Creating conditions where everyone has a fair and real opportunity to contribute to and profit from a genuinely inclusive society, as well as improving the position of minorities in the Western Balkans are the main goals that were recognized in Podgorica by representatives of institutions from the region, the European Union, the Council of Europe and civil society organizations during the conference "Tolerant and inclusive societies of the Western Balkans", held on 14 and 15 November 2018.
This conference gathered more than 100 participants from all across the Western Balkans and offered the opportunity for fruitful discussions about European standards, monitoring and cooperation in fight against discrimination as well as the combating hate speech and protecting minority rights. Moreover, concrete types of anti-discrimination interventions were discussed (e.g no hate speech movement, networks of equality bodies – information exchange, peer to peer training) that could be applied and further developed as regional mechanisms in combating discrimination.
The Head of the European Union Delegation to Montenegro, Aivo Orav, stated in his introductory remark that Europe faces a number of challenges and that the atmosphere of fear and intolerance can lead to xenophobia. The European Commission is committed to building tolerant and inclusive societies and it rejects any form of discrimination, he added. Regarding the Western Balkans, Orav said that there are still many challenges and that the region needs to embrace European values much stronger.
A member of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), Christian Ahlund, said that many of the problems that have existed in the Western Balkans 20 years ago are still present. More has to be done to project positive image of a diverse society. A society free of discrimination is important for all of the individuals to enjoy their rights, not only minorities, he concluded.
Head of Anti-Discrimination Department at the Council of Europe, Hallvard Gorseth, said that the findings of monitoring by ECRI and other bodies of the Council of Europe suggest that there is an increase in racism and xenophobia in many parts of Europe. For that reason, he explained, a mechanism provided through the joint EU/CoE Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey is especially important, as it provides technical assistance in the protection of vulnerable categories and the promotion of anti-discrimination. Gorseth said that the fight against discrimination is crucial for negotiating chapters 23 and 24.
"Montenegro has achieved notable results when it comes to promoting and protecting human rights, but we are aware of the areas in which it is necessary to intensify and improve the results. At the national level, we are focused on strengthening political, social and economic environment in order to create the conditions for unhindered enjoyment of human rights, without discrimination on any grounds", concluded State Secretary for Political Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro, Ambassador Zoran Jankovic.