GOVERNMENT AND MUNICIPALITIES FACE MULTIPLE CHALLENGES IN IMPLEMENTING LANGUAGE RIGHTS
The legal framework in the Republic of Kosovo is advanced in terms of respecting multilingualism, namely the protection of the linguistic rights of all communities. However, despite the achievements so far in legislation and policies, as well as in creating mechanisms for the use of languages in Kosovo, there are still shortcomings and challenges that hinder the full implementation of these rights, both at the central level and at the municipal level of governance.
Recently, the leaders of the Government of Kosovo have confirmed commitments to address the existing shortcomings in this aspect, with the aim of protecting the right to use official languages for all citizens. They have also recognized that linguistic diversity, in addition to being an element of rich cultural heritage, is also a means to achieve increased intercultural understanding and cooperation in society. (source: https://bit.ly/3Y4l2i5).
Recent credible international reports have highlighted the need for practical implementation of legal provisions for language use. The latest EU report on Kosovo has assessed the need for a more consistent implementation of the Law on the Use of Languages as the responsibility of all institutions, considering that stronger support from the government is still necessary to consolidate language policies. (source: https://bit.ly/3ZoIIPb).
The remarks were in the same line, in the report of the U.S. Department of State on Human Rights Practices in Kosovo which emphasized that municipal administrations, as well as central government institutions, have been inconsistent in implementing the provisions of the law on language use, resulting in unequal access to public services, information, employment, and other rights for community members. (source: https://bit.ly/3ZlHBzU).
Meanwhile, an OSCE report has also highlighted the difficulties with adequate translations at the central level, while it has concluded that translation capacities in municipalities are still weak, with challenges related to the lack of human resources, equipment, and funding continuing. (source: https://bit.ly/3Z5nI0f).
Even the researches of the civil society organizations operating in Kosovo have found that the legislation dedicated to languages is not being implemented in practice and that the non-respect of this right is manifesting itself in essential challenges for the communities living in Kosovo.
Concerns regarding this issue were also expressed at the last meeting of the Committee for Communities of the Assembly of the Municipality of Prizren, a locality known for its tradition of multilingualism, where Albanian, Serbian, Bosnian and Turkish are official languages, while a few months ago, a decision was also made to recognize the Romani language as an official language for use. Members of non-majority communities have expressed dissatisfaction with the implementation of language rights at the municipal level, stating that these issues should not be still on the agenda, 15 years after the declaration of Independence. Municipal officials have confirmed limited resources and a lack of capacity for translations in all official languages but have emphasized that respecting human rights is a priority for the Municipality of Prizren, while diversity is a unifying value in strengthening local democracy, including language rights.
A research on the websites of municipalities in Kosovo confirms all of the above findings regarding shortcomings in the implementation of language legislation. While in municipalities with an Albanian majority, deficiencies in translating a number of decisions made by the mayors into the languages of non-majority communities are observed, the same applies to municipalities with a Serbian majority as well as the one with Turkish majority, regarding the translation of all content into the Albanian language.
Given that Kosovo's legal framework obliges central and municipal institutions to implement language rights, the latter must increase their commitments for the implementation in practice by increasing human resources and strengthening institutional capacities. The previous experience with non-qualitative translation of official documents and acts has had a negative effect on their reputation and has hindered efforts to increase the involvement of communities in decision-making. A positive step in this direction is the government's initiative to establish a unit for translation and harmonization, which will deal with multilingual legislation. However, efforts at both the central and municipal levels need to be multiplied towards promoting the values of multilingualism and ensuring the protection of the right to use official languages.