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Press Release – 09.11.1999

Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) publishes its remaining first-round country-by-country reports on member states

STRASBOURG, 09.11.99 - Reports on Croatia, Cyprus, Moldova, Turkey and Albania, issued today, complete the first series of spot-check country reports by the COUNCIL OF EUROPE’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) on the Organisation’s member States.

The reports identify problems and their causes and offer advice and solutions. They play a role in the ongoing dialogue between the Organisation and its member States on curbing racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and related intolerance. The reports are available on the Internet site in English and French.

In Croatia the problems faced are to a large extent the result of the wars starting in 1991 following the break-up of the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. Although episodes of ethnically-motivated violence and discriminatory practices are relatively decreasing over time, members of minority groups continue to be subject to physical threats as well as differential treatment in various fields, particularly in certain parts of the country. Key areas identified by ECRI include: the need to ensure that the rights of minority groups are thoroughly respected; the protection of the rights of refugees and displaced persons and the enhancement of confidence-building measures and security conditions in some areas, with a view to facilitating a harmonious reintegration of refugees and displaced persons in their areas of origin; and the need to monitor the non-discriminatory implementation of law and regulations concerning acquisition of citizenship, employment, property rights, provision of social services, etc.

In Cyprus the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, after massive internal displacement, now in the main live in different parts of the island. The northern part (some 37%) is not presently under the effective control of the Cypriot Government, and ECRI has not examined the position of populations living in that area as regards discrimination. ECRI’s key findings include: the need to investigate incidents of police ill-treatment of detainees of non-Greek Cypriot origin; specific problems faced by certain groups of non–citizens, particularly Asian women employed as maids; and the need to promote a climate of tolerance to restore confidence and counter prejudice between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.

While in Moldova the confrontation with the Gagauzi minority in the southern part of the country is apparently being handled in a satisfactory fashion, a lasting solution to the conflicts and tensions is still awaited in the region on the left bank of the Dniester river, a region in which the Moldovan authorities presently do not hold control. Among key issues identified by ECRI are: the importance of monitoring the implementation of legal and other measures which have only recently been established, including the law on the special legal status of the Gaugazia region; the development of a comprehensive body of legislation specifically to combat all forms of racism and intolerance; and the need to ensure training in human rights for the police.

Turkey’s citizens are of many different ethnic origins, including a significant number of Kurds. One of the main challenges facing Turkey in the field of ECRI’s concerns appears to be the need to reconcile the strong sense of national identity and the wish to preserve the unity and integrity of the State with the right of different minority groups within Turkey to express their own sense of ethnic identity, for example through maintenance and development of linguistic and cultural aspects of that identity. ECRI also underlines: the need to ratify international Conventions in the field of combating racism and discrimination; the importance of monitoring and responding appropriately to the new aspects of migration into Turkey and to make appropriate legislative changes; and the need to adopt a wide range of policy, educational and awareness-raising measures to promote tolerance in society as a whole.

ECRI’s report on Albania was finalised at the end of November 1998. It therefore does not cover the dramatic developments linked to the crisis related to Kosovo in 1999 and the implications of such events on Albania. Yet some of the key areas identified by ECRI continue to merit particular attention, including the precarious situation of the Roma/Gypsy community, the need to counter discrimination, including police discrimination, against members of this community and the lack of a fully developed legal framework to combat racism and racial discrimination.

Beginning in 1999, ECRI is following up its first round of country-by-country spot checks. New reports are currently under way on Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Switzerland.