A round table entitled Councils for Interethnic Relations and Minority Rights in the Local Community, which brought together representatives of five Vojvodina Councils of different levels of functioning, was held on 18 October, 2018 in Kaštel Ečka. In addition to the members of the Councils for Interethnic Relations of the municipalities of Bački Petrovac, Bačka Topola, Temerin, Zrenjanin and Žitište, in the debate also participated Vlado Radulović (Office for Human and Minority Rights), Dragan Vujkov (The Protector of Citizens‘ Office) as speakers, Janoš Oros (Provincial Protector of Citizens – Ombudsman) and local ombudsmen of the municipality of Bačka Topola and Žitište. The emphasis of the introductory speech of Vlado Radulović was put on the Councils in the context of EU integration, specifically on the reporting on the implementation of the Action Plan for Minorities. Dragana Vujkov, on the other hand, spoke about the Special Report on the Councils for Interethnic Relations (2017), by the Protector of Citizens, and recounted various reasons for the failure of this body.
During the several-hour long debate, the Councils from these five municipalities presented their experiences in the work and, as a major problem, after fourteen years from the beginning of the establishment of the CIRs, named the unclearness regarding the jurisdiction of these working bodies of the municipal assemblies. On what can and should be the scope of work of the Council, the introductory speakers and the moderator of the discussion, Snežana Ilić, cited a number of examples, starting from calling on citizens from minority communities to come to special elections for national councils on 4 November, 2018, to monitoring the realization of teaching the language of the social environment, which was introduced in the new curriculum in September 2018.
At the very end, it was agreed with the representatives of the five Councils to open up some of the issues in their local communities in accordance with the needs (increasing the visibility of the existence and work of the Councils, equal representation of members of national minorities in public institutions at the local level). Also, further cooperation and exchange of experience of these Councils has been agreed upon. All of this will be the subject of our interest during the visit to these Vojvodina municipalities in the next month.
The round table is a part of a wider project Community Voice on EU Integration – Encouraging the Dialogue between CSOs and local authorities on public policies, which the CDCS is implementing with the support of the Delegation of the European Union in Serbia and in partnership with the ‘Trag Foundation’.