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Deputy PM Kosor: Croatia is committed to protecting rights of all ethnic minorities

BEGOVO RAZDOLJE, May 16 (Hina) - Croatia is committed to protecting the rights of all ethnic minorities at all levels, and their rights are guaranteed by the Constitution, the Constitutional Law on the Rights of National Minorities and the whole legislative system, Deputy Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said at an international conference that opened in the ski resort of Begovo Razdolje in the Gorski Kotar region on Friday.

The two-day conference, entitled "Regional security and cooperation and the protection of ethnic minorities," was organised by the Zagreb Faculty of Political Sciences, the Centre for Ethnic Relations of the Forum for Security Studies from Zagreb, and the Croatian Council for National Minorities with the financial support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

The conference was being attended by scholars, specialists, politicians and representatives of non-governmental organisations from a dozen Southeast and Central European countries and the United States.

Such a high level of rights, including the right to equality before law, the right to foster one's own culture, language, religion and tradition, and the right to participate in decision-making processes, requires considerable funds, very good organisation and the good will, Kosor said.

Kosor noted that every year the Croatian government increased funds for the implementation of programmes for the protection of ethnic minorities, adding that over HRK 84 million had been allocated for that purpose in 2006, 110 per cent more than in 2005, and that over HRK 41 million was earmarked in this year's budget for programmes proposed by minority organisations alone.

Stressing the importance of the involvement of minority representatives in decision-making processes, Kosor said that 4,261 members of minorities had been elected to local minority councils and that 374 representatives of national minorities had been elected in local elections to local and regional legislatures.

The number of minority representatives included in decision-making processes has reached 5,000, including representatives of national minorities in the Sabor, Kosor said.