The report of the European Commission for 2021 notes the adoption of the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination, for the adoption of which it is emphasized that inter-party support was provided. The Report also notes the key role of the civil society sector in monitoring the work of institutions and in participating in decision-making in the field of anti-discrimination.
The Report also welcomes the establishment of the Commission, especially the appointment of some members of the civil society with relevant experience in the field. However, there are criticisms about the lack of women and people with disabilities in its composition. The Network for Protection against Discrimination appealed for this problem, especially because of the fact that people from these groups applied for the job, who more appropriately met the criteria of some of the elected members. In the first few months of the election, as highlighted in the Report, the Commission faced a number of logistical and financial challenges that urgently needed to be addressed to its full effectiveness. The Network notes that some of the still current problems are: the establishment of the professional service with a sufficient number of employees to fully fulfill the mandate; election of an independent and professional candidate as the seventh member of the Commission; adoption of internal acts for work; increasing the budget through objective criteria in accordance with the competencies; creating a website and ensuring transparency in operations, etc. In order to overcome these challenges, it is necessary for the Commission to receive adequate support from key institutions.
Regarding the Ombudsman, the Report highlights concerns about the party affiliation of the selected candidate. The Network for Protection against Discrimination appealed for the election of a candidate on merit and followed the process of election of the Ombudsman, which they assessed as extremely non-transparent and without a real opportunity for participation of independent and professional candidates. The Report also notes the insufficient staffing of the non-discrimination unit in the Ombudsman Office, the need to appoint deputies and the need to increase the budget of the institution in accordance with the competencies. It is noted that the Ombudsman started reporting on discrimination cases in accordance with the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination. However, the Network for Protection against Discrimination considers that the Ombudsman in the report for 2020 did not report in accordance with the legal obligation that requires reporting on cases allocated on grounds of discrimination.
The European Commission reiterates its call for all these positions in independent bodies to be appointed on a merit-based basis. It is emphasized that the functional independence of these bodies (the Commission for Prevention and Protection against Discrimination and the Ombudsman) should be constantly guaranteed by providing adequate financial resources for their smooth and comprehensive functioning.
The Report notes a lack of systematic collection of data on hate speech, hence requiring a proactive and holistic approach to tackling the problem of hate speech and hate crimes. According to the data and experiences of the Network for Protection against Discrimination, law enforcement agencies almost do not recognize and do not implement effective procedures to protect against hate speech and acts of hatred, for which any progress is still awaited.
The report also discusses systemic forms of discrimination against Roma, persons with disabilities, LGBTI people, gender equality and prison conditions, which require additional and continuous efforts to overcome. The EC notes that structural deficiencies are still being observed in the labor market, impeding potential growth and development. The gender gap in the labor market in 2020 increased by 22.7 percentage points, due to the fact that more women (compared to men) were excluded from the labor market. The employment rate for men (20-64 years) in 2020 was 68.9%, and for women 49%, resulting in a high gender gap in employment of 19.9 percentage points.
In general, there is an appropriate legal framework, but there is also a lack of implementation in many areas. Hence, a key recommendation of the European Commission in the field of discrimination is to fully implement the provisions of the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination and to allocate the necessary resources in order to enable the full functioning of the Commission for Prevention and Protection against Discrimination.
—————————————————27 October 2021