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(Period covering September 2001 to April 2002)

- Joint OSCE / UNHCR document -


43. Along with security and freedom of movement, discrimination is another key issue that affects minorities’ ability to live reasonable lives in Kosovo. Discrimination, whether direct or indirect, [1] intentional or not, prevents minorities from fair access to essential services and employment, and prevents the conditions for a fair choice on return. It is imperative that discriminatory practices, especially by authorities, are recognised, eliminated and that the minorities are given effective remedies against discrimination. At the same time, access to essential services does not only require redressing discrimination, but also solving the problems of freedom of movement and parallel structures.

Equality in access to Education

44. In the sphere of education, the issues of the lack of freedom of movement and security for minority communities prevent the operation of an efficient educational system at all levels which is in compliance with international human rights standards for minority education. [2] These factors manifest themselves in areas such as the hiring of qualified teachers to teach in minority languages, access to higher education, and transportation to and from school for minority students. In the Mitrovicë/Mitrovica region for example, transport is a major issue for the Serb community living in the enclaves in southern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica municipality, in Vushtrri/Vucitrn and in Skenderaj/Srbica, who remain completely dependent on KFOR’s daily escorts. Should these cease or decrease, there is currently no contingency on which to fall back.

45. Many of the Serb enclaves have newly reconstructed elementary schools. However, qualified Kosovo Serbs teachers who live within the region and who would have to commute are not applying for the posts in the enclaves mostly because of security concerns and problems with transport (KFOR escorts) that they would have to face every day. Consequently, the schools are very frequently forced to employ people from the villages who have lesser qualifications for teaching.

46. Also, a general problem for most Serb enclaves throughout Kosovo is that many can only provide elementary education, thus requiring secondary students from these enclaves to travel outside of their enclaves in order to attend secondary schools. Without an integrated education system and freedom of movement, this causes severe problems. For example, for security reasons, the Serb pupils in Vushtrri/Vucitrn can only attend secondary schools located in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica north [3] and not the secondary school in their municipality. Usually, the escorts from many of the villages are not provided every day so the children attending secondary schools have to go to Mitrovicë/Mitrovica north and stay there the whole week. The difficulty in finding and paying for accommodation in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica has been frequently emphasised by the parents.

47. Compounding the difficulties is the fact that security escorts are being cut back in certain locations, and parents are being asked to assume responsibility for transporting their children to schools, often without consultation. In some cases, such as the Prishtinë/Priština region, students are being asked to take unescorted transportation to school with soldiers being stationed at “sensitive” points along the route. When this measure was imposed by KFOR in Prishtinë/Priština region without consultation, the parents stopped their children attending school from 14 January to 4 February 2002. After discussion with KFOR, the children returned to school, but with continued grave misgivings from the parents. It remains the case that over 200 Serb children in Prishtinë/Priština rural north, of secondary school age or over, have either no or inadequate access to education.

48. The PISG Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (MEST) has developed a project document entitled “School Buses for Kosovo Minority and Vulnerable Communities School Children”. The project, which is still contingent on obtaining international funding, will attempt to address school transportation for minority and vulnerable children but lacks a plan for the participation of the security forces in its implementation. The project document also mentions that “the school administrations reported a significant increase in the number of minority school age children attending schools regularly or newly enrolling schools for the first time in all municipalities where the school bus transport had been introduced under the [previous] school bus project” and supplies statistics to substantiate this claim. [4]

Access to higher education

49. Access to university education for Serbian-speaking students did improve during the period, albeit through the establishment of a parallel structure in northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, sanctioned by UNMIK. Until October 2001, Kosovo Serb and other minority students using the Serbian language effectively had no access to university education within Kosovo since the sole institution, Prishtinë/Priština University, was inaccessible due to security problems and used almost exclusively by Albanian-speaking students. [5] After June 1999, Kosovo Serb university students, most of them displaced outside of Kosovo or in northern municipalities, resumed classes in “re-located” faculties re-established under the same administration as the pre-conflict Prishtinë/Priština University (1991-1998) in various cities in Serbia proper (e.g. Niš, Krusevac, Vranje). In 2001, UNMIK agreed with the Belgrade authorities on the restoration of these faculties to Kosovo, albeit in northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, therefore still representing a separate and parallel structure. In autumn 2001, some students began attending classes in northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, and in early 2002, a branch of the northern university system was also opened in Gracanica/Graçanicë, offering Serbian and English language and literature studies. [6] While it is still discouraging that university education for Albanian and Serbian speaking students continues to be divided (with no indications on when it may be possible to bring them together in the future), it is nonetheless very important that Serbian-speaking students do now have access to an institution for higher education within Kosovo. Indeed, the lack of university education opportunities was often cited as one key factors why return of young IDPs was considered to be non-viable. However, the main problems of the Serbian-speaking students (Kosovo Serbs, Bosniaks and others) living in locations other than the northern municipalities, as discussed above in the case of primary and secondary education, continues to be inadequate freedom of movement making access difficult. Discrimination is also an issue that must be addressed with a view to achieving equality in access and integration in the long-term. While the principle obstacles to most non-Albanian speaking students at the moment to the university faculties in Prishtinë/Priština remain insecurity and the lack of freedom of movement, the few contacts Kosovo Serbs in particular have had with the institution (e.g. in obtaining educational documents) have indicated that discrimination is an issue that must be tackled.

