Minority Protection for EU Accession (MPA)
Project title: Minority Protection for EU Accession (MPA)
Project timeframe: January 2023 – June 2025
Project funder: German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ)
Project budget: 200 000 EUR
Ever since the EU enlargement wave of the early 2000s (when 10 Central and Eastern European countries joined the Union), adequate protection of national minorities has become an essential condition for a country to join the organization. In the case of Serbia, the country’s EU accession will largely depend on the fulfilment of the political criteria that cover fundamental and minority rights and are laid out in Chapter 23 of the Accession Agreement. Against this backdrop, the government of Serbia adopted its first Action Plan for the Protection of National Minorities in 2016, with the aim to set a clear track for complying with the benchmarks of Chapter 23. In mid-2023, a new Action Plan will be adopted. Its primary goal will be to improve the implementation of the existing, generally solid legal framework and to close remaining implementation gaps.
Overall, the EU Commission is supporting Serbia with a wide array of programmatic measures related to Chapter 23, including strengthening anti-corruption policy and the rule of law. The German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) has been selected as the general implementation partner for this entire programme. In turn, the GIZ has selected the ECMI to carry out specific project activities related to strengthening protection for national minorities.
The MPA project will support Serbia with meeting the benchmarks of Chapter 23 relating to the protection of national minorities by improving the implementation of relevant laws and policies (e.g. the Action Plan for the Protection of National Minorities). This will be achieved through a wide range of activities structured around four thematic areas:
- monitoring the implementation of the Action Plan;
- awareness-raising among civil servants;
- strengthening of the Councils for Interethnic Relations in various Serbian municipalities;
- capacity-building of National Minority Councils representing specific minority communities.
Ultimately, the project will not only empower core stakeholders involved in national minority protection in Serbia, but also promote human and minority rights, the value of social cohesion beyond ethnic lines, and the importance of stable and friendly interethnic relations, which are all necessary preconditions for a democratic political order.
The desired outcome of the project will be to improve the quality of the implementation of minority related laws and policies (more specifically the Action Plan) and to boost the organizational capacities of relevant stakeholders involved in this implementation.
The project will contribute to:
improved monitoring and analysis of minority law/policy implementation,
enhanced awareness and knowledge of national minority rights and issues within public administration,
improved inter-ethnic relations, particularly in ethnically mixed municipalities,
strengthened organisational capacities of national minorities.
The project will work across a number of methods and activities:
developing a toolkit for the monitoring of policy implementation (on the basis of the Action Plan),
offering capacity-building training for National Minority Councils,
arranging awareness-raising workshops among civil servants,
sponsoring network-building conferences for municipal Councils on Interethnic Relations
The project’s strategic partner is the Serbian Ministry for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue. Throughout the project’s inception phase as well as its needs-assessment period, the ECMI has worked closely with the Ministry in order to identify meaningful impact areas for the ECMI to contribute to. For example, the ECMI conducted a thorough analysis of the 2016 Action Plan and of recent Serbian policy documents, and matched these needs to its own areas of expertise and current research. It is this process that led to the final framework of the project. Additionally, the project will have two Local Project Managers, who will be partly embedded in the Ministry in order to support in particular the monitoring of minority policy.
It goes without saying that Serbia’s National Minority Councils and Councils on Interethnic Relations will equally be key partners and target groups for this project. Work with the National Minority Councils will be particular meaningful in 2023, as these Councils were all reelected in late 2022 and now have new members, with whom capacity building trainings will be very worthwhile.
To synchronize the MPA project’s work across other Serbian government authorities, the ECMI has established contacts with the Ministry of Justice, the Secretariat for Public Policies and the Protector of Citizens (Ombudsman of Serbia). Further liaison is expected with provincial secretariats in the Vojvodina region and with specific municipalities where Councils on Interethnic Relations are active.
Geographically, project activities will take place in Belgrade and Novi Sad, along with a number of central Serbian cities, where Councils for interethnic Relations operate (Bor, Bujanovac and Novi Pazar), and in the respective seats of selected National Minority Councils.
This project is part of the multi-donor action "Strengthening Rule of Law in Serbia" co-financed by the European Union, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC), and implemented by GIZ, ADA, CPMA and the OSCE Mission to Serbia.