The constitution and law on minority rights provide both individual and collective rights for minorities, and these provisions were generally observed for most groups, but Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians were disadvantaged in access to social services and continued to experience societal discrimination.
According to government statistics, in 2009 more than 50 percent of school-age children from the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities were not integrated into the obligatory primary education system. Those school systems that are integrated often maintain institutional and geographic segregation. For example, the Bozidar Vukovic primary school continued to maintain a remote facility in the Konik refugee camp in Podgorica that was attended only by Romani, Ashkali, and Egyptian students. During the year Romani NGO leaders renewed their request that authorities eliminate this type of de facto school segregation. During an assessment of the country in February, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance warned that the continued separation of Romani children from children of other ethnic groups would seriously impede the integration of Roma into society.
According to the Fund for Providing Roma Scholarships, an NGO, the primary-school dropout rate for students belonging to these minorities was
approximately 50 percent in the 2010-11 academic year. There was some progress enrolling students from these communities in secondary school. The number rose from 37 students in 2009 10 to 65 in 2011-12. Only eight individuals attended university in 2010-11.
According to 2011 census, Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians constituted approximately 1 percent of the population. According to 2009 UN data,
approximately 40 percent of them lacked birth or citizenship certificates. Many, including IDPs from Kosovo, lived illegally in squatter settlements, often widely scattered, and lacked such basic services as public utilities, medical care, and sewage disposal. The 2008 Law on Citizenship and its accompanying regulations made obtaining citizenship very difficult for persons without personal identity documents (see section 2 d.). According to the UNDP, approximately 70 percent of Roma were illiterate, 50 percent were unemployed, and 36 percent lived below the poverty level.
Societal prejudice against Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians was widespread, and local authorities often ignored or tacitly condoned it. Members of these minorities lacked political representation and generally stayed out of politics. They occasionally lacked access to advanced medical professionals, such as surgeons and other specialists, that was available to other residents. According to a study carried out by three NGOs, the Monitoring Center, Juventas, and Cazas, the greatest barriers facing Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians in the labor sector were inability to speak the national language, lack of education, and employer discrimination. In August the government introduced tax incentives aimed at encouraging private entrepreneurs to hire Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians.
The government has a formal strategy and action plan for improving the situation of Roma in 2008-12 but took no significant measures to advance it during the year. Authorities appropriated 325,000 euros ($423,000) during the year to implement the action plan, a much smaller amount than envisaged by the strategy. A group of human rights NGOs accused the government of failing to establish the proper mechanisms to monitor funding for projects aimed at the country's Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities.
The Albanian National Council requested new textbooks for Albanian students and more involvement of Albanian authors in writing them.
The leaders of ethnic minority communities continued to allege that the government did not comply with the constitutional requirement of affirmative action
for minorities. They asserted that these rights included ethnic representation in the National Assembly and in local self-government assemblies in areas where a minority group forms a significant share of the populations. They also complained that minorities were underrepresented in the government administration, the judiciary, and state-owned economic enterprises. A study conducted in June by the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights showed a large imbalance in the ethnic distribution of public sector jobs. Ethnic Montenegrins, who constituted less than half of the population, held 79 percent of public administration positions. At year's end, there were two Roma in the central administration and none in local government bodies. Nevertheless, amendments to the election law enacted on September 8 to enhance affirmative action gave minorities additional representation in the National Assembly. It applies to minorities that win less than 3 percent of votes and those that constitute 15 percent or less of the population. This law has received mixed
reactions from minority communities; ethnic Albanians were displeased that their set-aside Assembly seats were eliminated, while others welcomed the opportunity to have representation in the government.
A government Fund for Minorities financed national councils intended to represent the interests of minority groups. There were national councils for Serbs,
Bosniaks, Albanians, Muslims, Croats, and Roma. The fund continued to be the focus of public attention for alleged misappropriation of funds. Authorities provided 800,000 euros ($1.04 million) to the councils during the year to implement specific projects. In March the State Auditing Office reviewed the work of the fund and concluded that its internal auditing system was imprecise and inefficient. Auditors also reported that the fund failed to monitor the
implementation of approved projects and did not evaluate their results. The authorities decided to allocate 2011 funds to the councils on October 31, one day before a ban took effect prohibiting participation by members of the Assembly in institutions like the fund (see section 4). On November 10, the NGOs Montenegrin Legal Committee for Human Rights Protection and Civic Alliance sued the members of the fund for embezzlement, claiming that they acted to advance their own personal interests.