FUEN round-table discussion on autonomy: every minority needs specific, tailor-made tools to protect their culture and identity

- Press releases

Practices and challenges of National-Cultural Autonomy in Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe was the title of the discussion organized in cooperation with the Glasgow University that took place on Friday, during the 62nd FUEN Congress. In his introductory speech David Smith, professor of the Glasgow University stated: Hungary was among the first states in the region to address the issue of autonomies in 1993, when it provided national minorities with non-territorial autonomy. The professor added: Hungary set a good example, and they hoped that more states will follow, especially ones where Hungarian people live in large numbers. Sadly, this was not what happened, except for Serbia. Serbia’s example shows that cultural autonomy is a solution. David Smith pointed out: we should always examine what autonomy really provides. Autonomy in Estonia or Russia is merely symbolic, while cultural autonomy in Hungary and Serbia is real.

“One can say that the situation of national minorities in a country is exemplary, if the minority community in question agrees with this statement. We need specific, tailor made tools to guarantee the protection of minority rights everywhere in the European Union, a set of compulsory legislative measures meant to make sure every ethnic community can hold on to their identity. This is why we elaborated the Minority SafePack Initiative.” –stated the leader of the RMDSZ group in the lower house of the Romanian Parliament, Korodi Attila, member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe at the 62nd FUEN Congress in Cluj-Napoca, Kolozsvár, Klausenburg.

FUEN vice president Daniel Alfreider, member of the Italian parliament stressed that we need a diverse Europe of regions, without borders, where every minority can hold on to their identity and their culture: "The point of autonomy is to stop blaming the state for everything and start solving problems responsibly, by involving local people. This is what we, the people of South-Tyrol do every day; we try to govern the region with administrative tools."

Stephanie Marsal, Senior Advisor to the High Commissioner for National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe stated: “Our role is to come up with solutions to defuse tensions between minority and majority communities. We offered to convince governments and minorities to reach a compromise. The High Commissioner for National Minorities drafted guidelines to avoid tensions, as the protection of national minorities is a responsibility of every Member State of the European Union.”

Professor of Queen’s University of Kingston, Canada Csergő Zsuzsa has conducted researches on 6 different minorities in the past 15 years. She spoke about the conclusions of the researches in her speech pointing out that minorities tend to prioritize the interests of the community they come from as opposed to their individual interests. „Minority voters tend to vote along community interests, they vote for the representation of their own issues. They prefer moderate policies and parties to radical ones, and they focus not on their individual preferences when they chose who to vote for, but on the interests of their community”− she said.

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