OSCE Kosovo Mission encourages legal recognition of all ethnic communities, says Ambassador

FERIZAJ/UROSEVAC, 25 June 2007 - Ambassador Werner Wnendt, the Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, called today for a stronger commitment by Kosovo's Provisional Institutional of Self-Government (PISG) central and municipal authorities to the protection of minority ethnic communities.

"Increased efforts are necessary to ensure the full integration of all communities into society," said Ambassador Wnendt. "As part of its mandate, the OSCE will continue to promote and support the protection of communities and to assist in implementing people's fundamental rights."

Ambassador Wnendt made the comments during a visit to Ferizaj/Urosevac where he made public an OSCE Mission report on civil registration of persons belonging to the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities.

The report, based on interviews conducted by OSCE Municipal Teams throughout Kosovo, analyzes how instructions aimed at facilitating the registration requests submitted by applicants from these communities are carried out.

"Civil registration is a fundamental prerequisite for access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Everyone has the right to be recognized everywhere as a person before the law," said Ambassador Wnendt. "However, it appears that 20 to 40 percent of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians living in Kosovo are not registered as habitual residents."

The report suggests that although some municipalities have taken positive initiatives - such as the use of mobile teams to inform and register undocumented persons and the appointment of liaison officers - the overall legal obligations remain unfulfilled.

In order to remedy these shortcomings, the report recommends that central and local authorities do more to help ethnic minorities register, for example by establishing an inter-ministerial working group that would promote public awareness on the importance of civil registration and to carry out activities to reach these communities.

Ambassador Wnendt also met local religious leaders from the Islamic Community, the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church to convey a message of peace, respect and tolerance.

For further information please contact:

Florence Marchal
Deputy Spokesperson
OSCE Mission in Kosovo
Tel: +381 38 240 100Ext.1218
Mobile: +377 44 500 150