Human rights committee endorses report on financing ethnic minority associations

Zagreb - The parliamentary Committee on Human and Minority Rights on Friday unanimously endorsed the annual report on funds spent on minority cultural programmes in 2016, submitted by the government's Council for Ethnic Minorities, according to which a total of HRK 31.9 million was allocated for those programmes.

The chairman of the Council, Aleksandar Tolnauer, said that the amount was used to finance programmes submitted by 180 ethnic minority associations and their 249 chapters.

The debate became heated when Luka Mlinarić of the In the Name of the Family NGO said that the Serb National Council (SNV) was misusing the HRK 3.2 million it had received from the budget as its Novosti weekly had on several occasions spread intolerance and hate against the Croat people. Mlinarić also accused Committee chair Milorad Pupovac of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) of political trade-offs and conflict of interest, saying that as the committee chair he made decisions on whether associations met requirements for the allocation of funding. 

Mlinaric demanded that the SNV pay back the money it had received so far and that it not be given new funds for three years as, he said, it was not promoting cultural autonomy but spreading propaganda against the Croatian people. "I see no connection between cultural autonomy and political articles," Mlinaric said.

Tolnauer responded that Mlinarić was a representative of only one of more than 51,000 associations and that the Council valued his opinion, but that the financial report was made based on strictly defined criteria. Tolnauer said that everyone was entitled to their opinion and should not be harassed over it.

Tolnauer told Mlinaric that he was ignoring the fact that ethnic minority representatives, too, were paying taxes, adding that the Hrvatsko Slovo weekly, which is also financed from the state budget, had run articles insulting ethnic minorities. Tolnauer said that the Council had not found elements of hate and intolerance in the Novosti weekly articles cited by In the Name of the Family.

Pupovac said that cultural autonomy included the media sector, publishing and education and not only folklore. He also said the Committee and the Council would react in the strongest terms to all forms of intolerance. The Serb minority received the most funds for cultural autonomy programmes in 2016 - a total of HRK 8.7 million, followed by Italians (6.8 million), Hungarians (3.49 million), the Czech (2.82 million) and Bosniaks (1.99 million). (Hina)

Autor: Hina