Minority SafePack Initiative: “We are confident that we have a strong case”

- Press releases - The legal issues at stake at the European Court

Tomorrow, 16 September 2016, at 09:30 hr, the Minority SafePack Initiative will be discussed before the judges of the General Court of the European Union. Exactly three years after the European minorities received a decision from the European Commission rejecting their proposal for a European Citizens’ Initiative, the oral hearing will take place in Luxemburg. 

The Minority SafePack Initiative is represented by two lawyers: Prof h.c. Ernst Johansson from Kiel has several decades of experience in litigation. Dr Thomas Hieber, who wrote his PhD on the European Citizens’ Initiative, is based in Brussels and is specialised in EU law.

FUEN legal advisor Frank de Boer, who is one of the authors of the Minority SafePack Initiative and has been coordinating the legal case together with the lawyers, is confident that the European minorities have a strong case:

“In previous cases about citizens’ initiatives, the European Court determined that the Commission has a duty to explain the reasons why it rejected these initiatives, in a way that is understandable for citizens. We expect that the judges will not accept the reasoning of the Commission in the Minority SafePack Initiative and ask them to annul the decision of the Commission. This decision fails to address important legal aspects and is much shorter than the decisions in previous citizens’ initiatives.”

De Boer stresses that these formal aspects are not the most important elements of the case. “If the reasoning would be the only problem, the judges could annul the decision, and the Commission could take a new decision, and reject the Minority SafePack once again with a better justification. That would not really help us in achieving the objectives of our initiative, which is to improve minority protection in the EU and the promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity.”

In a careful process of drafting in the first half of 2013, the Minority SafePack Initiative was conceived as a package of measures to improve the situation of national minorities and cultural and linguistic diversity in the European Union. It contains 11 sub-proposals in areas like for instance education and culture, equality, regional policy and participation. Every European minority will benefit from the combination of the proposals, even though not every proposal is relevant for each minority.

The European Commission wrote in its decision that some of the measures can be implemented in EU law and some cannot, but failed to identify either category. First during the procedure before the Court, the Commission was able to identify three sub-proposals that it considers outside their competence. “We think that we have very good arguments why the proposals that the Commission is attacking are in fact within EU competence and can be implemented in EU law.” explains de Boer.

After the oral hearing on Friday, the European minorities may expect that they will have to wait approximately 3-5 months before the Court will be publishing its judgment. 

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


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