Realisation of the right of national minorities to cultural autonomy
The main goal of the measure "Realisation of the right of national minorities to cultural autonomy in Croatia" is furthering the realisation of the right of national minorities to sustenance, development and expression of their own culture and the preservation and protection of their cultural heritage and tradition. The right to cultural autonomy was established by the Constitutional Law on the Rights of National Minorities, passed in 2002. Members of national minorities in order to preserve, develop, promote and express their national and cultural identity can found associations, foundations and institutions for performing public information, cultural, publishing, museum, archive, library and scientific activities. The Republic of Croatia and local and regional selfgovernment units in accordance with their capabilities finance the institutions. Members of national minorities freely maintain contacts with people with whom they share the same ethnie, linguistic, cultural and or religious characteristics and legal persans established in the home country of the minority engaged in educational, scientific, cultural, publishing and humanitarian activities. Associations of members of national minorities can receive a limited number of copies for their own use of newspapers, magazines, books, films, videotapes, recordings exempt of customs fees from bodies of the country with which they share characteristics and from legal persans from that country, and they can, without paying a fee, distribute them to members of the national minority.
ln Croatia there are 22 national minorities 19 of which have established associations. According to the Constitutional Law they are defined groups of Croatian citizens whose members are traditionally settled on the Croatian territory, and whose members have ethnie, linguistic and or religious characteristics different from other citizens and who are motivated to preserve these characteristics. As a result of efforts to better and more fully exercise all the rights of national minorities guaranteed by the Constitutional Law, along with the legislative and institutional framework, the Action Plan for the implementation of the Constitutional Law on National Minorities has also been adopted, which in addition to cultural autonomy also covers the following areas:
- public and official use of language and script of national minorities;
- education in the language and script of national minorities;
- the use of signs and symbols;
- the right to manifest their religion and to establish religious communities together with other members of that religion;
- access to and performance of activities pertaining to the means of informing the public in the language and script they use;
- self-organisation and association in pursuance of their common interests;
- representation in the state administration, judicial bodies and local and regional self-government bodies; participation in public life through councils and representatives of national minorities; protection from any activity jeopardising the exercise of the rights and freedoms of national minority members (developing tolerance for diversity and combating discrimination).
An integral part to the Action Plan is also the National Programme for the Roma and the Action Plan for the 2005 - 2015 Roma Inclusion Decade.
The government has also adopted the National Programme for Support to Roma activities and programmes (and the 2005-2015 Roma Inclusion Decade Action Plan) which includes special provisions referring to education and cultural activities of representatives of the Roma national minority. Publishing of the first Romany-Croatian and Croatian-Romany Dictionary has been financially supported by Croatian Commission for UNESCO and the Ministry of Culture as well as the International Symposium on the occasion of marking the World Day of the Romany Language which has been held in Zagreb every year since 2009.
ln order to consider and propose ways of regulating and addressing issues related to the exercise and safeguarding of national minority rights and freedoms, the Croatian Government appoints a Council for National Minorities for a four-year term taking into account the share of national minority members in the total population and the need for the Council composition to reflect their identity and distinctive features, their historie values as well as their ethnic, cultural and every other peculiarity. Along with the Council for National Minorities, the Croatian Ministry of Culture is in charge of implementing the measure 'Realisation of the right of national minorities to cultural autonomy'. The Council for National Minorities allocates funds ensured under the state budget on an annual base for the needs of national minorities. ln the area of cultural autonomy the activities of the Council for National Minorities relate to:
- Financing the sustenance and development of minority cultures and traditions (cultural amateurism and cultural events of national minorities);
- Financing public information activities (receiving and disseminating information in the language and script of national minorities) - informing and publishing;
- Financing joint programmes of associations and institutions of national minorities organized by the Council for National Minorities (seminars, round tables, trainings);
- Education of associations and institutions of national minorities on the use of financial resources, drafting programmes and reporting;
- Programs aimed to achieve cultural autonomy of national minorities (creating the conditions for the functioning of associations and institutions of national minorities);
- Organization of the traditional annual event.
The Croatian Ministry of Culture as part of the annual Call for Proposals for Programmes of Public Needs in Culture supports the following activities as part of the measure 'Realisation of the right of national minorities to cultural autonomy':
- Protection of cultural heritage;
- Supporting the work of and increasing the book fund of national minority libraries;
- Supporting publishing activities of national minority members;
- Computerisation of the cultural institutions of national minorities;
- Supporting drama and performing arts and cultural-artistic amateurism of national minorities.
In addition to these activities, the Ministry of Culture supports art, film and new media programmes and programmes of archives, museum and gallery activities and international cultural cooperation. Through bilateral cooperation programmes and bilateral treaties and agreements the Ministry of Culture especially supports activities contributing to furthering cultural cooperation with the countries of the home nation, thus indirectly improving the cultural autonomy of members of national minorities.
Challenges identified in the implementation of this measure : Previous experiences in the realisation of the right of national minorities to cultural autonomy show, year in year out, that ever larger funds are allocated from the state as weil as local budgets. However, despite the efforts made, a part of the associations are still insufficiently efficient in using funds allocated for the realization of the objectives of the cultural autonomy of national minorities.