Parallel education systems and their effect on the right to education

50. A major problem of the education system remains the parallel systems that are set up throughout Kosovo, with the Serbs effectively having their “own” educational structure, run from Belgrade, which has a confused and uneasy relationship with the UNMIK education system. The following case study is illustrative of the issues that can occur as a non-majority community tries to organise their own school in an isolated village, and the complications that can arise when parallel systems assume responsibility for the various substantive and administrative aspects of the educational process.

51. The example of the delivery of education in Cërkolez/Crkolez village in Istog/Istok municipality is illustrative of the impact of parallel schools. In Cërkolez/Crkolez, where no school facility existed in the pre-war period because of the isolation of the Serbian sector of the village, the community established a so-called “home school” for primary education. The school was staffed by existing teaching staff as a measure to ensure that Serb children had at least minimal access to education. The school is located in a private house, with 12 pupils representing all primary grades except the first level and follows the curriculum that is designated for primary schools by the Serbian Ministry of Education. The Serbian Ministry of Education provides textbooks and teaching materials, while UNMIK provides school supplies for students. The school does not have permanent premises. A parcel of land has been purchased as a result of a donation made by an international NGO, but a school building cannot be built due to a lack of funds. In the past, members of the international community have discussed with representatives of Serbian and Albanian communities a potential project to establish an inter-ethnic school in Cërkolez/Crkolez village. But negotiations between both communities broke down after the issue arose as to where the school premises would be located, and how it would be managed. Generally, the Serbian community wanted to have their own school in their part of the village due to security concerns and to ensure continuous access to school premises in future.

52. A total of 13 staff are currently working in Cërkolez/Crkolez primary school. There had been complaints from school personnel, since not all Serb teaching staff who wanted to be put on the UNMIK payroll could be employed because UNMIK existing criteria requires a certain ratio of teaching staff to pupils. However, a compromise was achieved in January 2002. UNMIK has recruited a director, a technician and six teachers for the primary school and the Serbian Ministry of Education pays the remaining five school staff.

53. The above-mentioned case illustrates many of the issues that can arise from the parallel systems of education in Kosovo. First, the apparent dual system of administration for the staff is unsatisfactory. Second, the quality of the teaching staff is difficult to assess because the question arises as to which standards should apply to measure their skills: those of the Serbian Ministry of Education, or those of the PISG Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (MEST). Third, the curriculum is designated by the Serbian Ministry of Education, which can cause problems if there are differences in the standard curriculum requirements between the Serbian Ministry and the PISG Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology. Fourth, the Serbian Ministry of Education supplies books free of charge, but then difficulties can arise as to whether the selection of texts meets MEST standards, and what might be done in the case of conflicting standards governing the selection of textbooks where the texts might be antiquated, or of a controversial political content. Thus, the degree to which a school can function in such an ambiguous situation can be a major issue, even when as in this case, a compromise is reached. It is the students who ultimately pay the price for such a bifurcated school administration, notwithstanding the fact that the right to education is theirs, not their parents. And of course, parallel systems of education greatly reduce contact between the communities, retarding the prospect of reconciliation in the future.

Mixed schools initiatives

54. While most minority children continue to have little option other than to receive education through ad hoc or parallel structures, school integration initiatives in Viti/Vitina and Rahovec/Orahovac municipalities point to a more positive example of pro-active efforts to ensure equal access to education. These initiatives illustrate that it is possible, with the co-operation of all communities, to begin to move towards the goal of providing equal access to common educational facilities, supported by municipal structures, for children of all ethnicities.

55. In Mogila, a mixed village in Viti/Vitina inhabited by ethnic Albanians and ethnic Serbs, as of March 2002 children of both ethnicities were attending primary school in the same facility, during different shifts. It is anticipated that integrated classes with participation of both Albanian and Serb students will be given in specific subjects such as art and physical education/athletics. A similar multi-ethnic school initiative recently began to be implemented in the mixed village of Binac (also in Viti/Vitina). Previously, Serb children were attending primary classes in an ad hoc school set up in a private house, while the Albanian children used the main primary school in the village. In April 2002, some of the Serb students began attending their classes in the main school facility in one schoolroom, while the Albanian students receive instruction in two adjacent classrooms. Joint activities for the school children are being planned.

56. The mixed school initiatives in Binac and Mogila were based on the signing of a memorandum of understanding between UNMIK, KFOR, local officials of the municipality, school directors, teachers and parents, as a result of facilitated dialogue. Ethnic Serb children receive instruction in their own language according to the standard Serbian curriculum, while ethnic Albanian children are taught in their language in the curriculum which is applied in Kosovo. The role of international officials is still very important (for example, in Mogila, international staff of the international NGO Caritas teach the mixed classes, with the participation of local teachers), but it is envisaged that as the initiatives develop, full ownership as well as responsibility for resolution of any problems which arise should be increasingly taken by local communities. In Mogila, there are plans to create a multi-ethnic parent-teacher association, which could address potential concerns or problems as they arise. While these initiatives are still relatively new, they constitute a very positive example of community-supported integration in the sphere of education. Not only do these types of initiatives further the best interests of children by ensuring equal access to education in their own languages, but in facilitating and encouraging interaction between children of different ethnicities, and also promoting tolerance building amongst the youngest Kosovar generation.

