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Five presidents, one goal: FUEN’s former and acting presidents discussed the organisation’s history

Four former presidents and the acting president talked about the history and evolution of the Federal Union of European Nationalities at the organization’s anniversary congress in Pezinok, Slovakia. FUEN is celebrating this year 70 years of activity defending and promoting minority rights.

Dr. Reginald Vospernik, Carinthian Slovene President of FUEN between 1982 and 1986 recalled that during his presidency, though there were organized important  congresses, the organization faced hardships such as the shortness of money, the difficulty of communication or travel, as there was no internet at that time, and he was also denied entry to some countries. “Now we have a unified Europe, and it is unimaginable that something like that could happen today” - Mr. Vospernik argued.

University Professor, Dr. Christoph Pan, South Tyrolean president in office between 1990 and 1994 talked about the state Europe was in when he took over the presidency. “That was the time of the end of the Cold War, when Europe was divided. After the fall of the Berlin wall we started to discuss the opportunity what this event brought to the minorities. We were thinking about the possibility of involving the minorities in the decisions about them. We started to elaborate a proposal regarding the rights of the nationalities, which included issues such as self-determination” – Mr. Pan told the audience. During his presidency minorities issues were back on the table, and the organization managed to have its voice heard.  

Romedi Arquint, Rhaeto-Romansh president of FUEN between 1996 and 2007 said the minorities’ demands are various and their protection is important. “We believe that the monolingual citizens are disabled in a way, because they lack certain capacities” - he said and recalled the work FUEN has done in Eastern Europe, continuing the outreach started by his predecessor, Christoph Pan.

Professor Hans Heinrich Hansen, German in Denmark held office from 2007 to 2016. During the time of his presidency the Minority SafePack Initiative was launched. “We were hoping that European institutions were going to help us, but they turned us away so we ended up at the European Court of Justice” - said the former president of FUEN who believes that the goals can only be reached through mutual dialogue between minorities and majorities.   

Loránt Vincze, the acting president talked about the road that was ahead of the organization. The most important current task is to bring the Minority SafePack Initiative to success. “I remember that in the 90’s, in Romania, after the fall of the Berlin wall, the borders were opened. It was in that moment, when the president of FUEN visited us, that we realized: there were other minorities in Europe, and we could work together to reach our shared goals. We believe that the Minority SafePack Initiative will succeed, as it is backed by the EPP, the socialists, the liberals and the greens, and we also received positive feedbacks from several political parties” – Mr. Vincze concluded.

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