Intensive week in Strasbourg: State of the Union, refugees, fundamental rights and strategic cooperation with the Minority Intergroup in the European Parliament

- Press releases

This week, FUEN attended the first plenary session of the European Parliament after the summer break.  It was a week in which the European response to the refugee crisis was making all the headlines and in which Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission gave his first State of the Union speech in the Parliament. FUEN was also present at meeting of the Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages.

In his State of the Union speech, president Juncker spoke about the immense challenges that the European Union is facing and that can only be mastered if Europe works together:

“I believe the immense challenges Europe is currently facing – both internally and externally – leave us no choice but to address them from a very political perspective [...]. This is not the time for business as usual. [...] Instead, it is time for honesty. It is time to speak frankly about the big issues facing the European Union. Because our European Union is not in a good state. There is not enough Europe in this Union. And there is not enough Union in this Union. We have to change this. And we have to change this now.”

In relation to the refugee situation in Europe, Juncker emphasised that how to handle it, is first of all a matter of humanity and of human dignity. He stated that Europe has clearly under-delivered on common solidarity with regard to the refugees who have arrived in the EU.

FUEN President Hans Heinrich Hansen: “With the refugee crisis of the last few weeks, we now see very clearly what will happen if Europe is not looking after basic human values. We have seen that before, as these values are also not respected in relation to national minorities in a number of states in Europe. Up to now the European Commission denied that it bears responsibility for the minorities. The large group of refugees from war and crisis areas now demand a common solution from the politicians in Europe. By now, the refugees have reached the German-Danish border region too, where FUEN is located. Also here people have recognised that violence is not a solution against those who are looking for help. It is encouraging to notice how many people in many countries of Europe are supporting the refugees and that also politically things are starting to change.”

This week was also the week that the non-legislative resolution on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU (2013-2014) was adopted by a majority of the European Parliament. The resolution calls for the full use of existing mechanisms to ensure that the fundamental rights and values of the EU are respected, protected and promoted. As a result of the active engagement of the members of the Minority Intergroup, and also other Members of Parliament, the resolution contains a chapter on the promotion of minorities that reiterates many of the demands raised by FUEN over the past years towards the European institutions. FUEN has the hope that now, in a serious crisis, the European Commission and the Council will listen to the Parliament and start to act to fulfil their self-proclaimed fundamental rights and values, also in regard to the protection of the national minorities in Europe.

The resolution states that the European Parliament “invites the EU institutions to elaborate a comprehensive EU protection system for national, ethnic and linguistic minorities in order to ensure their equal treatment, taking into account the relevant international legal standards and existing good practices, and calls on the Members States to ensure effective equality of these minorities, particularly on issues of language, education and culture.”

Furthermore the Parliament “encourages the Member States that have not yet done so to ratify and effectively implement the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and urges the Member States and the Commission to take all necessary action to tackle any disproportionate administrative or legislative obstacles that could hinder linguistic diversity at European or national level.”

In the meeting of the Intergroup on Thursday the floor was given to CIRCOM, the European Association of Regional Television. The organisation, bringing together regional public television in 31 countries in Europe, functions as a network for its members, it organises trainings and an annual prize. Three representatives, from Galicia in Spain, from Poland and France presented examples of how regional public television functions in their countries: from programmes in the national language for very small minorities in Poland, to the Galician television station in Spain and the difficulties some stations in France have to find sufficiently qualified journalists to produce their programmes in Breton and Corsican. Furthermore they emphasised the importance of regional public television for a democratic, pluralist society and asked the support of the Parliament in raising the attention for regional media in European policy and legislation, e.g. in the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, in which regional television is not mentioned at all.

The Members came with examples from their regions, where regional media are under threat. Gyula Winkler MEP mentioned the example of the Romanian television, which has gone bankrupt and may have to cut regional programmes for minorities. There was also criticism on the low amounts of budget received for some minorities in Poland; if the citizens, including minorities, fund these media, they should also be able to have television in their own language, and e.g. only 10,000 Euro for the German television in Poland cannot be taken seriously for a serious television programme, according to Herbert Dorfmann MEP.



State of the Union address by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission

Resolution on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU (2013-2014)

CIRCOM: European Association of Regional Television

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