European Union snubs minorities in Europe
Dispute over the future of Catalonia (Press Release)
The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) criticizes the behavior of the European Union (EU) in the Catalonia-dispute as an affront to the minorities in Europe. “If the European Commission takes sides with Spain’s ruling party alone, this is a slap in the face of the more than 800 people who were injured in the ruthless police operation last Sunday. Thus, the EU has lost a lot of sympathy – not only in Catalonia, but also in other regions and among the minorities in Europe,” explained Ulrich Delius, the STP’s director, in Göttingen on Thursday. In a European Parliament debate yesterday afternoon, Frans Timmermans, the First Vice-President of the European Commission, had once again taken sides with the central government in Madrid by describing the Catalonia-referendum as an illegal act.
“The minorities in Europe are alarmed by the escalation of the Catalonia-dispute and the fact that the EU is backing the Spanish government without reservations,” said Delius. About 50 million people in the EU belong to an autochthonous minority. Most of these minorities – like the Sorbs in Lusatia, the Frisians in the Netherlands, the Hungarians in Romania, and the Turks in Greece – are not thinking about establishing an independent state. Up to now, however, many of these groups had thought that the EU would serve as an ally in the often complicated relations with the respective states, supporting their efforts to preserve their own language and culture.
“This confidence and the predominantly pro-European attitude in the minority regions are deeply shaken. The European Commission is planning to build a ‘Europe of the People’, but the reactions to the events in Catalonia are a bitter disappointment for everyone who is working towards a Europe of the People, a Europe of Regions, and a Europe of the Minorities. The EU missed a great opportunity to assure the European citizens that it cares about their concerns and is willing to mediate. The reactions of the member states and the EU institutions clearly show that the EU is a union of the states – not a union of the European people, of the individual regions or, respectively, the minorities. Apparently, the nation states are to remain in power under all circumstances and at any costs. This, however, is what drives the representatives of the minorities and the regions – despite the fact that most of them are to be seen as pro-European – straight into the arms of nationalists and political extremists. You don’t have to be a British or Flemish right-wing extremist to be of the opinion that Spain’s refusal to mediate and to enter a dialogue is foolish,” explained Delius.