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No rapprochement on the Citizens’ Initiative: Director of the European Commission is confronted with critical questions at the Parliament

FUEN President Hans Heinrich Hansen and Member of the European Parliament Iuliu Winkler, a Hungarian from Romania (EPP / RMDSZ), made a plea for the Citizens’ Initiative of the minorities. The enormous solidarity, which spread out to the many different minority regions in Europe after the Citizens’ Initiative was rejected, confirms the initiators – FUEN, the South Tyrolean People’s Party and the Democratic Alliance of the Hungarians in Romania, that their course is right. According to the motto “Now more than ever!”, also the seven persons who submitted the Citizens’ Initiative to the European Commission agreed that they will not cave in. They will consider all their options for both political pressure and legal action.

The written rejection by the European Commission was extremely brief and gives few clues for the reasoning behind the decision. Therefore the atmosphere in the fully loaded room 3.1 in Strasbourg was tense when the meeting with Commission-Director started at 10:00 hr sharp. The President of the Intergroup for National Minorities in the European Parliament, Csaba Tabajdi, had convened the meeting.

The meeting was supposed to lead to some clarification – but Director Jens Nymand Christensen was not able to contribute anything new. He made clear that Article 2 (minorities) and Article 3 (cultural and linguistic diversity) in the European Treaties do not give the Commission a legal obligation to engage in concrete measures in matters relating to minorities. “Please be assured that we did not have the intention of making basically political considerations in regard to the issue of national minorities. We only dealt with the issues legally and according to our interpretation, there is no basis for the national minorities in the European Treaties”, explained the Director.

Christensen did not want to go into detail on the concrete proposals from the “Minority SafePack Initiative”, which provides guidance to the European Commission on what it certainly can do within the framework of the existing Treaties. He only said that according to the Commission some of the proposals are “manifestly outside the framework of competences of the Commission” and some of the proposals might fall within the framework of competences. However, because some of the proposals are manifestly outside the framework, therefore the whole initiative falls manifestly outside the framework of competences ... 

In response to the direct question, which of the proposals are within and which are outside the framework of competence according to the Commission, the representative of the Commission said that he did not want to answer – it is not the task of the Commission to assess this.

The Member of the Swedish-speaking Finns, Nils Torvalds (ALDE / Finland Svenska folkpartiet) complained in clear words about the extremely “formal and technocratic” approach of the Commission. It is “a shame”. In this way the Commission is deliberately distancing itself from the citizens and is acting flatly contrary to the original spirit of the European Citizens’ Initiative.

Just as clearly were the words of the Chairman of the Intergroup, Csaba Tabajdi, as he expressed his annoyance after a lively question-and-answer duel. You cannot put off around 10% of the citizens of the European Union. It is unacceptable how useless the European Citizens’ Initiative seems to be as an instrument of citizens’ participation. Therefore the initiative does not seem to be an instrument that brings the citizens on an equal level with the Commission.

Now there is until mid-November time to decide if an action will have to be brought against the rejection of the European Commission at the General Court in Luxemburg.

Photo: Jens Nymand Christensen (European Commission) Csaba Sandor TABAJDI (EP), François ALFONSI (EP), FUEN-President Hans Heinrich Hansen