Municipal councils for inter-ethnic relations function under a bad legislation, and their work or passivity mostly depends on the enthusiasm of its members. This was heard at the debate organized by the “Sto Plus” radio station from Novi Pazar. Panelists, representatives of the councils of Novi Pazar and Sjenica, the local self-government of Tutin and two civil society organizations (CSOs), unanimously agreed that in the majority of multiethnic environments useful and good ideas did not come to fruition.
“It just did not happen, not even in Vojvodina, where we expected to have a better result,” said last night Dusan Janjic, Director of the Forum for Ethnic Relations.
According to him, councils for for inter-ethnic relations are often seen as yet another protection of minority and human rights, which should not be the case.
“These councils should be a place for local dialogue between representatives of political parties, national councils, and religious communities, enabling councils to addresses the local assembly,” Janjić said.
He added that the councils should take on a duty that no one is performing at the moment, “…only when serious inter-ethnic incidents occur there are talks about peace councils and initiatives.”
According to a report by the protector of the citizens Zoran Pasalic, the councils for inter-ethnic relations were established in only 53 local self-governments, and as many as 40 of them did not hold a single session in the past year.
At the panel entitled “Are councils for inter-ethnic relations guardians of good relations? Experiences of Novi Pazar, Sjenica and Tutin “, Radoslav Rakonjac, a member of the Council from Sjenica, assessed that it is completely irrelevant which people make up the majority in a municipality if this body of local self-government is merely an advisory body.
“The legal framework should be improved to allow a council representative to have a ‘seat’ in the Municipal Assembly – no to vote but to have the opportunity to react when necessary,” Rakonjac said.
He also believes that councils for inter-ethnic relations should be financed from local budgets.
Rakonjac stressed that the council in Sjenica was formed in 2013 and that any municipality that wants to go a step further in democratization should form its own council for inter-ethnic relations.
Vasvija Gusinac, president of the recently formed Council of Novi Pazar (composed of three Serbs and three Bosniaks) said that they held three sessions in only a few months.
“Our Rules of Procedure state that in our work we will strive to establish good relations, cooperation, and understanding and build trust,” she stressed.
“The problem is that the law is vague, the autonomy of the council is not determined, so the channel towards the non-governmental sector and other actors in the society is not open, which leaves it upon the members to open this channel through their work. So far, we’ve been swamped in decisions regarding changes of street names, which date back to 2007, “said Vasvija Gusinac.
Semir Kurtanovic, Tutin Municipal council member reminded that this local self-government appointed assistant to the president of the municipality for inter-ethnic cooperation, and announced the councils will be established soon.
He pointed out that a month ago on the territory of this municipality, a Serb policeman on duty shot a young Bosniak, but thanks to adequate reactions by citizens who are “accustomed to coexistence” potential serious damage to interethnic relations was avoided.
Sead Biberović, Executive Director of CSO Urban-in from Novi Pazar, believes that the Council for inter-ethnic relations should respond to most of the local issues and closely cooperate with other councils established in the city (security, youth, gender equality …).