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European Standards of Minority Protection and the Status of Minorities in Croatia

Croatian Sociological Association
  • Liberalism
  • Social Justice
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Minorities
  • Croatia
  • Minority Rights
  • Hrvatska
  • Manjine
  • Liberalizam
  • Manjinska Prava
  • Socijalna Pravda
  • EtniČKe Grupe


Until recently political theory and public opinion have been sharing almost universally accepted standpoint that liberalism is in principle opposed to collective minority rights. After WW2 liberal theory assumed that all questions of a democratic social order and social justice can be solved with the development of universal civic and human rights. Besides, liberals believed that the old model of religious tolerance and the separation of state and church had provided the guidelines for problem of ethnicity. On this view, ethnic identity, like religion, is something which people should be free to express in their private life, but which is not the concern of state. “Ethnic neutral” state precludes any legal or governmental recognition of ethnic groups. In more recent time, however, have appeared (liberal) political theorists who argue convincingly that the idea on “ethnically blind” state is a myth both historically and conceptually. People are, namely, embedded in their culture, and therefore the respect for someone's (ethnic) culture is substantial for his or her self-esteem and dignity. This shift in liberal theory of social (ethnic) justice, and the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe with outburst of frightening ethnic conflicts, have led powerful Western organizations (NATO, EU, Council of Europe, OSCE) to begin insisting on protection of minorities in the new EE democracies, as the condition for their integration. International (European) minority law began to emerge at the beginning of 1990-ies. The analysis has shown that from formal-legal point of view Croatia more than satisfy international standards of minority protection provided by international instruments. Indeed, it recognized the minority status even to some national groups, which are rather accidental statistical aggregate of individuals than real collectives motivated “to preserve together” their “common identity”. No elaborate concept of (multi)ethnic justice underlies the legal status of minorities. However, for their vague social position minorities themselves (in Croatia and probably in other EE countries) can, at least partly, be blamed since they too have not (yet) developed minority-based political culture.

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