On Monday, June4 , the ECMI hosted the 9th Annual Minority Roundtable at Kompagnietor. This year, the topic of discussins was the Minority SafePack Initiative.
The national minorities of the German-Danish border region were invited to the Annual Minority Roundtable to discuss the results of the Minority SafePack Initiative (MSPI) and the way forward, with a special focus on the region. All four minorities of the region were represented; the German Sinti and Roma represented by Matthäus Weiß and Rolf Schlotter, the German Minority in Denmark by Hinrich Juergensen, Thore Naujeck, Carsten Leth Schmidt, Marion Petersen, and Ruth Candussi, the Danish minority by Jens Christiansen, and the Frisian community by Heinrich Bahnsen. The FUEN was also represented by Gösta Toft.
Key discussion points
The questions posed to the minority representatives covered issues such as the differences in signatures selected in the different countries, especially between Germany and Denmark, the solidarity between minorities and between majorities and minorities, the role of the regional minorities in the MSPI campaign, and wishes and hopes of the minorities resulting from the success of the MSPI for their own region.
The campaign for the MSPI required a lot of effort and energy from those involved and turned out to be an impressive act of solidarity between minorities, as well as majorities who also added to the number of signatures. This solidarity was, however, distributed unequally between different countries, leading to very different results across the EU member states. In this regard it became apparent that the large number of minority members that remain without citizenship was a major obstacle for this EU citizen’s initiative and continues to deserve attention. Another obstacle for the MSPI was a lack of information about minorities and their living situations in the majority populations, which often leads to prejudices and perceived threats of separatism in the majority population.
The local minority representatives pointed out that they saw their own role in the MSPI as one of solidary supporters for those minorities that do not have the same comfortable living situation as they are available in the German-Danish border region. They therefore used this opportunity to establish themselves as actors on a European level not only on their own behalf but also on behalf of less fortunate communities, as well as ambassadors for minority issues in the majority populations of their respective states.
It was, however, also pointed out that the process of validating the signatures collected in support of the MSPI is not finished yet and that even after the verification of its success, prognoses on what exactly will happen cannot be made. The EU citizen’s initiatives are a tool to start dialogue and place certain issues on the agenda of the EU Commission, however, what the Commission makes of this and what kind of priority minority issues will be given is largely outside of the control of the initiators. Therefore the minorities still have a long way ahead of them, which will include a lot of lobby work and campaigning for support with politicians on national and EU levels.
If the MSPI is indeed confirmed to reach the threshold of one million signatures and receives the attention and priority it deserves, the minority representatives are optimistic that the German-Danish border region will receive increased attention by the EU as a best practice example in the field of minority policy, which might help bring about some new pilot projects or gain support for established ones. On a broader level, the hope is that minority communities across the EU will gain security and improved living conditions and will be perceived as actors and contributors rather than enemies and agitators.
Also relevant: ECMI Director calls for Minority SafePack support