One million signatures for the protection of minorities (Press Release)
Tomorrow, October 15, the European Parliament will finally discuss the Minority Safepack. The package consists of various measures to protect and promote autochthonous minority groups in Europe. "The minorities in Europe can – and should – be proud of themselves," stated Jan Diedrichsen, Chairman of the Board of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP). "The fact that a citizens' petition initiated by the European minorities could get one million signatures is already an impressive success." After the hearing in parliament, the EU Commission must now consider the suggestions and substantially expand the protection and promotion of minorities. "It is not enough to just schedule a hearing, followed by a press release and a few obligatory references to the importance of minority protection and linguistic diversity," Diedrichsen said. "Germany must take a clearer stand. During the months of the EU Council Presidency, the federal government should support the minorities in Europe and represent their interests in the debate." Diedrichsen added that one seventh of the people in the EU belong to a national minority or speak a regional or minority language – and that there are four recognized autochthonous minorities in Germany: the Sorbs, the Frisians, the Sinti and Roma, and the Danish minority in Schleswig-Holstein.
Originally, the Minority Safepack contained eleven proposals, two of which were rejected by the EU Commission. The remaining nine measures include EU-wide recommendations regarding the protection and promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity, support programs for small language communities, equality for members of stateless minorities such as the Roma, the establishment of a center for linguistic diversity, and research on the importance of minorities in Europe. The protection of national minorities and the promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity should be included in the objectives of the EU Regional Development Fund. Further, minority groups must be able to rely on regional and state support programs for the preservation of their culture, media, and cultural heritage. Finally, an overarching European copyright law should promote media and services in the respective mother tongues.
The Federal Union of European Nationalities, the umbrella organization for European minorities, had initiated the process in 2011. The individual demands were fleshed out until 2013, and then submitted to the EU Commission. The EU Commission was reluctant to discuss the package until it was forced to do so, in 2016, by court rulings. Finally, the EU gave the initiators one year to collect one million signatures for the project throughout the EU, with mandatory threshold values in at least seven countries. In the end, this was achieved in eleven countries: Bulgaria, Denmark, Italy, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain. The initiative handed over the 1.1 million signatures to the Commission in January 2020. The debate in the EU Parliament was originally scheduled for March 23, but was postponed to October 15 due to the Corona crisis. It will be broadcast live on the Internet.