Monthly Archives: December 2009

European Court of Human Rights rules against Bosnia and Herzegovina in a case alleging racial and ethnic discrimination in relation to voting rules

On 22 December 2009, the European Court of Human Rights decided in favour of applications brought by members of the Roma and the Jewish communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, alleging racial and ethnic discrimination.

The case was brought because the rules of the post-Dayton Bosnian Constitution and the Election Act 2001 prevented members of these groups from standing for election to the House of Peoples and to the (collective) State Presidency. Rules which undermined the formal political equality of all citizens in Bosnia were agreed as part of the Dayton Agreement which brought the hostilities in Bosnia to an end in 1995. These provided for ethnic power-sharing in Bosnia’s state institutions, allowing participation only by self-declared members of the three constituent peoples – Bosniacs, Croats and Serbs – leaving out of account the other national and ethnic minorities such as the Roma and the Jews. The rules also adversely affect the electoral rights of members of the constituent peoples resident outside the area in which they are dominant, e.g. Serbs resident in the Bosniac/Croat entity. This lack of political equality has been one of the dominant features of the post-Dayton Bosnia, where constitutional reform has been slow to occur because of the entrenched positions of the veto players in each community. It is hoped that the Court’s judgment, the first on the free standing anti-discrimination rights enshrined in Protocol 12 to the Convention, will break the logjam of constitutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina and contribute to a broader renewal of the politically problematic ethnic elements of the post-Dayton settlement.

Although political participation rights as such lie outwith the main focus of the EUDO-Citizenship Observatory, the case is of interest in a citizenship context because political participation rights represent one of the main dimensions of the legal bond between citizen and state.

To read more see the following links:

The Press Release of the European Court of Human Rights in Finci and Sejdic v. Bosnia and Herzegovina.

blog post by Marko Milanovic on the European Journal of International Law blog discussing the judgment.

Press Release from the Minority Rights Group International which was one of a number of INGOs responsible for bringing the case before the European Court of Human Rights.

Beyond the Wall: Twenty Years of Europeanisation as seen from the former Yugoslavia

On December 14 and 15 2009, CITSEE Research Fellow Dr. Igor Štiks will be speaking at an important international conference in Belgrade, Serbia, to mark twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, as seen from the perspective of the former Yugoslavia, and presenting not only his academic work on citizenship in the former Yugoslavia, but also reading from his novel "Elijah's Chair" at a public literary event.

While elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe numerous commemorations of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain have been taking place almost every other day, in one particular corner of Europe the experience of  the years that followed 1989 does not give many reasons for celebration. In the countries of the former Yugoslavia, the 1990s were marked by war, destruction and brutal economic and political transition.  The last twenty years are therefore seen quite differently from the perspective of Sarajevo, Belgrade, Tirana, or Skopje than from Berlin or Prague.

The Paris-based think tank Notre Europe, founded and presided by Jacques Delors  and the Belgrade-based cultural NGO Kulturni Front have combined to organise a conference under the title “Beyond the Wall: Twenty Years of Europeanisation as seen from the former Yugoslavia” to look at precisely these difficult questions.

The aim of the conference is to bring together political leaders, academics, public intellectuals and journalists from all across Europe. In their invitation, the organisers underline the following key point:

“A few short weeks ago, Europe was celebrating the 20th anniversary of its unification. A symbol of union, the Fall of the Berlin Wall does not however hold the same meaning for all Europeans: the rupture of the Cold War order took Yugoslavia in its wake; and the images from Berlin inversely invoke those from Sarajevo. Contra to the great tide of aggregation begun in 1989 between the East and West of Europe, the decade of the 90s was a time of dislocation in iron and blood for the Yugoslav populations. The trajectories of the West Balkan countries singularly remain the blind spot of the reflections, prospective and retrospective, which accompany the commemorations of the Fall of "the" Wall. But what gaze do the people from South East Europe cast over the last two decades? What are their conceptions of the great challenges lying ahead of Europe? How to build the missing links between these countries and the European Union?”

The speakers include many distinguished figures from politics, academia, the arts and the media: Giuliano Amato, Pierre Mirel, Jacques Rupnik, Tim Judah, Ivan Colovic, Ales Debeljak, Pierre Hassner, Vladimir Gligorov, Ivan Vejvoda, and Vesna Goldsworthy.


What do we talk about when we talk about citizenship and nationality?

Although to native English speakers there is no significant difference between citizenship and nationality in everyday use, their interchangeability is not that obvious and often creates confusion. The confusion is even bigger in the majority of other European languages and frequent literal translations of the two terms, if provided without historic contextualization, are likely to cause serious misunderstandings.

The CITSEE sister project EUDO (European Union Democracy Observatory on Citizenship) tackles the issue of the appropriate use of citizenship and nationality on its website. It provides general explanation of both terms and their habitual use as well as how they ‘travel’ to other European languages.

EUDO underlines that “while public international law uses the term nationality to refer to the legal bond between an individual and a sovereign state, several domestic laws use the term citizenship or its equivalent.” However, “in most European languages, the term nationality can also refer to individual membership in a nation as a cultural, ethnic and historic community rather than a legal entity. Sometimes, nationality is also contrasted with nation when distinguishing dominant national groups from national minorities.” Furthermore, there is a difference between nationality and citizenship even in the countries where they are generally used as synonyms. “The concept of citizenship, too, has a broad range of meanings that stretch beyond its core as a legal status. In various academic literatures, citizenship presupposes the existence of democratic institutions of government and refers to a bundle of legal or moral rights and obligations or to individual and collective forms of participation in the public realm.” To further clarify the use of the concepts related to citizenship and nationality, the EUDO website provides a detailed Citizenship Glossary.

In the countries covered by the CITSEE project (the seven successor states of the former Yugoslavia) nationality undoubtedly has ethnic overtones and it is good practice to use the term citizenship when dealing with legal status of individuals.

For example, in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, državljanstvo (citizenship) is a neutral term designating an individual’s link with a state (država) without any reference to ethnicity and is used in all legal documents. Nacionalnost (nationality) or narodnost (from narod, people) refers primarily to someone’s ethnic background. Citizen could be translated both as državljanin and gradjanin and citizenship as državljanstvo but also as gradjanstvo.  Very often državljanin and gradjanin are used as synonyms, although državljanin is primarily legal status whereas gradjanin has additional civic and political connotations. The same word also describes a resident of a city (grad). When it comes to citizenship, državljanstvo refers only to legal status; gradjanstvo is again related more to civic and political status and activities of individuals. Additionally, the term gradjanstvo could also, in a different context, refer to urban; population or, nowadays rarely, to the upper urban classes. The use is very similar in Slovenia (one should however replace grad with mesto and therefore gradjanin with mešcan, and gradjanstvo with mešcanstvo) and in Macedonia.

In the Albanian language, shtetas and shtetësi (‘citizen’ and ‘citizenship’) are the legal terms to describe the bond between the state (shtet) and an individual. The term shtetas is sometimes used interchangeably with the term qytetar, where the latter has additional civic and political connotation. The latter term derives from the word qytet (city) and although originally it was used to distinguish city dwellers from the others, the term qytetar now is usually used to describe all legal subjects of the political entity (state). In the legal terminology, kombësia (nationality) is used to designate the ethno-national belonging of a person. The term komb is used to describe a nation as a whole (in ethnic terms), regardless of the state.

If you think that this is complicated, by clicking here you can discover more about the use of citizenship and nationality in more than 20 European states and languages.