The 1990s good momentum of Europe’s minority governance regime has disappeared. This is the point of departure when ECMI Advisory Council assembles in Berlin on 7 May.
Europe’s minority governance regime appears at an impasse. At the macro level, long standing disputes over territory and homelands have seen little constructive dialogue. The reach of minority governance does not include Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, Chechnya, Northern Cyprus and Northern Kosovo. And Belarus remains entirely outside the European minority governance regime.
Non-dialogue on minority rights is also the practice in some developed democracies. France and Turkey stand firm on denying the existence of minorities while Belgium, Greece, Iceland and Luxembourg have stopped half way.
The ECMI Advisory Council Conference 2012 is going to address the minority governance impasse in discussion with eminent academics, key practitioners and political actors. The conference takes place at the Representation of the Land Schleswig-Holstein in Berlin.
Macro level spills over into the micro level
The macro-micro divide spills over into states that have agreed to implement minority governance. Minority groups complain that local authorities are often not informed of the European minority governance regime adopted by the central government, and instructions from the centre to the periphery remain outstanding.
This makes actors at the micro level look unwilling when in fact it is intertia at the macro level that is the cause. Consequently, the ECMI Advisory Council Conference will ask: Can the macro stalemate be undone? Can we imagine a minority governance regime for de facto states? What to do about the states in denial?
Getting beyond central bureaucracies
How to get beyond the central bureaucracies and empower local authorities? This is another central issue that the ECMI Advisory Council will address.
Implementing minority governance at the micro level requires local awareness, knowledge transfer about minority rights, capacity building for policy making and programming, and developing practical tools for monitoring. This is the aim of the mandate of the European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI).
While this will not resolve the problem of non-action in de facto states, it will help overcome the macro-micro divide by building capacity for expanding minority governance at all levels in states party to the international minority rights regime.
European minority governance regime
The European minority governance regime provides for the rights of persons belonging to minorities not to be assimilated against their will.
International legal instruments, such as the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities have set the standards for all of Europe for the 21st Century: the right to protection, preservation and promotion of minority cultures.