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Germany takes a historic step by taking over responsibility for the Sorbs

The Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN) salutes the German federal government’s  act and the Bundestag’s vote to introduce “measures to promote the preservation and further development of the language, culture and traditions of the Sorbian people as a national minority”. On the 3rd of July 2020 the Bundestag voted the Coal Regions Structural Strengthening Act, which includes the praragraph on minority protection. The paragraph states that these measures are part of the federal government’s programmes and initiatives for structural change in the former mining regions. According to the explanatory statement, “the federal government makes it clear that the interests of the Sorbian minority are also important to be supported”.

At the 2018 FUEN Congress, the Assembly of Delegates adopted a resolution concerning this issue. “Since more than 100 years the region (Lusatia) is affected by extensive lignite mining in opencast mines and the subsequent power generation. Despite the associated demolition of a large number of villages of the Sorbian/ Wendish settlement area and the ensuing enormous loss of material and immaterial substance for the Sorbian/ Wendish people, the regional lignite industry was an important source of income for the residents and municipalities in the Lusatian area. Climate policy decisions of the global community in the EU and Germany concerning the withdrawal from the coal-fired power generation do have direct impact on the economic structure of Lusatia. The delegates of the FUEN Congress 2018 demand from the authorities of the Federal Government and the states of Brandenburg and Saxony, that the matters of the Sorbs/ Wends find particular attention in the structural development of Lusatia. The Lusatian Sorbs/ Wends can only continue to live as one people in their ancestral homeland today and in future, if it can provide a secure existence for them” – said the resolution.

In a press release published by the Domowina – Association of Lusatian Sorbs, their Chairman, Dawid Statnik states: “With this step, the federal government has declared its support for the Sorbian people. In the intensive talks and negotiations of the last few months, we have succeeded in making clear the value of immaterial assets such as language and culture for the success of the structural change - after all, Sorbian is an unique selling point of Lusatia. New houses only offer home if they are filled with soul and spirit.

We would like to thank the Prime Ministers and state governments of Saxony and Brandenburg, the coalition factions in the Bundestag for their purposeful amendment, but also the members of various parliamentary groups and those responsible for the administration, who helped us with advice and support. In doing so, they also do justice to history: 137 places in the Sorbian settlement area were sacrificed for state energy policy. We see the law that has now been passed as a further step towards effective compensation for this loss of substance.

We are convinced that the result is in the interest of the entire population, because a strong and attractive regional identity benefits everyone who lives here.”

Photo: After the historic coal phase-out and structural strengthening vote in the Bundestag: Andreas Lämmel (CDU), Ulrich Freese (SPD, both rapporteurs of the coalition factions in the Economic Committee who had tabled the decisive amendment), Susann Schenk (Chairman of the Council of the Foundation for the Sorbian People), Domowina Chairman Dawid Statnik.