South Tyrol, East Belgium and Hungary want to back MSPI in court20.04.2023
We are not alone! Two minority regions and one member state have applied to the Court of Justice of the European Union to intervene on our side in the appeal brought by the Minority SafePack Initiative (MSPI) against the European Commission (EC).
The appeal was filed by the MSPI Citizens’ Committee on 23 January 2023, after the EU General Court’s ruling on the case in principle on 9 November 2022. The Luxembourg body did not annul the European Commission's decision of January 2021 not to propose legislation on the Minority SafePack proposals, which have gathered more than one million signatures. According to the General Court, “the action already taken by the European Union to emphasise the importance of regional or minority languages and to promote cultural and linguistic diversity is sufficient to achieve the objectives of that initiative.”
MSPI meets Brussels: The presentation of the Minority SafePack Initiative to the European Commission on 5 february 2020. Credit: European Parliament
As with the previous court proceedings the MSPI was involved with, Hungary will intervene this time as well on behalf of the European Citizen’s Initiative. However, this is the first time that two European regions – South Tyrol and Ostbelgien – also filed their intent to intervene.
But what exactly does "intervener" mean? Third parties may intervene in judiciary proceedings before the ECJ to support the form of order sought either by the applicant or the defendamt if they are able to establish an interest in the result of the case at stake.
If the Court considers that the respective party meets this requirement, an intervener can submit a statement in intervention, supporting the claims of one of the parties. In the same vein, interveners have the possibility to present their observations in the oral phase of the proceedings.
The main reasons invoked by the Autonomous Province of Bozen South Tyrol was that as a co-founder of FUEN and an active supporter of MSPI, it has a legitimate interest to see the success of this initiative. Also, the Province is constitutionally and under international law obliged to commit itself to the protection of minorities and of minority rights: a better European anchoring of existing protection rules is of eminent interest to the Province and the population represented by it, as well to all linguistic minorities in the EU.
The Parliament of the German-speaking Community of Belgium (DG ) reasoned that the contested Communication in its current form hampers their endeavours to protect and promote the minority rights of the German-speaking community in Belgium, a task that DG is charged with by virtue of the Belgian constitution. The specific improvements to the rights of, inter alia, the German-speaking minority in Belgium, as they have been requested in the nine legislative proposals by the ECI, will only have a chance of success if the Judgment is set aside and the Contested Communication is annulled. DG therefore has a direct, existing interest in the outcome of the case.
In the European Union there are approximately 50 million persons belonging to autochthonous national minorities or speaking minority languages. Started in 2013 by the initiative of the FUEN, RMDSZ, SVP and YEN, the Minority SafePack is a European Citizens’ Initiative asking for European protection and promotion of their languages, cultures and rights. It is considered to be the most important initiative for minority rights in the last 30 years.
After an initial refusal of registration by the Commission, the MSPI was finally registered following a European Court decision in 2017. In a Europe-wide campaign coordinated by FUEN, 1,123,422 validated statements of support were collected, and the Minority SafePack Initiative became the fifth successful ECI ever. It also obtained the support of the Bundestag, the Hungarian Parliament, the lower chamber of the Dutch parliament, many regional parliaments, and, most importantly, the European Parliament, which voted a resolution in its support in December 2020. Despite this, the European Commission decided not to propose legal acts based on its proposals.
On 24 March 2021 the Citizens’ Committee of the MSPI filed at the General Court of the European Union a request for the annulment of the European Commission’s decision on the initiative. The Citizens’ Committee, the FUEN - coordinator of the European signature collection campaign, and their legal representatives, based the submission on a careful legal examination of the Commission’s response. They concluded that the communication is deeply flawed by the fact that in it the European Commission infringed its legal obligation to state reasons and committed manifest errors of assessment. Hungary entered the proceedings on behalf of the MSPI, while Slovakia and Greece on behalf of the Commission.
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