57. A similar mixed school initiative is being implemented in Upper Rahovec/Orahovac town, currently with the active participation of the Albanian, Roma and Egyptian students in a new facility built on a new site nestled between the majority and minority community neighbourhoods. [7] 275 children (20% of them Roma and Egyptian) attend classes together in Albanian language, and share all activities. At the moment there is only one minority (Egyptian) teacher, which according to the community is a function of a lack of qualified candidates. Children do not have military or police escort, nor are extraordinary security measures in place at the facility, in line with a conscious decision to bring children together in what is (and what would be perceived to be) a normal environment. This was made possible by steady improvements in the security situation in the area. Despite efforts to build confidence, and initial indicates of willingness and enthusiasm from Serb community members prior to the opening of the school in January 2002, the initiative has still not resulted in the participation of Serb children in the school. Concerns expressed by the Serb community are related to security. Over 50 Serb children continue to study in a separate facility, with a disproportionately high number of Serb teachers (11) and other school staff. The reluctance to participate in the mixed school initiative may be due, at least in part, to the fact that teachers are hesitant to take any step perceived to undermine the preservation of the Serbian curriculum and educational system, as well as a desire to maintain the status quo, in which some are receiving salaries from Belgrade in addition to UNMIK salaries. However, security concerns are always cited as the main obstacle.

Education in one’s mother tongue

58. The right of every person belonging to a minority community to learn one’s language is clearly enshrined in international human rights instruments as well as in Kosovo’s Constitutional Framework. [8] The following case illustrates the difficulties that certain members of the Bosniak community are having in preserving their language as an essential part of their identity.

59. In Gjakovë/Ðakovica municipality, access to primary education in the Bosnian language is a concern within the Bosniak community, and Bosniak parents feel that they effectively have little choice but to enroll their children in an educational system which will deprive their children of their right to learn in their own language. In the municipality, a class was established to teach the Bosnian language to seven pupils, but there have been many problems in sustaining the Bosniak class due to the lack of teachers in the Bosnian language, irregular payment to existing teachers and the small number of pupils available. Last year, the class was cancelled, and some children had to start their education in Albanian language from first grade, thus losing a school year. [9]

60. In general, Bosniak parents in Gjakovë/Ðakovica are reluctant to have their children follow the official curriculum in Albanian asserting that, since their children do not speak Albanian proficiently, their education will be adversely affected by an abrupt change to a new language. Many parents do not necessarily object to the principle of their children learning Albanian, since all Bosniak pupils learn Albanian language in primary schools as a separate subject. In fact they recognised the benefit of this as a method of improving their children's future prospects in the job market. However, the parents of the children draw the line at abandoning their own language, and demand access to education in Bosnian language. They insist that cultural assimilation is being forced upon them de facto and that the lack of access to education in the Bosnian language will discourage Bosniak families from returning. However, there are practical difficulties in providing education in the Bosnian language for members of the Bosniak community in Gjakovë/Ðakovica municipality, where the number of potential Bosniak students do not, apparently, meet the required quota for hiring of necessary staff.

61. There are many issues associated with balancing the right of a member of a minority community to learn his or her minority language with the available resources of the state, yet in Kosovo, this right has a special significance as a factor which, for example, can facilitate conditions for return and which will allow an already-fragile community to continue to exist and its members to remain in their places of origin. Thus, there is a special obligation, notwithstanding acknowledged resource limitations, to ensure education for numerically small minority groups in their mother tongue as this right is integrally linked with the right to remain in Kosovo, and the right of displaced families to return. Therefore creative solutions must be found which will address situations such as the above-mentioned case. [10]

62. The Kosovo Turk community has reasonable access to education in its language inside Kosovo. Furthermore Turkey provides scholarships to Turkish students to study there especially at university level, as well as Turkish NGOs co-operating with them.

Special educational needs of the Roma, Ashkaelia, and Egyptian communities

63. In considering the educational needs of the Roma, Ashkaelia, and Egyptian communities, it must be noted first that the Roma, Ashkaelia, and Egyptian communities have varying degrees of access to education depending upon whether they predominantly speak Albanian or Serbian. Generally, the Ashkaelia and Egyptian communities tend to speak Albanian while the Roma tend more to speak Serbian. The language that is spoken can have an effect on the freedom of movement of members of each community thus impacting adversely, for example, on their ability to travel freely to school.

64. The number of Roma children attending school is particularly low. [11] Particular reasons are that the children are not encouraged by their parents to attend classes nor do they appear to be enthusiastic about school, due in part to their lack of ability to communicate as effectively in the Serb language as they do in their mother tongue. The Roma community living in the northern municipalities does not have the opportunity for education in their mother tongue. [12] For example, Roma children from the collective camp in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica north attend classes in Serb language in the school located in the vicinity of the camp. The fact that Roma children's only option is to receive education in their second language may discourage their participation, however, when asked, Roma parents state that they prefer that their children attend classes in the Serb language, emphasising that improvement of their language skills will make the integration easier. The lack of options, combined with the pressure to assimilate to the local majority, results in a less than satisfactory end result.

