The Council of Europe’s bodies, its Conventions and monitoring mechanisms provide excellent assistance for member states by facilitating international cooperation and the exchange of best practices on the promotion of equality and diversity. The Council of Europe Office in Belgrade is an excellent example and can proudly look back at 20 years of dedicated work.
This has been highlighted in today’s event organised on the occasion of marking 20 years of the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade.
Nadia Ćuk, Deputy Head of the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade welcomed the participants and emphasized the importance of the holistic approach in order to achieve equality: „Building a tolerant, inclusive, and resilient society based on the principle of nondiscrimination requires a holistic approach. In its numerous and various cooperation programmes implemented in Serbia in past 20 years, the CoE has been keeping a focus on the promotion of diversity and equality with a wish to assist the country to meet its reform agenda in the field of human rights, rule of law and democracy in compliance with the European standards.“
Ivica Dačić, Speaker of the National Assembly of Serbia congratulated the Office on the two decades of successful work. “The Council of Europe Office in Belgrade is one of the institutions without whose support we could not have achieved the democratic development of our country. Serbia is today much better country than it used to be 20 years ago. Numerous projects in the areas of judiciary and parliamentary support, implemented in co-operation with the civil society contributed to establishment of the atmosphere of tolerance and respect of diversity”, said the Speaker.
In the video message, Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office and Special Representative of the Federal Government for the German Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe highlighted that the Council of Europe’s bodies, its Conventions and monitoring mechanisms provide excellent assistance for member states by facilitating international cooperation and the exchange of best practices on the promotion of equality and diversity. “May 2021 is the “European Diversity Month” – let us work together to build equal and inclusive environments. Especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when diversity and inclusion are at risk”, concluded Mr Roth.
Tobias Flessenkemper, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade underlined that “The strategic goal of the Council of Europe in the field of anti-discrimination, diversity and inclusion is to ensure genuine equality and full access to rights and opportunities for everyone and everywhere on Serbia, at all times and in all circumstances, as individual human being and as a member of a specific group. Our office in Belgrade will continue to support government, parliament, civil society, social and economic actors, the education sector, the media and everyone else in jointly reaching this goal. There cannot be real European unity without human and minority rights, democracy and the rule of law.”
“20 years of the work of the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade will be marked also by one coincidence which illustrates the commitment of all of us to the values of the Council of Europe – in the small hall of the National Assembly of Serbia we mark this anniversary, while in the main hall of the Assembly the set of anti-discrimination laws are being discussed at the same time”, said Gordana Čomić, Minister for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue. She also noted that “People are different, and are legally obliged to treat people equally and to accept the diversity, as we all have human rights”.
Besides the lecture on “Human and Minority Rights Protection: Perspectives and challenges to Multiple Diversity Governance in Europe and the Balkans” given by Prof Dr Joseph Marko of the University of Graz, the event offered space for discussion to various actors crucial in promotion of diversity and equality in Serbia. MPs of the National Assembly of Serbia, Commissioner for Protection of Equality, as well as representatives of the civil society organisations and of the Roma National Council in Serbia exchanged opinions on ways forward in the area of achieving equality and diversity in Serbia.
In addition to the 20th anniversary of the Office, this event also marked the conclusion of the German Presidency of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. H.E.Mr Thomas Schieb, Ambassador of Germany to Serbia highlighted that during German Presidency of the Committee of Ministers, non-discrimination and the fight against hate speech were one of the priorities. “We have chosen this focus because minorities often face exclusion and discrimination on grounds of nationality, skin colour, religion, language, gender identity, sexual orientation, social status or disability. This is not acceptable. Together, we must undertake efforts to change this”, he concluded.
H.E.Mr Attila Pinter, Ambassador of Hungary to Serbia, outlined the main focus of the incoming Hungarian Presidency of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers (May- November 2021) will be on the issues of minorities, youth policies, cyber-crime and artificial intelligence, environmental protection and dialogue among regions.
The symposium “Promoting Equality and Diversity in Serbia: 20 years of co-operation for multiple diversity governance” was organised by the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade in co-operation with the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue, supported by the National Assembly of Serbia and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany. It highlighted Serbia’s efforts in promoting equality and diversity based on the Council of Europe standards and raise awareness about multiple diversity governance in Europe among Serbian authorities and civil society as well international community partners.