12. February. 2021. | 12:04

NGO AKTIV is launching an initiative to amend the Law on the Use of Languages

“The existing law, no longer means anything in practice”, says Ognjen Gogić, manager of the project “Creating a bilingual Kosovo”, which is implemented by the NGO AKTIV. He emphasizes that many citizens are not aware of their legal rights. During the first podcast within the series “My language, my right”, he emphasized that many citizens are not aware of their legal rights.

“One part of the citizens from the Serb community is aware of their rights, while the other part is less familiar with it. What everyone has in common is that no one is trying to fight for the rights anymore. Even if they know that the Law on the Use of Languages exists, they know from the experience that in practice it does not mean anything. This problem has become more emphasized in recent years with the increasing integration of Serbs into the Kosovo system, and primarily with the completion of the integration of the judiciary. That exposed all the shortcomings of that law, to which no one is referring anymore”, said Ognjen Gogić.

He emphasizes that this law played a very important role, that it established a system of bilingualism and enshrined basic language rights. However, fourteen or fifteen years after it was passed, it turned out that there are shortcomings that need to be rectified.

“What we have noticed regarding the practice of institutions is that the Serbian language is treated as an option. As if, in some situations, you can be provided with a translation, but with a delay, it does not have to be of particularly high quality. So, it is a more symbolic use of the Serbian language in institutions. I must say that our analyzes show that this is a consequence of the legal gaps that exist in that law. This law is not precise enough with regards to the obligations of institutions when it comes to the use of official languages. What we want is for it to be firmly defined by the law, so that no one would think that it is an option and that it can be done that way. Instead, it is an obligation that institutions have towards citizens, whereas the citizens are the ones who choose which of the two official languages will be the language of the proceedings” said Gogic.

The manager of the project “Creating a bilingual Kosovo” believes that the Law on the Use of Languages will be much more functional if the first phase of each procedure in the institutions is to determine the language in which the procedure will be conducted. In his words: “In that way, it will be possible for everyone to exercise their rights without these linguistic problems, that we talked about. The services provided by all institutions would be more adapted and more accessible to every individual in Kosovo. Every person would be entitled to choose the language in which a procedure is conducted before a public body, and thereafter we can deal with the substance of the matter. Therefore, this should make it easier for everyone to access the services”.

Gogić explained that several meetings and round tables concerning this initiative were held last year, gathering representatives of other non-governmental organizations, institutions, and the international community, from which they received support. Gogić says that they are very open to suggestions, and if the institutions took over this proposal, then a wider space would be opened for discussion on how this issue should be arranged.

You can read the transcript of the podcast here.

The podcast “My language, my right” was recorded in cooperation with Radio Goraždevac within the project “Creating a bilingual Kosovo”, implemented by the NGO AKTIV with the support of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Pristina.

The views expressed during the podcast do not necessarily reflect the views of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Pristina.