The parliamentary human and minority rights committee called on the government on Tuesday to put up bilingual signs on state institution buildings in Vukovar and all other local government units where the law requires it.
The committee also asked the infrastructure ministry to draw up an action plan for putting bilingual signs at the entry to villages and towns where the law requires it.
At its first meeting in September, the committee will discuss a bill on the use of languages and scripts of ethnic minorities which the Public Administration Ministry tabled in 2015, and then initiate its adoption. The bill has passed a first reading.
The committee will form a delegation that will visit Vukovar and other local government units to meet with local officials and representatives of the majority and minority communities to gain insight into the actual state of affairs and actual issues, committee chair Milorad Pupovac of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) proposed.
The above are the unanimously adopted conclusions of a meeting which the committee held on a decision whereby the Constitutional Court assessed the compliance of Vukovar's statute and the statute decision on the equal official use of the Serb ethnic minority's language and script in the eastern town.
No MP of the ruling HDZ showed up at the meeting. Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica said the Constitutional Court rescinded the city statute provision under which minority representatives must be provided materials in their language and script, adding that the Vukovar Town Council must honour the court's decision.
His state secretary Darko Nekic said dissolving the town council as a punishment should be the last resort, adding that a strategy and an action plan were necessary to deal with failures to respect minorities' language and script rights across Croatia, not just in Vukovar.
Arsen Bauk of the Social Democratic Party said the bill envisaging sanctions had been in parliamentary procedure since 2015.
Pupovac said prerequisites had been met in Vukovar to use the Serb minority's language and script. He added, however, that even raising this issue had already resulted in a conflict between the government and the political parties that were against it, ending in violence and divisions.
It took the Constitutional Court three years to decide on the Vukovar town statute which, instead of ensuring them, maximally restricted Serbs' rights, which is why the court is asking for the adoption of a new statute which would expand them, said Pupovac.
He added that many municipalities did not apply the constitutional law on ethnic minority rights at all, whereas some applied it in part.
Goran Beus Richemberh of GLAS said good Croatian laws were dead letters and that he feared the issue of bilingualism in Vukovar would be abused in upcoming presidential campaigns.
Dragana Jeckov of the SDSS said it seemed that Vukovar's Serbs were to blame for everything, "not just for the (military) aggression but also for non-compliance with the law." "It seems that the constitutional law on ethnic minority rights applies to every minority but Serbs, which is cause for justified fear, dissatisfaction and concern because we are brought into an unequal position."
Italian minority MP Furio Radin said that denying the right to one's language and script meant denying the right to one's identity. The introduction of bilingualism in Istria after WWII showed that it leads to bonding, not divisions, he added.
This is a matter of denying the state. As much as we talk about minority rights, we are talking about the rights of all Croatian citizens, and this is just one way of disrespecting the state, said Pupovac.