Praxis Watch

Thursday, 13 June 2019

European Commission Calls on Serbia to Amend the Regulations Related to Birth Registration

In the European Commission’s Serbia 2019 Report, the EC states that most Roma in Serbia have civil documentation, but emphasises that the procedure for registering the birth of children whose parents lack personal documents needs to be monitored, and related secondary legislation needs to be amended.

In this way, the European Commission has joined a significant number of international organizations and treaty bodies which have also pointed to this problem in their reports and recommended to Serbia to enable birth registration to every child immediately after birth. Similar recommendations have previously been produced for Serbia by the UN Human Rights Council, UN Human Rights Committee, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Last year, the European Parliament also called on Serbia to enable full realization of the right to timely birth registration, while Serbia has also committed to fulfil the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including, inter alia, the one to provide legal identity for all, including birth registration.

All these recommendations were produced because of the two by-laws that regulate the procedure for birth registration which prevent the birth registration immediately after birth of children whose mothers do not possess personal documents. In this way, in Serbia the right of the child to birth registration immediately after birth, which is also guaranteed by the ratified international conventions and Serbia’s Constitution and law, is violated. In the interpretation of the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF states that birth registration “immediately after birth” implies the deadline of several days, rather than months. However, in Serbia, these procedures last long, in some cases even more than half a year.

This problem in Serbia almost exclusively affects Roma ethnic minority, since a number of Roma women still do not possess personal documents. In relation to this, Praxis has sent appeals to competent bodies to amend the disputable by-laws for the purpose of resolving this problem. 

Finally, the EC Serbia 2019 Report also points to other problems faced by the Roma population in Serbia, to the difficult social position of the Roma and the gap that exists between them and the majority population. It is, thus stated, among other things, that almost 60% of girls from Roma settlements are married at an early age. It also states that the right to parental allowance depends on the children being vaccinated, while only 12.7% of Roma children have received all recommended vaccines, whereas this percentage among non-Roma children is 70.5. The Report also points out that significantly fewer number of Roma children attend kindergarten, and that drastically fewer Roma students finish school, compared to non-Roma children. The Report also provides data that show higher unemployment rate among the Roma, compared to the rest of the population, and also draws attention to insufficient representation of Roma in the public administration. 

Praxis took part in the process of preparation of the EC Report, both through consultations and by sending a written contribution to the Report precisely emphasising the above-stated problems.

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