union institutions, to increase their monitoring of the respect of personal and collective rights of national minorities, based on the regulations of the Republic of Croatia and international documents;
5. The Committee expects the bodies and institutions of the Republic of Croatia to guarantee full implementation of constitutional and legal regulations on national minority rights and liberties as an important part of fundamental human rights and liberties, including the application of positive discrimination in favour of national minorities;
6. The Committee urges the authorities of the Republic of Croatia to guarantee and ensure the safety of the Serbian community, detection and sanctioning of crimes committed on ethnic grounds, return of property seized from Serbian institutions and associations, to ensure the material grounds for a sustainable return of the exiled into their former places of residence, and to work on the return of the exiled and activation of the Sarajevo Process and donor conferences;
7. The Committee expects the authorities of the Republic of Croatia to process the crimes against Serbs and speed up the process of resolving the fate of the missing persons;
8. The Committee urges the relevant authorities in the Republic of Croatia to ensure the return of the property seized from citizens of Serbian nationality and provide reimbursement for the destroyed, damaged and missing property, pay the old foreign currency savings and outstanding pensions, resolve tenants’ rights issues, ensure the convalidation of years of service and resolve other material status issues;
9. The Committee urges the Government of the Republic of Croatia and the country’s other relevant authorities to allow the public use of the Serbian language and Cyrillic script for the members of the Serbian community, information, signs and education in the Serbian language and Cyrillic script, as well as secure the necessary funds for Serbian educational, cultural, scientific and economic organisations;
10. The Committee urges the relevant institutions of the Republic of Croatia to resolve, quickly, justly and lawfully, the case of 83-year-old Mile Dakic, master of historical science. Mile Dakic was arrested in May 2011 at Raca border-crossing and was in August of the same year extradited by the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Republic of Croatia where he was allegedly sentenced for inciting the murder of three Croatian police officers in 1991. At the re-trial in Croatia, none of the 28 witnesses who testified accused him of said crime;
11. The Committee is worried to see the numerous and continued instances of physical and verbal attacks against the members of the Serbian people in the Republic of Serbia and the endangerment of their material property;
12. The Committee is particularly worried to see the arrests of the members of the Serbian people in the Republic of Serbia, such as the arrest of 12 locals of the village of Tripnja near Vukovar, on 11 July 2013, accused of alleged war crimes committed 22 years ago. We expect these cases to be addressed by the police, state prosecutors and courts reasonably quickly with due respect for the arrested parties’ right to process and other legal rights. We believe that the manner in which the arrests were made in Tripnja intimidates and understandably worries the members of the Serbian community in the Republic of Serbia;
13. The Committee urges the National Assembly, Government, President of the Republic, Office for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region and other bodies and institutions of the Republic of Serbia to, in line with the country’s Constitution and laws, develop and promote the relations between the mother state and the members of the Serbian community in the Republic of Croatia, help preserve their national, cultural, lingual and religious identity, encourage and enable Serbian investment into communities populated by Serbian nationals, provide financial aid to Serbian institutions, associations and organisations, create the conditions for a sustainable return of Serbian exiles and refugees into their former places of residence and offer diplomatic and legal protection to Serbian citizens and members of the Serbian people in the Republic of Croatia tried for participation in the war conflicts in the 1990s on the territory of former Yugoslavia;
14. The Committee pledges to improve cooperation with the relevant committees of the Croatian Parliament (Sabor), as well as relevant bodies of international organisations in order to resolve the open issues related to the position of Serbs in Croatia;
15. The Committee pledges to draw up a Plan of engagement on resolving the issue of the position of Serbs in Croatia based on the regular topical reports it will receive from the representatives of Serbs in Croatia and bodies and institutions of the Republic of Serbia.

The sitting was chaired by Aleksandar Cotric, Committee Chairman.


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