European People’s Party organises Hearing on Minorities in the European Parliament

- News - FUEN President Hans Heinrich Hansen proposes to enhance the cooperation with the European Parliament and to establish a structured dialogue forum of minorities at the European Parliament

On 22 April the largest political group of Europe, the European People’s Party EPP, organised a hearing on the "Protection of Traditional Minorities" in the European Union. The hearing was a result of the relentless effort of – among others – our FUEN member organisations. It was a follow up of what was written in the EPP Party Platform about safeguarding national minorities that was adopted at the 2012 EPP Congress in Romania.

Not surprisingly, the meeting was hosted by two Members of Parliament from FUEN member organisations, namely Pál Csáky of the Party of the Hungarian Community in Slovakia MKP and Csaba Sógor from the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania RMDSZ, together with József Nagy from the Most-Híd-party from Slovakia. Also Herbert Dorfmann of the South Tyrolean People’s Party chaired one of the sessions.

The hearings consisted of a number of interesting presentations about on the one side the situation in some countries and on the other hand the existing framework of minority protection in Europe and how it can be enhanced. Dr Gabriel Toggenburg of the Fundamental Rights Agency suggested that although there are limits to what the EU can do at the moment, there are still several chances to improve minority rights within the EU framework as it is now. A number of obligations from the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities can be addressed through EU law, which, because of the way how EU law is working in the states, would make them much more powerful.

Dr Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay, the Ombudsman in Hungary responsible for national minorities suggested thinking about establishing an early warning system for systematic infringements of minority rights. Professor Josef Marko talked about the latest jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and how it may affect EU law, especially in the context of structural and group discrimination. Professor Marko suggested not to aim at a universal standard of minority rights, but to work towards a minimum standard.

FUEN President Hans Heinrich Hansen told about the main mission of FUEN: “it is our main task to transform the perception that minorities should not be there or should not be treated equally into a profound understand of their situation. We really think that war and violent conflict can be prevented by the recognition of minority interests, because the interests of minorities are in truth mostly also the interests of the majority. Because of our special situation, however, we feel them a bit earlier.”

Hansen thanked for the opportunity to speak at this hearing and hoped that it will create a strong impetus within the EPP Group to advance the issue of national minorities in the European Union. Hansen made an offer to intensify cooperation with the European Parliament: “As the representative organisation of the European minorities we already work closely together with the Intergroup for National Minorities in the European Parliament. Till now, however, a systematic or structured involvement of the minorities in the institutions of the European Union is lacking. In my opinion the European Parliament would be the right partner. Therefore I propose on behalf of FUEN, based on very positive experiences from the German-Danish border region, to establish a ‘Contact Committee at the European Parliament’ where the questions and interests of the European minorities could be brought together and expressed towards the European Union.”

At the end of the hearing Kinga Gál, the Co-Chair of the Intergroup on National Minorities and Vice Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs summed up the conclusions. On the basis of the hearing a document will be drafted with recommendations on how the EPP Group will further proceed with the topic of minority rights.

Key Topics

  • Political Participation
  • Fundamental Rights
  • Linguistic Diversity
  • Solidarity with the Roma
  • European Citizens' Initiative
  • European Network
  • Forum of the European Minorities / House of Minorities


More photos at Flickr