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First Presidium Meeting of the Year in South Tyrol: Ambitious Programme for FUEN in the next 12 Months

Traditionally, the first Presidium Meeting of the year takes place in Bozen/Bolzano. This year was no different, and from 22-24 January, the members of the presidium travelled from all directions of Europe to South Tyrol to discuss about FUEN’s activities and strategy for the coming 12 months. 

Hans Heinrich Hansen, the President of FUEN, underlined that the relations with South Tyrol are excellent: “It’s not by accident that FUEN starts the year in South Tyrol. The South Tyrolean autonomy-model is a successful example for a peaceful solution in regard to how minority and majority are able to live harmoniously side-by-side in one region. For the solidarity among the minority community in Europe it has always been important that we can rely on the support from South Tyrol. We have many allies and thinkers in this region.”

On behalf of FUEN, Hans Heinrich Hansen expressed his deep sorrow for the attacks in Paris and is appalled by the fact that the multi-faceted crisis in Europe again does not shy away from the use of violent means.

“We are living in a world in change and a society that is transforming. It is an issue of human dignity how we deal with questions about the future and the fear of people. There is a deep desire among the people for peace. We, the minorities, have always said that with our intercultural experience and our values we can and we want to contribute to reduce tensions and to build on creating transnational relations.” 

FUEN itself and each of our member organisations has many concrete things to offer to the politicians and to the society as a whole.

First of all there is the European citizens’ initiative Minority SafePack. This initiative, with concrete proposals to improve minority protection on the level of the European Union, was rejected by the European Commission. The rejection is challenged by the organisers and FUEN expects to receive an answer from the Court by the end of this year. In the meantime, FUEN is engaging in an active dialogue about minority protection with representatives of the European institutions, including with the European Commission. It is clear that as an instrument, the citizens’ initiative is not functioning as it should and that adaptions to it are necessary: the instrument has to become much less strictly legal and much more political in character. FUEN will follow the upcoming evaluations in 2015 closely.

A second important priority in 2015 for FUEN will be to bring regions with minorities closer to one another and to promote the cooperation of these regions on the European level. With the help of influential politicians throughout Europe FUEN wants to bring the issues of the European minorities higher on the European agenda. In South Tyrol a meeting of the regions in Brussels in 2015 and at the EUROPEADA in 2016 were announced.

Third - A highlight for the European minorities will be the FUEN Congress 2015, which will be taking place at the Western Thrace Turks in Greece, from 13-17 May 2015. During the Presidium Meeting the programme was discussed. The FUEN Congress in Komotini will give due attention to the precarious situation of the Turks in Greece. They are not recognised as a Turkish minority and their autonomy in religious and educational issues is not respected, although international treaties have guaranteed this autonomy. At the Congress also the annual Assembly of Delegates of FUEN will take place. 

EUROPEADA 2016 – First Press Conference for South Tyrol

On Friday morning the FUEN Presidium had a meeting with the organisation team of the EUROPEADA in South Tyrol, presided over by Siegfried Stocker. The third edition of the European championship for the minorities will take place in the Pustertal Valley in South Tyrol from 18-26 June 2016. A total of 24 male teams and 8 female teams will compete for the title of European champion of the minorities. “Football can convey the message that the minorities bring an added value to the society”, said FUEN Vice President Martha Stocker, who is a Minister of South Tyrol. FUEN Vice President Bernhard Ziesch, who organised the 2012 edition, said that the tournament in his region created a strong sense of togetherness in the region and that its effect can still be felt today. 

During the stay in Bozen/Bolzano the FUEN presidium had several meetings with regional politicians and representatives of the media. Among them were the Prime Minister of South Tyrol Arno Kompatscher, the Ladin Minister Florian Mussner, Member of the European Parliament from South Tyrol Herbert Dorfmann, the Party Secretary of SVP Manuel Massl, editor in chief Toni Ebner of the Dolomiten-newspaper and others.  

FUEN is having dinner with Prime Minister Arno Kompatscher

At their first meeting of the year the FUEN presidium was invited for dinner with the South Tyrolean Prime Minister Arno Kompatscher and with Herbert Dorfmann, the Tyrolean Member of the European Parliament (MEP). 

FUEN President Hans Heinrich Hansen told the prime minister about the projects of FUEN: the developments in regard to the European citizens’ initiative Minority SafePack and the political developments in Europe, the House of Minorities in Flensburg and the EUROPEADA football championship in South Tyrol in June 2016. 

The Prime Minister told about the recent financial agreement he made with the government of Italy. Unlike before, where Italy received the money first and then sent a large percentage of it to South Tyrol, soon South Tyrol will be able to receive the money first and then sent a contribution to Rome. 

Kompatscher, who is a football player himself, was very interested in the idea to use the EUROPEADA championship of the European minorities to invite political heavyweights from the regions with minorities to speak about further cooperation on the European level. He also wants to continue with high level conferences in South Tyrol, like the one in 2014 with the Italian and Austrian Prime Ministers Renzi and Faymann. 

With MEP Dorfmann the FUEN representatives talked the Intergroup for National Minorities, in the European Parliament, which after a difficult negotiation process was re-establishment at the end of last year. FUEN is one of the main partners of this Intergroup. 

Meeting with the Ladin Minister Florian Mussner

The Ladin Minister Florian Mussner, responsible in the South Tyrolean government for the Ladin schools and culture met with the FUEN presidium to speak about the situation of the Ladins, the projects of FUEN and what FUEN can do for this small minority. 

In general the Ladins in South Tyrol and to a somewhat lesser extend Trentino are doing well: they have a strong identity and are economically prosperous; they live in mountain valleys where there is much tourism and many jobs. In the province of Belluno, however, where also Ladins are living, things are much worse. The Ladin minority there is ignored and not supported by the regional government. The province of South Tyrol can speak up, but cannot interfere in the policies of the neighbouring region. In South Tyrol the Ladins are lucky that the majority of Germans understand what it means to be a minority. 

FUEN President Hans Heinrich Hansen presented Mussner with the latest brochure of FUEN and with FUEN’s Map of Minorities and Regional and Minority Languages. Hansen invited the Ladins to bring up their topics and eventually their problems, so that FUEN can work on these issues on the European level.

Former Prime Minister Luis Durnwalder comes to FUEN presidium meeting

The former Prime Minister of South Tyrol Luis Durnwalder (1988-2014) joined the FUEN Presidium meeting for an hour. Durnwalder, who is one of the seven members of the citizens’ committee that proposed the European citizens’ initiative Minority SafePack, was given the latest information about the legal case that is challenging the decision of the Commission that rejected the proposals made by the European minorities. 

FUEN spoke also with Durnwalder about the FUEN Advisory Council and about cooperation between regions with minorities in Europe. FUEN President Hans Heinrich Hansen told about the idea to invite important politicians to South Tyrol during the European football championship EUROPEADA that takes place in June 2016. 

FUEN visits the editor in chief of the Dolomiten-newspaper

FUEN visited the premises of Athesia Press, where Dolomiten is published, the largest newspaper in South Tyrol. The presidium met with editor in chief Toni Ebner, who is also member of the governing board of MIDAS (European association of dailies in minority and regional languages) and with his colleague Marc Röggla. 

Ebner was very interested in the projects of FUEN, such as the FUEN Congress 2015 in Komotini, where MIDAS held a study visit last year, and the Minority SafePack-citizens’ initiative. The FUEN representatives also told about the EUROPEADA football championship in June 2016. Ebner welcomed the idea to cooperate with other European newspaper and media in the coverage of this event.