NGO Aktiv presented a publication Recommendations for a Policy Framework on the Implementation of the Law on Use of Languages, on the 24th of May 2022, at a conference in Prishtinë/Priština.

Linguistic rights in Kosovo are being violated daily, at all levels, and without any consequences, the representatives of the NGO Aktiv said at the conference in Pristina, during the presentation of an analysis that points the problems in implementation of the Law on Use of Languages and suggests recommendations on how to improve the situation.

It was pointed out that a lack of political will, resistance in the majority community, insufficient number of qualified translators, a lack penalties for non-compliance with language rights are just some of the reasons for that the right to language use is violated in Kosovo.

“Incomplete respect for the right to use official languages ​​has brought into question the right to equal opportunities for all, and it has been violated when it comes to the Serbian community and its language and alphabet”, the analysis points.

Speaking at the conference, representatives of NGO Aktiv stressed that there is a solid legislative framework in Kosovo that guarantees equal use of Albanian and Serbian, as well as the languages ​​of other communities, but in practice citizens face many problems in exercising linguistic and other rights, as a consequence of violations of the Law on Use of Languages.

The executive director of the NGO Aktiv, Miodrag Milićević, reminded attendees that the Serbian language is the second official language in Kosovo, and violations of this right have been noted for years now, which shows that the problem is deeply-rooted. He points out that citizens face numerous violations of language rights on a daily basis, both by central and local institutions, and when asking for banking or telecommunication services.

“We constantly insist that this issue is kept on surface and that systemic solutions are found in the long run, instead of the short-term ones,” he said.

Project Manager Tijana Grujić pointed out that the full implementation of the Law on Use of Languages, ie respect for language rights, is one of the preconditions for access to all other rights and services. Therefore, she says, it is necessary to advocate for the implementation of this and other laws.

“In order for someone to know what his/her rights are and what services are available, they must be able to access information, ask questions, and receive assistance in their native language. The institution is obliged to communicate with citizens in a language they understand”, she said.

According to her, when this law is not respected, not only the Serbian community is affected, but also a part of other communities that use this language.

“If you allow a law not to be applied, you are creating a dangerous precedent and a potential habit that the law does not have to be obeyed. And the next day, that same official can choose another law not to apply it. In that way, legal uncertainty is created, and the legal system as a whole is weak, which cannot be good for anyone, not only for the Serbs, but also for all others living in Kosovo”, Grujic said.

Nenad Talić, the author of this Publication, assessed that pointing out the challenges of using the language in minority communities is related to the issue of protection of human and civil rights.

“We can often hear statements by high-ranking officials that the legislative framework for respecting language rights in Kosovo is one of the most advanced in Europe, and perhaps beyond. However, Serbs, Bosniaks, Roma, and Turks have been pointing out the disrespect of legally guaranteed language rights for years. It is the institutions that are in charge of implementing good solutions, in terms of language rights, that do not respect those rights, without any consequences. So, there is no clear disciplinary policy for those who do that”, said Talic.

The publication “Recommendations for a Policy Framework on the Implementation of the Law on Use of Languages” provides an overview of legal acts regulating the use of languages ​​in Kosovo, as well as how legislation obliges all public institutions and service providers to respect equal use and status of official languages. Practical problems due to non-compliance with official languages ​​were presented, as well as recommendations for better implementation of the law.

The analysis points out that the exercise of language rights is violated in various ways, such as non-compliance or partial compliance with legal regulations, misinterpretation of certain legal norms, lack of political will to fully implement the right to official use of language, lack of professional staff such as professional translators, copyreaders, etc.

Based on numerous experiences of citizens, journalists, officials, the general impression among Serbs is “that the Serbian language in Kosovo is most endangered by public institutions due to inconsistent application of legal regulations”, the analysis states.

NGO Aktiv proposed 20 concrete steps to overcome obstacles in respecting language rights and implementing the Law on the Use of Languages. Among them are – the introduction of a policy of legal sanctions for non-compliance with the Law on the Use of Languages, harmonization of disputed municipal legal acts, hiring additional translators, establishing an institutional mechanism for checking the quality of translations, establishing a fund for protection of language rights, introducing courses for translators, etc.

The publication was created within the project “Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development (ALVED)”, with the support of the United Kingdom Government, implemented by a consortium of organizations led by the Peaceful Change Initiative (PCi), in cooperation with People in Need (PiN), and in partnership with our NGO Aktiv, with offices in North Mitrovica, Pristina and Belgrade and a sub-office in Gorazdevac. Other partners are Civic Initiatives and the Peer Educators Network (PEN). This project is being implemented in five municipalities in Kosovo, and the NGO Aktiv is implementing it in the municipalities of Leposavic, Peja and Strpce.

The publication is available at the link HERE.

NGO AKTIV Mitrovica

NGO AKTIV Priština