65. In the Mitrovicë/Mitrovica region, the international community through various NGOs has attempted to facilitate Roma integration into the educational system by providing classes focused on the development of learning techniques, and by offering assistance with lessons and improvement of language skills. The purpose of these “catch up” classes is to put them on an “equal skills” level with other students when they enter school. CARITAS France is also trying to integrate parents into the project they are currently running in the Mitrovicë/Mitrovica camp, thus attempting to change parents’ attitude toward education and its importance.

66. Another factor that influences Roma children’s attendance at school is whether they are accepted by other students, teachers and school administrators. In Leposavic/Leposaviq, the school refused to accept Roma children residing in the collective camp in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, as they supposedly did not meet the school’s proficiency requirements for the Serbian language in violation of the children’s right to have adequate opportunities for being taught their minority language or for receiving instruction in this language. The children were required to attend school in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica north for a certain period of time. Only after long negotiations, was the situation was resolved at the end of 2001, and Roma children were admitted to the school. In the case of Roma children, though, such discrimination is not merely the result of post-conflict conditions and lack of resources; rather it is the result of a systemic racism against Roma, which relegates them to the status of a minority among minorities in almost all societies where they live.

67. In the small community of nine Ashkaelia families who returned from displacement to Vranjevac/Kodra e Trimave (urban Prishtinë/Priština) in late 2001, Ashkaelia children were not able to attend the nearest Albanian primary school, due to the effective opposition of the school director to the integration of the students. In their nearby school, the staff expressed the opinion that the Ashkaelia children would have to endure problems (taunting, harassment, stone throwing from other students) and did not express willingness to take measures to ensure the smooth reintegration of the returnee children. However, the Ashkaelia returnee children were welcomed at another Albanian school in the area, whose school director made special efforts to introduce the children to the other students and ensure their dignified integration by taking steps such as holding meetings with teachers.

Equality in the field of Employment

68. The problem of equal access to employment is one of the key issues which affect a member of a minority community’s decision whether to remain in Kosovo, or if they have departed, whether to return. The lack of equal access to employment is largely a function of several factors, including security and freedom of movement, inability to communicate in the majority language, and discriminatory practices. The relative importance or prevalence of these three main factors varies widely, depending on ethnic group and by location, and also varies widely between public and private sector employment.

Public Sector Employment

69. The public sector (UNMIK, central authorities and local municipalities) is the main employer of minorities. The vast number of minority individuals are unemployed. But of the small percentage of minority community members who are employed, over 70% are employed in the public sector. [13] Despite this fact, there has only been partial compliance with guidelines regarding minority employment within the civil service as stipulated in UNMIK Regulation 2001/9 [14] and UNMIK Regulation 2001/36 [15] , and thus there is much room for progress. While some of the structures of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) have reached responsible levels of minority employment, other structures such as the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (Prishtinë/Priština office - 0% minority staff; all positions filled), the Ministry of Finance and Economy (0% minority staff; 20 of 37 positions filled) and the Office of the Prime Minister (10% minority staff; 10 of 77 positions filled) are still far from the floor set in UNMIK Regulation 2001/19 [16] for the minimum acceptable level of minority employment. And while there are still many vacancies to be filled in each of these Ministries and in the Prime Minister’s Office, it must be determined whether the early hiring patterns thus far were the result of a distinct lack of minority recruitment techniques, problems with locating qualified minority employees, or simply as the result of a failure to place an emphasis on the hiring of minority candidates. It should be noted that other Ministries have made significant strides in minority hiring, such as the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning (with 30% minority staff; 120 out of 294 positions filled).

70. Some of the problems which minority community members face in seeking employment in the public sector are discussed herein. UNMIK Regulation 2000/45 [17] , UNMIK Regulation 2001/9 [18] as well as UNMIK Regulation 2001/36 [19] are very often not applied, resulting in a lack of equal access to information on job vacancies for minorities. Furthermore, although job announcements are printed in Albanian language newspapers, generally they are not printed in Serbian language newspapers. It is a regular occurrence that job vacancies are not translated into the languages of minorities. For certain municipal civil service positions that are filled by appointment and paid by the central administrative departments (e.g. Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Culture, Youth, Sports and Non Resident Affairs), job announcements as well as interviews are conducted in Prishtinë/Priština, hindering potential minority candidates from receiving information about job vacancies. Also, minority candidates are very often, due to lack of freedom of movement, unable to attend the interview. Quite often positions which minorities are offered are lower profile positions. In this way, from the statistical point of view, quotas for minorities are met, but minority candidates are effectively excluded from upper-level positions within the municipal administration. Minority representatives often complain about a lack of transparency in the recruitment process regarding municipal civil service positions designated for minority representatives. It is alleged that there are instances where less-qualified candidates have been arbitrarily approved by the interviewing commission. And finally, UNMIK is not ensuring that contract tenders are being posted in Serbian-language newspapers, thus denying Kosovo Serbian companies access to such information.

