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The EP asks from the Commission for legal acts on minority rights

A large majority in the European Parliament – with 524 out of 694 votes – adopted a resolution in support of the Minority SafePack Initiative (MSPI) on Thursday, 17 December 2020. Thus, the MSPI became the first European Citizens’ Initiative to have a plenary debate and a resolution adopted by the European Parliament. “With today’s vote, preceded by a strongly supportive public hearing in October and Monday’s plenary debate the European Parliament gave the strongest possible signal for the European Commission to initiate the legislative process based on the proposals of the Minority SafePack Initiative. This is a great victory!” – stated MEP Loránt Vincze, the President of the FUEN.

According to the resolution, the European Parliament “expresses its support for the European Citizens’ Initiative ‘Minority SafePack – one million signatures for diversity in Europe’; calls on the Commission to act on it and to propose legal acts based on the Treaties.”

The motion for the resolution was drafted by five European political groups and was presented by Esteban González Pons and Loránt Vincze on behalf of the EPP Group, Juan Fernando López Aguilar and Hannes Heide on behalf of the S&D Group, Malik Azmani on behalf of the Renew Group, Rasmus Andresen, François Alfonsi, Gwendoline Delbos‑Corfield and Bronis Ropė on behalf of the Greens/EFA Group and Clare Daly on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. A plenary debate on the MSPI was also held in the Parliament on Monday, 14 December 2020.

While acknowledging that the protection of national and linguistic minorities is the primary responsibility of the Member States, the European Parliament resolution points out that “the Union has a powerful role to play in supporting the Member States’ authorities in this endeavour”. In this sense, the European Parliament expresses its position that the Union should encourage actions by Member States to ensure the protection of the rights of persons belonging to minorities, reiterating its past call on the Commission to draw up a common framework of EU minimum standards for the protection of rights of persons belonging to minorities. It asks the Member States “to take all the necessary measures and to uphold the rights of persons belonging to minorities and ensure that these rights are fully respected”, as well as to exchange best practices among themselves in this regard. The EU itself is called upon to facilitate such exchanges.

From an institutional perspective, the European Parliament asks for a mutually reinforcing cooperation between the EU and the Council of Europe in the area of protecting the rights of national and linguistic minorities in order for the European Union to be able “ to build upon the achievements and experience of the Council of Europe and for the Council of Europe to secure more effectiveness in the implementation of the recommendations issued in relation to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages”.

The resolution reflects on the proposals of the MSPI.  Among others, it points out that linguistic diversity is a valuable component of Europe’s cultural wealth, which should be protected; calls on the EU and its Member States to take account of the needs of national and linguistic minorities when designing its funding programmes; considers that the protection of multilingualism and cultural diversity is a motor for regional development and innovation and therefore considers that the European Structural and Investment Funds and Cohesion Funds should take it into account; believes that every EU citizen should be able to enjoy culture and entertainment in his or her own language.

The nine legislative acts proposed by the MSPI contain measures that the EU could take to protect people belonging to national and linguistic minorities in the EU, and to strengthen cultural and linguistic diversity. A Council Recommendation to Member States, funding programmes for small linguistic communities, the creation of a Language Diversity Centre and the freedom of service of audio-visual content in minority regions are some of the proposals of the initiative to protect minority rights. The successful European signature collection campaign for the MSPI was coordinated by FUEN – the Federal Union of European Nationalities.

“It has been a long and hard road for the Minority SafePack Initiative, and since its start in 2013 we have achieved probably more than many would have expected: we have won two ground breaking cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union, we have managed to collect 1,123,422 valid signatures, we passed the threshold in 11 Member States, we have managed to get decision makers, parliaments, governments on our side, and finally, the representatives of the European citizens, the esteemed members of the European Parliament also join our cause. Now it is up to the European Commission to hear these voices and make a brave step towards a Europe for all citizens” – said MEP Loránt Vincze, the President of the FUEN.

The European Parliament’ resolution is the next-to-last step in the MSPI’s road in the European institutions: the European Commission will present its communication on the actions it aims to propose on the initiative before 15 January 2021.

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