Among the international experts invited to the EPP seminar in Kyiv, was Dr. Balazs Dobos (Institute for Minority Studies at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences). He presented a European overview on consultative and advisory bodies.
Since its kick-off in 2014, the ECMI Eastern Partnership Programme has been joined by a number of international experts and academics from different European institutions. During the seminars organized within the framework of the Programme in different cities in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine, international guest speakers have delivered lectures to local participants and shared their expertise on programme topics.
During the two-day seminar taking place in Kyiv, Ukraine, invited guests included Dr. Balazs Dobos. Fitting into the scope of the seminar topic, Dr. Dobos presented a European overview on consultative and advisory bodies. The lecture was followed by an interactive discussion session between the speakers and the participants from the three countries. After the seminar, Dr. Dobos shared some points and highlights from the lecture for the ECMI InfoChannel:
Highlights from the lecture…
“My lecture was divided into 3 main parts: theoretical background, relevant international standards, and the most important: discussing in depth the issues that typically arise around this kind of consultative and advisory bodies. As an example, such issues include structure, establishment, and aspects of memberships. I presented a broad European overview, based on relevant literature, but also, opinions of the Advisory Committee on the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
There were questions on the establishment of such bodies, and also, a focus on their activities: is it limited to culture, education, whether they target all minorities or specific minorities only? Another important aspect discussed was efficiency and consistency of their activities. The primary conclusion was that these types of advisory and consultancy bodies need to be institutionalized.
Many participants asked whether there was any single model I could highlight, but I think we all came to the conclusion that we cannot outline any single body from a certain country; however, there are best practice elements in some of them. As an example: in Kosovo it is obligatory for consultative bodies to have at least one meeting each month, in other countries it is in every second year, which makes the impact very narrow. In the Czech Republic, advisory bodies elaborate annual reports on their activities to the government, which can also be used for highlighting transparency of these bodies.
Among some of the shortcomings related to such advisory bodies funding was mentioned, and limited impact on decision-making. In some countries, the major objective of such bodies is “window dressing” for foreign political policies”.
Mr. Dobos on the feedback from the seminar participants…
“My presentation focused on the broad European case, from Ireland to Azerbaijan. However, many questions were asked about the situation in my country, Hungary, so I had the impression that many people were interested in illustrating the presented theoretical background with more practical examples. Therefore, during the Q&A session, the Hungarian case was more discussed.
Although it was a long lecture, I received many questions and a good feedback, showing that they could follow the main issues till the very end. Questions referred to general issues on the topic, but also, more specific ones, for examples: problems with the representation of Roma communities. In Hungary, Roma is not represented in certain structures. Participants were interested in possible reasons and which institutional mechanisms would support better participation. Also, there were questions regarding non-territorial cultural autonomies. Interestingly, there was a question also about distinction about new and old minorities”.
Mr. Dobos also weighed in on the EPP project…
“I have known the ECMI for a long time and am following its activities in this region but also generally. I consider the ECMI Eastern Partnership Programme a very useful and fruitful project. Even today, we can see there are different people with different backgrounds among the participants, they all bring their own knowledge and experiences, and I could clearly see their willingness to think together and to work together. Basically, there is a great need for these kinds of dialogues, space for sharing experiences, practices. Many people want their voice heard”.
After the seminar Dr. Dobos left for Uzhhorod (Ukraine) together with the ECMI EPP team for the regional seminars.
Dr. Balazs Dobos is a Researcher at the Institute for Minority Studies at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA KI). His research interests include Ethnicity and politics, the participation and representation of the minorities in the public life, decision-making processes in minority policy, as well as non-territorial minority autonomies in Europe and Roma political parties in Hungary. He holds a Ph.D. degree from the Corvinus University of Budapest and currently conducts his post-doctoral study on “The Internal Dynamics of Non-Territorial Autonomy Regimes in Central and South-eastern Europe: a Five-Country Comparison”.
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