Public utilities employment

71. The percentage of minorities employed in the public utilities sector Kosovo-wide is unacceptably low. In the past these companies were municipal companies. However, they will soon have an independent status as public utility service providers. The local authority for public utilities is the Supervisory Board for Public Utilities (SBPU), although one SBPU may cover several municipalities if the same company covers more than one municipality. The SBPU [20] is responsible for the supervision of the overall management of the company as well as the nomination of its general manager and approval of the senior staff. As it stands, the composition of the SBPU does not provide safeguards to ensure the participation of minorities in the decision-making process regarding public utility policy, and in particular, to ensure that the staffing of the company exhibits a balance between majority and minority populations.

Minority employment in the civil service

72. In an employment survey which evaluated employment levels of Kosovo Consolidated Budget (KCB) employees of all communities in central JIAS Departments, of those who responded to the questionnaire 93.9% identified themselves as ethnic Albanian, 1.5% as Bosniak, 1.0% as Serbian, 1.7% as Turkish, 0.5% as other and 1.5% did not answer. No respondents identified themselves as Ashkaelia, Croatian, Egyptian, Gorani or Roma. [21] This points to the tendency for Serbs to self-identify as such, despite being the least tolerated minority, while other ethnic groups most notably the Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptian (the same groups that have lower levels of political participation) are less inclined to identify themselves as members of these groups publicly, as a coping mechanism in an environment where they are a distinct and marginalised minority. According to staff composition data submitted by the 20 JIAS departments, 26 (2.3%) of 1,103 KCB employees are members of minority communities. [22] Therefore, equality in representation of all ethnic communities in the civil service is far from meeting the required standards. Even for those minorities that are employed, their ability to achieve senior level positions is seriously limited.

73. In accessing equal employment opportunities for members of minority communities in the municipal administration, it is evident that the number of members of minority communities who are employed varies from one municipality to another. This is due to the absence of a clear policy and procedures on affirmative action at the central level, the lack of clear procedures to encourage minority job applicants, and is also due in part to the political negotiations on the municipal level that often determine who will be hired.

74. Also, good faith attempts at positive action to balance employment opportunity at the municipal level have resulted at times in indirect discrimination against a minority. For example, in Bresje hospital (the Russian hospital in Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje), the former UNMIK Department of Local Administration (now PISG Ministry of Public Services) decided to re-adjust the number of workers per community to compensate for the fact that the Kosovo Serb community had been numerically over-represented (186 Kosovo Serb workers versus 16 Kosovo Albanian). To address this condition, the Department of Local Administration announced that 71 posts would be reserved for Kosovo Albanian workers and 53 posts would be set aside in total for all minority communities. The criterion for setting the quotas was to be based on the representation of minority community in the Kosovo Assembly. The use of the “Kosovo Assembly” ratio poses a problem, as this ratio does not reflect the actual percentage of members of each community in the total population in most municipalities. Such percentages must be computed carefully in order to establish acceptable percentage goals for minority hiring. More problematic, though, is the fact that while this attempt to balance municipal hiring appeared to be neutral in its intent, it indirectly discriminated against the Serb community, because apparently the fact that Serbs who lost their jobs will have much fewer opportunities to seek employment than other communities was not taken into account. This is due to their security concerns and a lack of freedom of movement, as well as the small likelihood of any member of the Serb community finding employment in a hospital outside their enclaves. (Serb medical staff have no access to employment in Prishtinë/Priština Hospital, nor do Serb patients have access to that main regional institution; both medical staff and patients rely on Bresje hospital.) Thus members of the Serb community would lose their jobs while no provisions are being made to address the special problems they would face in seeking employment elsewhere in violation of their right to equal access to employment opportunities. Therefore attempts at balancing the hiring of members of all communities, while they may seem legitimate on their face, must be careful not to cross the line between affirmative action which is legitimate, and reverse discrimination which is in violation of international human rights standards. [23]

75. Minority employees can be first choice when dismissals are necessary. Specific examples include the hospital and health system restructuring in Prizren, which left approximately 30 Bosniaks jobless. This feeds the perception that Kosovo institutions controlled by Kosovo Albanians are at least indifferent to the concept of affirmative action, and that they are only implemented at the insistence of internationals. Nevertheless, in a few municipalities positive developments can be noted. In Gjilan/Gnjilane, most of the Kosovo Serb municipal staff members live in surrounding villages and they travel without difficulties to the main town. In Kamenicë/Kamenica, where a relatively high involvement of Kosovo Serbs in the Municipal Assembly has been achieved, few obstacles to the work of Kosovo Serbs as municipal officials are noted. In Mitrovicë/Mitrovica South, the municipal employees were hired after all the vacancies were published, and their applications considered by a panel, which had international representatives assigned to it as observers.

