Loránt Vincze, president of FUEN and member of the European Parliament, deeply regrets the negative response from the European Commission to the Minority SafePack Initiative (MSPI). But the fight for the rights of national and linguistic minorities will be continued, says mr Vincze who hopes for Danish support in the follow-up.
Loránt Vincze, who is President of The Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN), is deeply disappointed with the Communication from the EU Commission outlining its political and legal conclusions on the European Citizens’ Initiative, Minority SafePack Initiative (MSPI), launched by FUEN.
The EU Commission uses formulations such as “no additional legal act is necessary” and “the current rules are sufficient” throughout the Communication and thus indirectly refuses to propose any legal acts in the nine areas stated in the Minority SafePack Initiative. Mr. Vincze argues that the EU Commission thereby ignores the voices of more than 1.1 million European citizens who started the initiative in 2017 with their signatures. However, Mr. Vincze, who is also a member of the European Parliament representing the Hungarian community in Romania, has not given up hope, he says, and he also hopes for Danish support in the follow-up.
What was your reaction when you became familiar with the Communication from the European Commission dated 14th of January on the Minority SafePack Initiative?
“I really regret this decision of the European Commission. I knew what the Commission was preparing a few weeks in advance but we in FUEN hoped to the last moment that we were able to change this negative result through strong lobbying with the EU Commissioners and their offices. We got a lot of support and promises but in the end, the outcome was negative. We never imagined that all the nine proposals would be adopted by the Commission. But it would have been a very strong signal for the EU Commission to have picked out two or three proposals and start a dialogue with the minorities. Only by having a good dialogue between majority and minority can we move Europe further.”
Only six out of 76 European Citizens’ Initiatives have made it the whole way to the European Commission since 2012, one of them being the MSPI. What is your assessment of these initiatives as a tool for citizens’ participation in the EU decision making process after this Communication from the EU Commission?
“I think the whole procedure of the Minority SafePack Initiative shows that the EU has an enormous democratic deficit. We had a very good case from the beginning, and we had strong support all over Europe with more than one million signatures for the rights of the national and linguistic minorities in Europe. We had support from the European Parliament and from national and regional parliaments all over Europe. This shows us that MSPI goes beyond our own minority circles. This is a much bigger issue now. Obviously, the EU Commission does not like European Citizens’ Initiatives as a legal instrument. It really saddens me that one after the other of these initiatives are just overlooked by the Commission and thereby not bringing the citizens closer to the European Union, but on the contrary giving them reason to say: Something is not good in the EU. I as a citizen am not able to have my voice heard.”
The Communication from the Commission is stated through no less than 21 pages. Why is this not sufficient?
As regards the number of pages it is enough. But looking into the argumentation the Communication is nearly childish. For instance, in the Minority SafePack we asked for EU recommendation for the protection and promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity in the Union. The European Commission chooses to refer to the Council of Europe’s European Centre for Modern Languages in Graz, Austria, that deals with foreign language teaching. To refer to another European institution that has nothing to do with minority languages is in my opinion childish. It is very sad to see also that there is no mentioning in the Communication of the small languages in Europe. The Frisian and Sorbian languages for example that do not even have a kin state that can fight for them on the International stage. They are quite on their own, and Brussels just let them down. It is appalling.”
Throughout the last year the Minority SafePack Initiative got the support of the European Parliament, the Bundestag of Germany, the Second Chamber of the Netherlands, the Parliament of Hungary, the Landtag of Schleswig-Holstein, Saxony and Brandenburg, the Landtag of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano-South Tirol and the Frisian Parliament. But so far, there was no support from the Danish Parliament. How do you consider this hence the Danish-German border region being an example of best practice for national minorities in Europe?
“I think that the Danish Parliament and many other parliaments in Europe were brought in an emergency state over the last year because of the corona pandemic. As far as Denmark is concerned, we have welcomed the quite positive development that Denmark is again supporting FUEN. We will remain very close because as you know FUEN has one of its headquarters in Flensburg and feel deeply rooted in the Danish-German border region. It has as well been a very clear signal from Schleswig-Holstein that it should remain that way.”
On Twitter you wrote in the beginning of March: “The pressure is mounting: a cross-party group of 10 Members of Denmark’s Parliament has written to Minister Jeppe Kofod to call on the EU Commission to reconsider its position on the 9 legislative proposals of the Minority SafePack”. Would you expect the Danish Parliament to let its voice be heard now?
“Yes, it would be great to have the support of the Danish Parliament. Denmark has a strong voice and should use it. You found a very good solution regarding the coexistence with the German minority in Denmark and the bilateral relationship with Germany and the Danish minority in Germany. Denmark’s support would stress the importance of the Danish-German border region as an example of best practice in Europe.”
As President of FUEN you will be setting the direction for the future of the Minority SafePack Initiative. What will be the next step?
“We consider the arguments brought forward in the Commission’s Communication to have nothing to do with the proposals stated in the Minority SafePack Initiative. Therefore, we are now preparing an annulment procedure with the European Court of Justice and we will appeal the Commission’s decision. The other step we will be taking is to continue our work in the EU. We feel a strong support from all over Europe and we will not let down the European minorities or the more than one million citizens that signed the initiative. We were not able to tear down this wall of indifference and national sensitivity when it comes to minority issues this time. But we will continue the fight. We will just have to do more to tear down the wall.”
Loránt Vincze, born 1977, MA in Public administration and e-government, President of FUEN since 2016, MEP, Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrat), belongs to the Hungarian minority in Romania, lives in Bruxelles with his wife and son.