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Prime Minister meets Council of Europe human rights commissioner

ZAGREB, April 9 (Hina) - Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor on Friday received the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg. Kosor said that Croatia had achieved high standards in human rights protection by creating a very good legislative framework, including the Constitution and several special laws guaranteeing human rights protection.

Kosor said that the Croatian government attached particular attention to protecting the human rights of disabled people and children and to preventing any form of discrimination. She also highlighted the efforts being invested in promoting the rights of ethnic minorities and protecting other civil rights.

Kosor said that over five billion euros had so far been set aside for refugee aid, adding that the government was determined to solve the problem of missing persons from the 1991-1995 Homeland War and create conditions for the return of refugees to their prewar homes.

Speaking of the government's commitment to the protection of minority rights, the Prime Minister said that 2.7 million kuna had been earmarked in 2005 for the implementation of education programmes and the improvement of housing conditions for the Roma in Croatia, adding that allocations for that purpose had increased to 39 million kuna last year.

As a result, the number of Roma children attending primary school has quadrupled, and the issue of legalising illegally-built Roma settlements is being dealt with in cooperation with local government units, she added.

Hammarberg said that Croatia had made great progress in the area of human rights, noting that the priorities of the Croatian government fully corresponded with his. He stressed the important roles played by the Human Rights Office and the Human Rights Ombudsman and the importance of effective coordination between the two bodies.

Speaking of the protection of the Roma's minority rights, Hammarberg said that problems in that community were similar to those in other countries, adding that success in dealing with those problems lay in good cooperation within the local community and in the inclusion of Roma children in educational institutions from the pre-school age.

Kosor said that in cooperation with the Council of Europe Croatia had implemented very successful projects for the protection of children against violence, noting that Croatia was among the few countries that had removed from its legislation the possibility of corporal punishment for children.