Equal Access to Social Services

76. The people of Kosovo suffer from a barely functioning social services system. The lack of capacity to carry out vocational community-based social work affects minority and majority communities alike. But for members of minority communities there is the added hardship of a lack of freedom of movement which interferes with their ability to access basic social services, particularly when it comes to the Social Assistance Scheme (SAS). For this reason, most minorities who live in enclave like situations or are isolated continue to rely upon outreach and mobile services to obtain information about social assistance, to register themselves, and to receive their welfare benefits. During the first half of 2001, the social assistance authorities (through the Centres for Social Welfare) took over implementation of the social assistance scheme (SAS) to minorities, in part through hiring of minority staff with the purpose of ensuring that the CSWs could perform the functions which, in 2000, had largely been performed by international NGOs on behalf of the social welfare authorities. [24] However, stringent re-application requirements [25] have had a tendency to result in the de-registration of minority SAS beneficiaries, sometimes without prior notification, while effectively offering them limited opportunities to re-register due to their dependency on mobile and outreach services. The previous OSCE/UNHCR minority assessment stated that minorities “are being punished by the system” and that responsible authorities “failed to take adequate action…instead [shifting] the responsibility to those least able to overcome discrimination, the beneficiaries themselves.” This statement, unfortunately, has continued to hold true.

77. In early 2001, minorities were effectively exempted from re-application requirements since the CSWs had not yet built the capacity to ensure outreach, and most minorities could not reach CSW premises on their own owing to security. In July and August 2001, humanitarian NGOs as well as agencies such as OSCE and UNHCR began to receive complaints while visiting many minority communities in various regions of Kosovo that they had stopped receiving SAS benefits. In a few cases, minorities who had been able to approach the CSW reported that had been told they were no longer registered on the beneficiary roll. Upon inquiry, it was established that some minorities had been de-registered because they had missed the deadline for re-registration (previously not enforced). Most minorities were not made aware of the re-registration deadline, nor had many received a visit from a CSW worker to re-register. For example, an elderly disabled Kosovo Albanian woman living in Leposavic/Leposaviq, dependent upon house-visits, had received neither her assistance nor any visit by CSW. Dozens of Kosovo Serb families in Lipjan/Lipljan similarly complained about the unanticipated discontinuation of benefits, and in other municipalities, other minorities experienced the same problems. [26]

78. The ability of the CSWs to improve their performance vis-à-vis minorities still depends upon increasing not only capacity to ensure adequate flow of information to minority communities, but also available resources for mobile outreach services. During the period, social assistance officers posted to minority areas continued to suffer from a lack of material supplies to perform their functions.

79. Access to social assistance (SAS) for members of the Roma communities appears to be a particular problem. In Prizren, a RAE Community Advocate [27] interviewed approximately fifteen families to investigate why they were not eligible for social assistance. The Community Advocate found that when the families visited the CSW and requested social assistance, they were told orally that they were not eligible for social assistance, and either were not informed of the criteria for eligibility, or given false information (such as that they had to produce a card that showed they received food aid). After OSCE informed the CSW that the majority of these refused persons appeared to meet the requirements of Category II for social assistance claims, the CSW agreed to again interview the families in order to re-evaluate their eligibility for social assistance.

80. To cite a more positive development, a previous obstacle to minority access to SAS was removed when a policy was put into place giving CSW directors the discretion to exempt applicants from some documentation requirements on the basis of lack of access to such documentation, as is often the case for some minorities, particularly Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptian.

Equal Access to Health Care

81. The right to adequate health care is a right that many who are members of minority communities do not enjoy. Often hygienic conditions are poor in health care facilities, and standards of sanitation are low, due to a lack of equipment for sterilisation. Although enforcement of sanitation standards in healthcare facilities can be problematic for members of all communities in Kosovo, they are a particular problem for members of minority communities who cannot search for more hygienic facilities (such as larger regional facilities including regional hospitals) if the small, local facility that they use is substandard.

82. Also, members of minority communities may not have access to a pharmacy in their communities where they can purchase medicine, and the delivery of drugs to health facilities is irregular. While primary care within minority communities is less dependent on the service of mobile teams of KFOR doctors, there have still been problems with local doctors seeking transport to the minority enclaves. [28] In general, the overall question of how minorities may be served by medical staff of the majority community, either within minority communities or at healthcare facilities in majority areas, has not been addressed in a comprehensive and coordinated manner by UNMIK or healthcare providers.

83. The ever-recurrent issues of a lack of freedom of movement and security impede members of minority communities from seeking proper healthcare in majority areas. It becomes even more evident when in need of secondary and tertiary care: the hospital in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica north remains the nearest accessible location within Kosovo – either by train or by KFOR escort. Additionally, some members of minority communities (e.g. the Roma and Turkish) do not feel comfortable in seeking health care in the Mitrovicë/Mitrovica hospital: they fear mistreatment because their first language is not Serbian.

84. Although the international community has attempted to supplement the healthcare system in Kosovo for members of minority communities, much needs to be done to ensure that, when the international community reduces its presence, that there is an integrated healthcare system in Kosovo that is able to serve members of minority communities. For example, Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians living in Plemetin/Plemetina Camp have access to the Kosovo Albanian ambulanta in Obiliq/Obilic town only because the NGO managing the camp (Italian Consortium of Solidarity) provides transportation whenever needed. Solutions such as this are far from being sustainable. The capacity of ambulantas which serve mixed communities should be increased in terms of facilities so that they are better able to serve minorities living in these areas. This increase in capacity can have a positive spill-over effect, for example, in the Kosovo Serb ambulanta in Plemetina village, that could also serve Babin Most and Obiliq/Obilic town. Further, KFOR should have a concrete plan for the gradual hand-over of security measures related to access to KPS. At the same time and most importantly, all health facilities must be, and must also be perceived to be, accessible to all communities, and minority communities should not be provided with an unsustainable parallel system of healthcare, whilst the main problem of discrimination in the main health care system remains unaddressed.

