FUEN Congress 2016 - Praise for the "bridge-builders"

- Press releases

On 19 May 2016 the Congress of the Federal Union of European Nationalities was officially opened. Before, Mr Rafał Dutkiewicz, City President of Wroclaw, and Bernard Gaida, Chair of the Association of German Societies in Poland (VDG), welcomed the guests. No time was lost; quickly both the positive and negative aspects in relation to the current situation of the minorities were addressed. Gaida, who read a

welcome address from the Polish President Andrzej Duda,

explained in his speech that although Europe has learnt to acknowledge its ethnic and culture richness, it is still important today to strive for more awareness for the minorities. Furthermore, the VDG-Chair expressed that he thought that the congress of this year provided the chance to thank Hans Heinrich Hansen for his commitment as long-time president of FUEN. Hansen was the second to take the floor.

In his opening speech Hans Heinrich Hansen addressed the refugee crisis in Europe: “There is no simple solution”, according to the President. In a tense situation like we have now, the greater risk is that humanity is lost. Hansen made clear that FUEN wants to make a contribution to solve the problems, and continued with the general objectives of the organisation. “FUEN is important because it is working on the level of the people in question.” Hansen, who belongs to the German minority in Denmark, called for more recognition and appreciation for the minorities in Europe. “Everywhere we need the freedom to express our opinion, as an individual or as a group.”

After the FUEN President had finished, Ms Astrid Thors, the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who is engaged in conflict prevention based on dialogue, stepped up to the microphone. It is no easy task, she told the audience. “I see an increase in hate-speech”, said Astrid Thors. “There are currently disturbing developments in some regions.” The reason is the refugee situation, and it endangers the willingness to be tolerant. Instead of playing minorities against one another, the societies should strive at engaging in intercultural dialogue. And once the fundament for peaceful coexistence has been created, access to education, justice and other areas of everyday life should be ensured. Astrid Thors wishes that the minorities play an advisory role – in this context she called the participants of the congress “bridge-builders”.

Like the previous speakers, also those who followed in the morning, Krzysztof Bramorski (Consul General of Luxembourg), Sebastian Chwałek (Vice Minister of the Polish Ministry of the Interior), Ryszard Galla (Vice Chair of the Sejm-Committee for National Minorities), Hartmut Koschyk (Federal Government Commissioner for Matters Related to Ethnic German Repatriates and National Minorities), Roman Kolek (Vice Marshall of the Voivodeship of Opele), Yvo Peeters, who extended greeting from Per Lemoine (founding member of FUEN) and Dobiesław Rzemienieswki (Ministry of the Interior of Poland) thanked Hans Heinrich Hansen for his passionate commitment for FUEN.

In the afternoon the situation of the minorities in Poland was topic for discussion. The speakers were Dr Aleksandra Oszmianska-Pagett, Rafał Bartek, Bernard Gaida and Prof Tomasz Wichierkiewicz. They all made clear how important language is for the minorities. VDG-Chair Gaida gave a thorough analysis in relation to the history. Dr Aleksandra Oszmianska-Pagett, Member of the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of the Council of Europe pointed out how important for fostering a sense of identity it is to promote the languages of the minorities. 

Rafał Bartek, the Co-Chair of the Joint Committee of the Polish Government and the National Minorities, said something similar in his speech. He would like to have advisory centres for teachers that would support them in teaching the languages. Linguist Prof Tomasz Wichierkiewicz addressed the chances for revitalisation of endangered languages, which was further explorer in the panel discussion that followed.

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