While constitutional protections against discrimination applied to all minorities, there was some discrimination against ethnic Serbs and Roma. According to the 2011 census, Serbs were the largest minority ethnic group in the country, accounting for approximately 4 percent of the population.
There number of reports of discrimination and hate speech against Serbs increased. On April 19, the ombudsman for human rights expressed concern regarding “a noticeably harsher rhetoric in the public arena during the election in 2015” and called for “the regular and more consistent use of powers at the disposal of police and judicial staff in the prevention and punishment of hate speech and hate crimes.” The ombudsman’s office reported that 67 individuals filed discrimination complaints based on race, ethnicity, or national identity in the first half of the year, one less than the total number of such cases filed in all of 2015.
On June 1, the Council of Europe’s Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities reported “a surge in nationalism and political radicalization is having a negative impact on the enjoyment of minority rights, in particular in those areas that were heavily affected by conflict.” On August 5, singer Marko Perkovic (“Thompson”) led pro-Ustasha chants and songs during a concert commemorating the country’s Victory and Homeland Day. He and several individuals were charged with misdemeanors.
Discrimination against and the social exclusion of Roma was a problem. While 16,974 persons identified as Roma in the 2011 census, officials and NGOs estimated the Romani population numbered between 30,000 and 40,000. Roma faced widespread discrimination, including in obtaining citizenship, documentation, education, housing, and employment (see section 7.d.). According to the Council of Europe, only 6.5 percent of Roma in the country held permanent jobs.
The Government Office for Human Rights engaged Romani community leaders and NGOs in an effort to improve opportunities for Roma. Romani and pro-Roma NGOs received state and EU funding for local development projects, provision of social services, and education programs, particularly preschools and primary schools. The Government Office for NGOs provided training for Romani civil society, particularly Romani women and youth. Parliament, together with several other parliaments in Europe, proclaimed August 2 a day to commemorate World War II-era persecution of Roma, and the government funded historical research focusing on that period.
While education was free and compulsory through the eighth grade, Romani children faced serious obstacles, including discrimination in schools and a lack of family support. A high dropout rate among Roma remained a problem. In the 2015-6 school year, the Ministry of Science, Education, and Sports reported 5,420 Romani children were enrolled in primary school, 394 of whom were repeating grades. Preschools and kindergartens enrolled 1,026 Romani children. The government awarded 569 high school and 21 university-level scholarships to Romani high school and university students to cover fees, transportation, and housing allowances. The Ministry of Science, Education, and Sports promoted better adoption of the Croatian language among Romani children through funding for preschool education and training for teachers. In total, the ministry spent 9,900,000 kunas ($1,520,000) on Roma-targeted education initiatives. Romani community members participated in the development of Romani-as-a-second-language curriculum.
The government promoted the employment of Roma by reimbursing two years’ salary to employers that hired Romani workers and by subsidizing self-employed Roma at a total cost of 10,835,300 kunas ($1,670,000). The government concentrated efforts to improve housing on infrastructure and legalizing unregistered residences. The Ministry of Construction and Physical Planning provided 975,000 kunas ($150,000) to legalize 671 private Romani homes in eight settlements. Romani community organizations received approximately 655,000 kunas ($101,000) in support from the National Minority Council composed of Romani community representatives. The Ministry of Culture separately provided approximately 300,000 kunas ($45,600) for Romani publications. In 2015 the government allocated 28,405.000 kunas ($4,370,000) for the implementation of the national Action Plan for Roma Inclusion, while the EU contributed another 7,787,000 kunas ($1,200,000).