In the framework of the EU-funded project “Improving Cooperation in SEE by Actions for Strengthening the RCC” on 10 February, 2014 the CEI organised in Ljubljana - in its capacity as lead partner - a joint meeting of Ombudsman Offices of all Western Balkan Countries and of Slovenia and Turkey.
During the plenary session, the participants discussed possible cooperation relations for the Ombudsmen in the region, which resulted in a common statement reflecting the recent events in Sarajevo and in other towns of the Region.
The Ombudsmen of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Serbia agreed to call upon the authorities of their countries to show greater concern, sensitivity and consistency in dealing with questions related to the economic and social rights of citizens, since the violation of these rights represents the greatest threat to human rights in general.
The Ombudsmen emphasised the need to solve the existing problems through a broader social dialogue and full respect of vital interests of the most vulnerable groups. The respect for human rights and the rule of law is an imperative for all authorities in all situations. It is especially important when citizens express their dissatisfaction, which will be under the scrutiny of ombudsmen at all times.
The innovative connection stressed by the Ombudsmen regarding human rights is strictly entangled with the respect of economic and social conditions of citizens.
During the conference, specific working groups addressed the blueprints for the actual implementation of human rights beyond the written legal provisions generally adopted by most of their countries. The European Commission in the Communication on the Enlargement Strategy, delivered to the Council and the European Parliament last October recalled this matter.
The staff of the Ombudsmen Offices exchanged experience in their fight against discrimination of vulnerable groups (e.g. persons with disabilities, Roma, LGBT) and in applying gender equality measures (labour and social-economic rights in case of mobbing in public and private sector and whistle-blowers protection).
They also debated upon the impact of these initiatives both at constitutional level (initiative in front of the Constitutional Courts; legislative initiative in front of the Parliament) and at judiciary level (safeguard of democratic and transparent procedures; initiative in front of the judiciary and fair trial right).
Under the auspices of the CEI and the RCC representatives taking part in the conference, the participating ombudspersons also established their own Regional Network, open to the inclusion of Turkey. They jointly agreed on appointing the Albanian Ombudsman as coordinator of the Network in 2014.
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