Migration Studies meets Minority Studies: updates from Villa Vigoni

National minorities and migrant communities, or ‘old’ minorities and ‘new’ minorities: what are the relationships between these groups and the respective protection mechanisms? ECMI and EURAC conference kicked off in Villa Vigoni. First insights from the event.

During the first session on “Reasessing the ‘Minority’ concept – towards a more inclusive or more differentiated conceptualisation of ‘old’ and ‘new’ minorities?” chaired by Prof. Dr. Tove Malloy, Prof. Will Kymlicka (Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada) delivered a keynote speech. He highlighted the shift from ‘minority problem’ to ‘minority rights’: “International communities moved to acknowledge that minorities are not problems to be solved, but are rather partners to the state”.

“The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a good document on indigenous peoples and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities is a good document on national minorities. But now we need to come up with a good document on the integration of migrant communities,” concluded Prof. Kymlicka in the end of his keynote.

Prof. Tariq Modood (University of Bristol, UK) talked about the origins and current state of British multiculturalism to elaborate on common claims and diverging rights of minorities and migrants: “In addition to the idea of minorities fitting in, the rest of the country has also some kind of responsibility, a responsibility to adapt.”


“Minority rights are rights to be different. They are not passive rights or rights to be left alone. They are active rights and require third parties to provide resources,” emphasized Prof. Christian Joppke (University of Bern, Switzerland) in his keynote on common but differentiated systems of protection. “Immigration is always a choice. This applies also to refugees who choose to leave for the sake of their lives”, noted Prof. Joppke in his speech.

During the session “Desecuritising discourse on ‘old’ and ‘new’ minorities in Europe, special focus was put on the ‘hard cases’: separatist movements, muslim communities in Europe and refugees and asylum-seekers. Some arguments and discussion points of the interventions included:

  • Dr. Andrea Carlà (EURAC Research): “Is there minority right to be trusted? Is there a right to be trusted as a fundamental component of a society?”
  • Prof. Kristin Hernand (Erasmus University Rotterdam): “When looking at minority specific instruments, one can find a lot about language rights. However, there is not much about religion. What does this tell us?”
  • Dr. Eva Juarros Daussa (University of Groningen): “The eurocentric insistence on monoculturalism is the exception, not the rule. Multiculturalism is not dead, monoculturalism is and may never been alive to begin with.”

Are immigrants groups or a legal category? Shall we separate immigrant rights from national minority rights? Are we in a vicious circle of conceptualisation? Who has a choice and who does not: is the protection scheme designed on a concept of choice? These are some of the questions that were raised during the discussions.

Further discussion points and statements by the speakers will be published shortly.

Organised jointly by the ECMI and EURAC Research, the event is funded by the Villa Vigoni German-Italian Centre for European Excellence, an initiative of the German Research Council. 

Read more about the conference

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