OSCE commissioner confers with Serbian officials

BELGRADE -- OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Knut Vollebaek held on Thursday in Belgrade a series of meetings with top Serbian officials.

Ivica Dačić and Knut Vollebaek are seen in Belgrade on Thursday (Beta)
Ivica Dačić and Knut Vollebaek are seen in Belgrade on Thursday (Beta)

He was received by PM Ivica Dačić, and the two discussed issues related to national minority rights, according to a government statement.

The OSCE official qualified as positive the efforts which the Serbian government invested in resolving open issues through dialogue.

Dačić underscored that the government is committed to the implementation of the highest standards in the sector of minority rights, adding that double standards and any violation of Serbia's national interests would be prevented, the Serbian government Office for Cooperation with the Media released.

Serbia will respect its international obligations while at the same time observing the rights of national minorities and protecting social and national interests, the Serbian prime minister and OSCE high commissioner agreed during the talks.

Minority issues "not obstacle on Serbia's EU path"

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić and OSCE High Commissioner Knut Vollebaek agreed on Thursday that the issues of minorities are not an obstacle on Serbia's road to the EU.

Nikolić and Vollebaek talked about the position of minorities in Serbia in view of the country's EU integration and starting date for the EU entry talks, and the Serbian president underscored that the position of minorities in Serbia is regulated in the way that had been harmonized with the highest European and world standards, and that the state approaches every minority in line with its specificities, the president's press office announced.

Despite that, there are numerous problems, but Serbia is committed to ensuring that the crises that escalated in the past never repeat again, Nikolić said.

Many problems that we have faced so far are being resolved in an active and committed way, Nikolić said, citing as examples the forthcoming historic reconciliation with the Hungarian minority, progress in overcoming the problems between the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) and canonically unrecognized Macedonian Church, granting the right to education and media access to the Romanian minority and many others that the state is working on.

Vollebaek informed Nikolić about activities aimed at resolving the situation in relation to a memorial to the members of the so-called Liberation Army of Preševo, Medvedja and Bujanovac (OVPMB; UCPMB) in Preševo, active participation in improving the education for ethnic Albanian students in the three municipalities in southern Serbia, and the three issues relating to Vlachs in the Timok region- the first one concerning the media, then education, and the issue of relations between the Romanian and Serbian Orthodox churches.

As regards the media, the situation is excellent, taking into consideration that via TV Bor, members of the Romanian minority can watch the programmes in their own language. The Education Ministry is taking an active part in resolving the issue of education, but the relations between the Romanian and Serbian Churches need to be improved more actively, Vollabaek said.

The Serbian president spoke about the specific characteristics of each and every minority in Serbia, including the Vlachs.

Serbia is aware of the specificities of the Vlach minority, Nikolić said, adding that the Vlachs should standardize their language, underscoring that the state will assist them in doing so.

The OSCE commissioner also met with Serbian Foreign Minister Ivan Mrkić. The two "expressed satisfaction with the activities and the manner in which Serbia is treating the issues that are in the interest of its national minorities".

Mrkić stated his full support to the activities of the high commissioner, and thanked Vollebaek for his personal engagement in terms of issues of Serbia's direct interest, the MFA said in a statement.

Vollebaek, who will spend several days on a working visit to Serbia, expressed satisfaction with the activities that Serbia is implementing, and the manner in which it tackles the issues that are in the interest of the national minorities in Serbia.

Vollebaek also informed Mrkić about the talks that he conducted in the eastern and southern Serbia in the previous two days.