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Is the new Juncker EU Commission good for the European minorities?

Today, Commission President Jean Claude Juncker presented the 27 men and women whom he has chosen to become his new team of EU Commissioners for the period of 2014-2019. Juncker chose a new approach in which 5 out of the 7 Vice-Presidents will be responsible for a thematic field and will coordinate a groups of Commissioners. 

In the Resolution that was adopted at the FUEN Congress of 2014, FUEN called for a Commissioner responsible for the protection of national minorities and language groups. Although the word “minority” is not used in the description of the new portfolios, it is promising that the new First Vice President, Frans Timmermans from the Netherlands, will become responsible for the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights in all areas of EU law and policy. This seems like a good idea, because human rights, including the protection of minorities and the respect for cultural and linguistic diversity, as laid down in the Charter, are issues that cut through all European policies. As a former Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, former diplomat and personal advisor to Max van der Stoel, the first High Commissioner on National Minorities, we expect that Mr Timmermans has a good understanding of the situation of national minorities in Europe and that he takes FUEN’s concerns seriously. 

The new Justice Commissioner, Vĕra Jourová from the Czech Republic, will become responsible for several aspects relating to human rights. However, the main responsibility for the equal treatment dossier and the work on the new Anti-Discrimination Directive moves to Marianne Thyssen, the new Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner from Belgium. The field of Multilingualism, which had a Commissioner of its own until five years ago, and was then added to the portfolio of the Commissioner for Education and Culture, seems to have disappeared from the radar altogether. The new Education and Culture Commissioner will be Tibor Navracsics from Hungary.

It is somewhat concerning that none of the mission letters of the new Commissioners mention either “minorities” or “multilingualism/linguistic diversity”. The documents released today not even speak about who will be responsible for the policies to overcome the disastrous situation of the Roma in Europe. FUEN considers that it is essential that the policies in regard to the Roma will be continued and intensified. “FUEN is of the opinion that it is promising that the respect for human rights, including the rights of minorities, becomes a horizontal, crosscutting issue within the new Commission and will monitor how the new structure will work out in practice” says FUEN-president Hans Heinrich Hansen. The Juncker Commission has raised high expectations with its new structure of thematic groups. FUEN looks forward to cooperate with the new Commission in order to make the new approach a success and improve the situation of the European minorities. 

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