Policy brief on Quality of Translation of Kosovo Laws into Serbian was presented today as a part of our Advocacy Platform “Empricia”. The document was prepared by Platform for Analysis and Research, a non-formal group consisted of 15 CSOs operating in North Kosovo.

The conference was opened by Sara Ostojić, manager of Civic Energy Center, who presented “Empirica” as one of the programs offered by this Center.

“Empirica is owned by all enthusiasts, representors of civil society and all people who wish to make this society better. We want to help to all organizations, give them space to initiate public debates, connect them with media, arrange them meetings with decision makers. “Empirica” is something much wider – it is a place where civil society and NGO sector operate united and with joint efforts, in order to propose solutions for certain problems. Our idea today is not only identification of the problem of violation of language rights, we insist on resolving it”, said Ms Ostojić.

Milica Andrić, project manager of NGO Aktiv, pointed out the importance of this document, not only for Serbian, but for all communities living in Kosovo.

“Serbian language is official language in Kosovo, which means that all laws should be translated into Serbian. However, translations of many of them are very bad. For one year we were trained in order to be able to write this short, but extremely important document”, said Andrić.

Platform presented the several ways how to resolve this problem. Kosovo’s Assembly was advised to adopt an emergency ordinance by which it will be possible to edit and proofread already translated laws. Serbian MPs are asked to pay more attention to the quality of translation of laws, and to protest or refuse to consider laws which are bad translated. One of the suggestions was to gather all translators of central institutions into one body, as well as to hire more lectors whose native language is Serbian. Finally, Platform also suggested improvement in education and monitoring of translation services and making of Albanian-Serbian legal lexicon.

Jelena Vićić, the coordinator of the project, criticized the current situation and presented worrisome information that the translation of the Criminal Code of Kosovo into Serbian contains over 5000 mistakes. This data was published as part of the research in Vesti. The research was conducted and co-ordinated by Jelena Petkovic, Vesti journalist and commented by law and linguist experts: Nora Bezera, Albanian language professor, Darko Simovic PhD, professor of the constitutional law, and Nebojša Vlajić and Goran Pertonijević, lawyers.

“We wanted to find out who is responsible for this problem and what is the reason of bad translation. We found out that there are 48 official translators in central institutions, and to only one of them the Serbian language is the mother tongue”, noted Ms Vićić.

Slaviša Mladenović, language commissioner in Kosovo, commented the application of the Law on use of language, highlighting that the Office of Language Commissioner is very well aware of this problem and that it is actively engaged in solving it.

“Language is one of the most important elements of people’s identity. It is especially clear to people living in Kosovo, since we are facing this problem every day. Your recommendations are very similar to the solutions upon which we are already insisting. Laws’ translations are bad, which may produce different interpretation of them in its application. Respecting the right on use of language is the reflection of respecting the rule of law in general. We witness violation of many other human rights here, such as right on property or right to return in Kosovo. This is why NGO sector that rises awarness that complains of citizens can and should have serious consequences is very important. I am sure that the closer we are to the EU integrations, translations of these laws will be better and better. However, it should not be the result of pressure of the EU integration process. It should be a normal process of respecting basic human rights”, noted Mr Mladenović.

Mr Stefano Gnocchi, Adviser on Political Affairs and Communities from the European Union Office in Kosovo, was also panelist at the conference.

“Europen Union gives great importance to research studies an policy papers. Civil society represents the bridge between government institutions and ordinary people, communities that need help in resolving their problems. Your work is very important and EU recognize this”, said Mr Gnocchi.

Sehadin Shok, Communities Policy Officer in OSCE Mission in Kosovo, said that OSCE wrote many reports on bad implementation of the Law on use of language.

“It is very important to focus on implementation of this law not only on central, but also on local level. The number of translators who work in municipalities is extremely low, so sometimes citizens do not have access to documents in their mother tongue. Law on Property Rights contains over 500 mistakes, and some expressions are translated in such a way that they do not have any meaning in Serbian language”, commented Mr Shok.

On the question whether this problem is the result of low capacities or lack of political will, Mr Mladenović answered: “It is possible that this problem remains unresolved in order to be left as an argument for certain political compromises. It is often used by our politicians, but in the end they vote for them in the Assembly, even though they do have misspelings.”

Platform for analysis and research was made as part of the project “Policy for Change – Strengthening capacity of CSO’s in Northern Kosovo to become more effective contributors in decision making process” funded by EU and implemented by NGO AKTIV from North Mitrovica and Center for Peace and Tolerance from Gračanica.

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