85. Finally, members of the Roma, Ashkaeli and Egyptian communities in Prizren have complained of being charged high fees for healthcare services and medicines despite their right to such services and medications at no charge as part of the healthcare system in Kosovo. [29] An awareness campaign on the right to health services will target this minority community living in Prizren municipality.

Equal Access to Public Services

86. Access to public services such as sewage, water, electricity and telephone service still remains as another problem for members of Kosovo’s minority communities. Additionally, many minority villages have limited means of public transport, and often no post office. Further, unsanitary living conditions are a problem in some villages where there is no sewage system, and raw sewage is discharged directly into rivers. Also, public waste collection continues to be a problem in minority villages, as well as the quality of the drinking water. [30]

87. There is often a problem in the areas where minority community members live in the maintenance of telephone systems. For example, phone lines and telephone poles are old and often in a state of decay or disrepair, and network coverage for mobile telephones is inadequate. Minority consumers are often caught in the middle of disputes between two companies operating in the same area, due to the parallel systems that exist in some areas for telephone services. In the northern part of Mitrovicë/Mitrovica region, for example, only a few Kosovo Albanian customers are connected to the Kosovar PTK system in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica south. The rest of the network, as of the end of March 2002, is covered by PTT and is therefore run by the telecommunications authority in Serbia proper. It is still unclear if, when and how minority communities living in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica north will have access to the Kosovo telephone service.

88. In some villages, members of minority communities complain that their phone line has been cut after receiving a warning to pay a bill that they never received. Others in such areas as Gracanica/Gracanicë and Obiliq/Obilic complain of overestimated bills, arbitrary cuts in service and the lack of a transparent billing process generally.

The complaints of minority community members on electrical service are similar to those with the telephones. There are frequent complaints that the billing procedures of KEK, the Kosovo electric company, are arbitrary and lacking in transparency. A recurrent complaint is that because of security concerns, KEK meter-readers cannot access minority houses and flats to take meter readings. Instead, KEK uses a variety of methods of assessment of electricity consumption, depending on the municipality. For example, in Fushe Kosovë/Kosovo Polje, KEK designated three categories of charges for electrical consumption: 20 Euros for low consumption, 35 Euro for normal consumption, and 50 Euros for high consumption. This was based solely on an estimation of the size of the house or flat, not on actual consumption.


[1] In this context, direct discrimination could be described as the situation which occurs when an individual or a group is treated less favourably on grounds of ethnicity, whereas indirect discrimination refers to a policy or practice which is designed to be neutral yet effectively disadvantages or disproportionately affects a particular individual or group of one ethnicity, perhaps due to the failure to take into account that group’s particular circumstance.

[2] See “The Hague Recommendations Regarding the Educational Rights of National Minorities” (October 1996) published by the Foundation on Inter-Ethnic Relations for recommendations for states on how they might more fully implement the education rights of minorities which are protected under international human rights standards.

[3] There is one secondary school (technical) located in Priluzje (Vushtrri/Vucitrn) and one in Suvo Grlo (Skenderaj/Srbica).

[4] See Project Document School Buses for Kosovo Minority and Vulnerable Communities School Children, Section A2, note 9, dated February 2002, published by UNMIK

[5] After June 1999, Prishtinë/Priština University was re-established under UNMIK administration, initiating a long-term process to reform the higher education system (curricula, grading system, etc.) as per the Bologna Declaration to accord with European standards. Presently, the curricula is taught in Albanian, although a proposal has been made to establish a department within the Education Faculty to expand the curriculum to include the Bosnian language, to produce teachers to be qualified to offer primary/secondary school education in the Bosnian language.

[6] The university structure in northern Kosovo, officially called Prishtinë/Priština University (unofficially referred to as the northern University), is considered by UNMIK to be temporary until the two entities can be joined under a common administration. The university faculties in the north continue to be administered under the Serbian Ministry of Education, under Serbian curricula. After the decision to re-locate the faculties, Serb students of these faculties protested the move back to Kosovo. It may prove to be the case that a significant number of Kosovo IDPs enrolled in the faculties in Serbia will re-register in other Serbia-based universities rather than moving back to Kosovo under the prevailing circumstances, where their future is uncertain and/or where they would have to move into displacement in northern municipalities in order to have easy access to their faculties.

[7] The initiative involved the support of many international agencies, but received particular impetus and expertise from UNICEF, and was implemented by World Vision, with Japanese government funding.

[8] See Chapter 4, Section 4.4 of the Constitutional Framework which states that: Communities and their members shall have the right to “…(b) Receive education in their own language”. Yet the obligations of the State to contribute resources to mother tongue education are subject to wide discretion on the part of the state. For example, under Article 14 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in deciding whether to allocate resources to teaching and instruction in a minority language, the state can to take into account the demand for such education, and the availability of resources for such education in consideration of the financial situation of each state. But also Article 14 of the Convention must be read in conjunction with Article 5 of the Framework Convention, which obligates the state to “promote the conditions necessary for persons belonging to national minorities…to preserve the essential elements of their identity, namely their language”.

