Interview: New ECI for Diversity in Europe

2017-04-04 News, Opinion

As of April 3rd  2017 the “ECI Minority SafePack – one million signatures for diversity in Europe” is officially registered. Read our interview with their campaign coordinator Frank de Boer on the newest ECI.

What is your ECI about?

Our ECI “Minority SafePack Initiative – one million signatures for diversity in Europe” is an initiative aimed at raising the awareness of European minorities and of cultural and linguistic diversity in Europe. We call upon the EU to improve the protection of people belonging to national and linguistic minorities, and to promote and strengthen cultural and linguistic diversity in the Union.

The motto of the European Union is “United in Diversity”, and respect for the rights of persons belonging to minorities and for cultural and linguistic diversity is enshrined in the EU Treaties. In our view the EU has been too hesitant in this area. The EU should use its power to protect these communities from discrimination, help them with projects that promote their mother tongues and safeguard their cultural heritage, and enable them to use European programmes. The protection of autochthonous minorities, their languages and culture is a task that cannot be left to the Member States alone – the EU also has an important role to play in this area.

Who are your political opponents and what is the conflict line?

Many people in Europe and even some Member States are afraid of diversity. Problems are often attributed to people who are different: to minorities, to people who speak another language. We see that extremist parties and politicians that claim to speak for a unitary nation often exploit this fear. Our initiative strongly opposes this line of thought: in our opinion Europe and its Member States benefit from diversity, from the richness of our common cultural and linguistic heritage. Recognition of the minority communities and groups which have been living in their home regions for centuries as constitutive parts of the states they live in will contribute to the development of inclusive and well-balanced societies. We think that Europe must be a place where all communities can live peacefully and are treated equally, without forced assimilation or discrimination.

Why did you go to the European Court of Justice and what have you achieved?

The initial rejection decision that we received from the European Commission in 2013 was very brief and general: the Commission stated that there were no legal bases for the adoption of legal acts promoting the rights of persons belonging to minorities. The Commission also stated that some of the acts that we proposed in the annex to our initiative might fall within their powers to legislate, but others did not.

Because we were convinced that our proposal was legally correct, and because we did not know which of the proposals were acceptable to the Commission, we had no other option than to challenge the decision in court.

After a long procedure, the General Court decided in February 2017 that the European Commission’s reasoning was inadequate and that the decision should therefore be annulled. The Court stated that the Commission should have assessed the complete proposal, including the annex. In addition, the possibility of partial registration was raised in the court, but this was left for the Commission to decide. Last month, the Commission finally had a constructive dialogue with the representatives of our Citizens’ Committee. With their new decision on the Minority SafePack Initiative, the European Commission has changed its policy: from now on, it will accept partial registration. Furthermore, they have now provided a detailed assessment on the elements that they consider to be outside their framework of competence. Overall, we managed to register 9 out of the 11 original proposals, which is a huge step forward from the extremely brief rejection decision of four years ago.

Most importantly, however, we can now finally start with the main phase of our citizens’ initiative.

For more information contact Frank de Boer

The Campaign site of the organizers.

The Commission’s official registration of this ECI.