The objective of project S.I.M.P.L.E. is to promote the socio-economic sustainable development of the Adriatic regions, by enhancing the social cohesion between majority and minority people. The operational strategy for the achievement of these objectives is the strengthening of the role of minority's associations in the social and policy life and the shared elaboration of approaches and supportive services for addressing the main specific issues concerning with the rights of historic and new minorities in the Adriatic Countries. This ambitious and important work program involved 9 Partners from 5 Adriatic Countries (Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Albania and Montenegro) .
The conference aimed to focus on minority identities and rights as a common commitment for the Adriatic Countries. In relation to my role as a member of the European Economic and Social Committee and as President of Human Rights Committee, in relation also to my work in the Balkans and on Roma minorities, I was invited to moderate the Conference in transferring my deep rooted experience on these issues for the development of all the Adriatic area.
Key issues which emerged from the debate were as follow:
Croatia presents itself with a compilation of 23 national minorities who’s rights are being protected under the constitution and under the power of the Elimination of Discrimination office. Croatia has been proactive in delivering solutions as a result of the National Roma Strategy, however, implementation is still a challenge and there is a need of continual reviewing of the actions and objectives set. It is now actively training judges to better understand the issues of Roma and discrimination in society.
In Italy with 12 linguistic minorities, mainly Roma, progress and monitoring has been taking place as a result of the establishment of the Antidiscrimination Network in 2010 which implemented a review from a regional perspective. Many prejudices are still shaped through the media and now training has been given to the media on the use of language , especially following the events in Lampadusa. Much of the work being done has been with civil society especially the workers and the SMes.
In Slovenia language has been an essential element to define yourself and to understand your rights. Recommendations to support minorities have now been produced in many languages but as these recommendations have also been constantly changing and improving the situation of minorities, so we must increase the efforts to accompany the increase in standards. Further, IPAs have been valuable tools to share best practice across borders.
Albania has been encouraging an exchange of ideas and opinions to address its challenges. Increased collaboration resulted in joint action plans. As they have been working towards being part of the EU it is essential to protect minority rights. Roma faced a double discrimination especially the increase in illiteracy which has been having and impact on generations of Roma who have poor health and housing as a result of poor education. Albania has also now initiated data collection to compare the effects of the action plans.
Montenegro has been working proactively on antidiscrimination measures for Roma. As a result of the PROGRESS EU project they have now established Council for Minorities, Fund for Minorities and Centre for conservation and preservation of culture. They have an active media campaign to raise awareness and train all levels of local authorities They still need proportional representation in government bodies and this is their challenge. To be noted, they also had problems with gender balance at all levels of decision making.
The debate also focussed on Roma issues, especially the Roma platform, and the use of cross border funds.
During the discussions I emphasized that the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) is one of the EU’s key instruments to fulfil this task. The new EIDHR 2014-2020 puts strong emphasis on the role of (local) civil society organisations, not only when it comes to monitoring human rights situations within their countries, but also when it comes to helping to create an environment that is conducive to policy changes with regards to human rights. Its programming principles also reflect the Instrument's complementarity to the EUs geographical and thematic external instruments. This was relevant as many of the countries in the room we accession countries and therefore applicable for EIDHR funds.
However, as I pointed out, an important element remains underexposed: the place and value of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCRs), alongside Civil and Political rights. The EESC therefore strongly recommends for the ESCRs to be tied in with all human rights and fundamental rights programming priorities. Further, I had the opportunity to inform the participants that the EESC, as the institution that represents civil society actors, organises a conference in order to highlight the place, meaning and value of economic, social, cultural rights in the wider context of universal human rights.
My core messages addressed during the event included that the EU's human rights model is based on a set of core values such as democracy, equality between citizens, and respect of universal human rights, including Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCRs). Notably, ESCRs such as the right to health, education and housing, are areas where instruments focused on human rights and development instruments meet, and complement each other. Civil society organisations, especially at grass roots level, are drivers of positive change regarding the respect for and implementation of human rights, including ESCRs. The fact that there is no ranking among universal human rights - ESCRs are just as important.
Other speakers included Mrs. Vesna Pusić, Minister for External and European Affairs (Croatia).
Mr. Marco de Giorgi, director of UNAR (National Agency Against Racial Discrimination of the
Department for Equal Opportunities) (Italy), Mrs. Tina Komel, Minister without Portfolio for Relations between the Republic of Slovenia and the Autochthonous Slovenian National Community in Neighbouring Countries, and between the Republic of Slovenia and Slovenians Abroad, Mr. Erion Veliaj, Minister of the Social Welfare and Youth (Albania), Mr. Suad Numanović, Minister for Minorities and Human Rights (Montenegro).
This was a great opportunity for me to share my experiences from working with the EESCs committees on the field of human rights and civil society participation with the delegation of Ministers and other officials from the Adriatic countries.
Please do not hesitate to contact me for any further information firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for this great opportunity to introduce the EESC’s vision on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCRs) to the conference of Adriatic counties.