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The Minority SafePack Initiative got an overwhelmingly positive feedback in the Public Hearing of the European Parliament

The proposals of the Minority SafePack Initiative on how EU law could promote minority rights, and linguistic and cultural diversity in Europe were presented with an overwhelmingly positive feedback in the Public Hearing organised in Brussels, in the European Parliament on Thursday, 15 October 2020.

On behalf of the MSPI, Hans Heinrich Hansen, Representative of the Citizens’ Committee and Honorary President of FUEN presented the road of the initiative up to this point in his introductory speech. “I do hope that our proposals will make history and our European Citizens' Initiative will be the first the Commission will propose legislation on. We tried to be as ambitious as possible, and we hope that the Commission together with the Parliament and the Council will be even more ambitious than we are when it comes to new legislation that has impact on minorities in Europe.”, said Mr. Hansen.

Luis Durnwalder, Member of the Citizens’ Committee, former Governor of the Autonomous Region of Bozen South Tyrol pointed out that currently, there are no EU policies, legal measures or actions in place for protecting national and linguistic minorities, our autochthonous communities. “We initiated the Minority SafePack to fill this void. The EU has to take action to defend our rich cultural and linguistic heritage”, he added.

Karl Heinz Lambertz, Member of the Citizens’ Committee, President of the German-speaking Community Parliament in Belgium, former CoR President presented some requests of the MSPI:

- Changing the general rules applicable to Structural Funds so that account is taken of the protection of minorities and the promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity;

- Improving research on the added value that national minorities and cultural and linguistic diversity may bring to social and economic development in regions of the EU;

- Exempting projects promoting national minorities and their culture from the procedure provided for in Article 108(2).

Angelika Mlinar, Vice-President of FUEN, former Minister for Cohesion and Development in Slovenia, former MEP  advocated for

- guaranteeing approximately equal treatment for stateless persons and citizens of the Union, a situation that applies to many members of minorities, especially Roma;

- introducing a unitary copyright so that the whole EU can be considered an internal market in the field;

-amending the AVMS Directive for ensuring the freedom to provide services and the reception of audiovisual content in regions where national minorities reside.

Valentin Inzko, Member of the Citizens’ Committee, UN High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina talked about the need for a European Language Diversity Centre;

Daniel Alfreider, Vice-President of FUEN. Regional minister of the Autonomous Region of Bozen South Tyrol presented the MSPI proposal for an EU Recommendation ‘on the protection and promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity in the Union’; and talked on the need to adapt funding programmes so that they become accessible for small regional and minority language communities;

The hearing brought together MEPs from the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) and the Culture and Education Committee (CULT), in association with the Committee on Petitions (PETI), as well as from other participating committees. Vera Jourová, Vice President of the European Commission said: “Today, the European Commission is going to be listening to the organizers and the Members of the European Parliament. This will give us the opportunity to have a better understanding of the proposals and the political context.” The vast majority of MEPs urged the Commission to adopt a set of “ambitious” legal acts, with many stressing the importance of diversity not only between member states, but also within them.

MEP Loránt Vincze, the President of FUEN said: “In recent years, fundamental rights and values became increasingly important. Minority rights are part of the fundamental rights and they are a European value. Today it is time to start action based on this acknowledgment.Through the EU policies and financing we can support our minorities to feel respected, protected, and equal.” On behalf of the EPP Group, he proposed that the plenary of the Parliament adopts a resolution inviting the European Commission to propose legal acts based on the Minority SafePack Initiative.

Representatives of the Council of Europe, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Council also took the floor to express their preoccupation with minority rights and their support for the initiative.

“The reason why so many people supported the Minority SafePack is that they believe that the EU can provide more for the traditional minorities and linguistic groups. The motto of the European Union, United in Diversity needs to become reality. This is also an economic and security issue, but first of all, an issue of basic human dignity”, said in his concluding remarks Hunor Kelemen, Deputy Representative of the Citizens’ Committee, President of RMDSZ.