“We as a minority group look for hopeful examples, and this region gives us hope,” noted Mr. Yousef Jabareen, Member of Knesset for “United Arab List” after several meetings in the Danish-German border region.
The high level delegation from Israel visited the border region last week. The delegation, headed by the Minister David Azoulay (MK and Minister for “Shas”) visited the ECMI at Kompagnietor on the first day of the trip. Dr. Jorgen Kuhl (Chairman of the ECMI Executive Board) and Prof. Dr. Tove Malloy (ECMI Director) introduced the history and legal framework of minority protection in the border region. The main question during the discussions following the presentations was whether the experience here could be transposed to other regions. Later on, Danish Consul-General Prof. Dr. Henrik Becker-Christensen talked about the latest developments in minority politics in the Danish-German border region. “The so called ‘Schleswig Model’ is a positive example of how it can be possible to find workable solutions to a thorny minority problem, an example that may inspire others and provide them with a useful knowledge. In other words, the Danish-German minority model is not an ‘export article’ but a moral example demonstrating that you may be able to reach a long-term solution if all parties involved show their goodwill,” concluded Prof. Becker-Christensen in his speech (See the whole speech of Prof. Becker-Christensen).
The current Mayor of the City of Flensburg Mr. Simon Faber welcomed the delegation at the Flensburg City Hall and talked about diversity of the city, the history of conflicts between German and Denmark and highlighted that even the longest ways towards peace begin with one small step, and that is in cooperation between both sides (See the whole speech of Mr. Simon Faber in German).
On the second day of the visit, the delegation met the representatives of minorities on both sides of the border. Meetings started at Flensborghus with Mr. Jens Christiansen (Sydlesvigs Forening) and Mr. Martin Lorenzen (Danish Frisian Political Party SSW). Later on, the guests moved to Apenrade/Aabenraa for meetings at the German Minority House with Mr. Uwe Jessen and a representative of the German Political Party “Slesvigs Parti”. All of the meetings highlighted the dynamics of minority protection in the border region, relations with the kin-states, and very specific issues such as language, bilingual signposts, funding of schools and other aspects of minority education.
During the last day of the visit the group visited Kiel and conducted meetings with:
- Jette Waldinger-Thiering (SSW), member of the Schelswig-Holstein Landtag
- Mr. Trende, Head of Division of Minority and Language Politics of Schleswig Holstein at the State Chancellery
- Linda Pieper from the Office of the Commissioner for National Minorities
- Klaus Schlie (CDU), Chairman of Schleswig Holstein Landtag
The visitors got to know the issues related to the participation of minorities and minority parties in regional politics, reserved seats in the regional parliament, the role of the minority commissioner, funding and more. Here they were also familiarized with status of Frisian minorities in Schleswig Holstein and their special conditions related to the absence of a kin-state. “You being interested in this subject and visiting our border region is already a sign of hope for a peace [in the Israeli-Palestine conflict],” mentioned Mr. Klaus Schlie in his welcome speech at the Landtag. “There are no rapid solutions, it always works step by step”, he added.
The group, which included representatives of Jewish as well as Arab political parties, had many fruitful discussions in between the presentations and meetings. They all expressed interest in further cooperation with political actors in the region and highlighted the role of the ECMI as a bridge builder. Ms. Yifat Shasha Biton (Member of Knesset for “Kulanu”) shared her thoughts, saying, “I will return home with lots of thoughts and a hope that someday we can also have a different reality in our home country.” “I have become more optimistic now,” said Mr. Masud Ghanayim (Member of Knesset for “United Arab List”). “If this region could overcome its dark history, we can do it too.” Mr. Yousef Jabareen (Member of Knesset for “United Arab List”) highlighted the need for the development of the relevant legal framework in Israel. “Europe is blessed with international standards, hopefully we will soon reach some standards too,” he said.
The guests also had a guided tour around Flensburg. The delegation was hosted by the ECMI in cooperation with the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the Citizen’s Accord Forum.