[9] See the Hague Recommendations Regarding the Educational Rights of National Minorities & Explanatory Note, recommendation 12 which states that “Research also indicates that in primary school, the curriculum should ideally be taught in the minority language. The minority language should be taught as a subject on a regular basis. The official State language should also be taught on a regular basis preferably by bilingual teachers who have a good understanding of the children’s cultural and linguistic background…”

[10] Art. 14 of Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities; Art. 29 & 30 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; Chapter 4.4 (b) of Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo. Note also The European Charter on Regional or Minority Languages, Part III – Measures to promote the use of regional or minority languages in public life in accordance with the undertakings entered into under Article 2, paragraph 2, Article 8 – Education. Specifically, Article 2, paragraph 2 of the Charter requires that at least three paragraphs or sub-paragraphs from Article 8 must be applied to promote the use of regional or minority languages in education.

[11] For example, there are a total of 39 children of school age in Leposavic/Leposaviq, of whom only 17 attend classes.

[12] Such an option has never been provided as part of the Kosovo educational system. Usually they have only had the option of attending classes in the Serbian or the Albanian language.

[13] This percentage does not account for the number of members of minority communities who may be employed in the public sector by KFOR, NGOs, or other UN agencies as such figures were not available. Thus of the small percentage of minorities who are employed, those who are employed in the public sector may be higher than stated.

[14] Chap.4 (4.4): “Communities and their members shall have the right to: (…) (d) Enjoy equal opportunity with respect to employment in public bodies at all levels (…).”

[15] Chap.2 Sec.2.1 (h): “Inclusiveness: recruitment at all levels in the Civil Service shall reflect the multi-ethnic character of Kosovo and the need for equitable representation of all the communities in Kosovo.”

[16] Sec.4.2: “Members of the Civil Service shall be recruited from all the communities of Kosovo on the grounds of professional qualification, competence and merit after fair and open competition. The non-majority community representation in the composition of the Civil service at all levels shall be closely proportionate to the representation of non-majority communities in the Assembly.”

[17] Chap.1 Sec.9.3: “All official documents of a municipality shall be printed in both the Albanian and Serbian languages.”

[18] Chap.4 (4.4): “Communities and their members shall have the right to: (…) (c) Enjoy access to information in their own language.”

[19] Chap.2 Sec.3.1: “Detailed provisions concerning recruitment procedures and terms of employment for civil servants shall be set out in a subsequent administrative direction. Such administrative direction shall include, inter alia, the following requirements: (a) That available positions are widely advertised in the Albanian and Serbian languages.”

[20] The Supervisory Board for Public Utilities is composed of 1. A representative of the central authority, as chairman; 2. One member of the Municipal Assembly (a member of the P.U. municipal committee); 3. The municipal administration (director of the public utilities department); 4. One citizen representing the population; 5. A representative of the major donors.

[21] Respondents included 410 KCB employees, approximately 35% of 1157 positions filled from all 20 JIAS Departments. See JIAS Employment Survey: Results Report 12 November 2001, Methodology, Paragraph A, p. 4

[22] Former Transitional Department for Good Governance, Human Rights, Equal Opportunity and Gender. JIAS Employment Survey-Results Report, 12.11.2001.

[23] It should be noted that, as of the writing of this report, UNMIK had not carried through with the proposed balancing of Bresje hospital staff, possibly in part due to demonstrations by the Kosovo Serb health workers. The final decision on how this matter will be resolved has been delegated to the UNMIK Municipal Administrator.

[24] As of early 2001, the CSWs assumed responsibility for delivery of assistance, and international NGOs ceased to perform this function, although in some areas NGOs continued to provide crucial support to bolster the capacity of the CSWs, such as in Prizren where ICMC continued to provide vital transport assistance for social assistance officers to be able to access isolated minority communities.

[25] Beneficiaries of category I assistance must re-register (and re-qualify) for assistance every six months, while for category II recipients, the re-registration requirement is every three months.

[26] Concerned international agencies had increasing difficulties monitoring the process as 2001 came to a close, due to the decision of the then-transitional Department of Health and Social Welfare to discontinue sharing global statistics on SAS beneficiary numbers.

[27] The RAE Community Advocates are part of a pilot project instituted by the OSCE in October 2000 that trains selected members of the Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptian communities to become Community Advocates. As Community Advocates they are trained in the functioning of basic democratic institutions and in practical human rights awareness so that they can serve as a liaison between their communities and the majority population, and so that they can transfer such skills to other members of their communities

[28] In wintertime Kosovo Serb doctors refused to be transported by KFOR trucks from Mitrovicë/Mitrovica to enclaves in Skenderaj/Srbica and Vushtrri/Vucitrn, resulting in a discontinuance of access to health care and medications.

[29] UNMIK Department of Environment and Spatial Planning Administrative Instruction 9/2000.

[30] For example, the water system is not working properly in the minority areas of Skenderaj/Srbica and Vushtrri/Vucitrn resulting in most of the population having to obtain water from private wells where the quality of the water can be questionable due to the lack of a sewage system or septic tanks.


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