What is MSPI?

In the European Union, there are about 50 million people who belong to a national minority or a minority language community. They make a strong contribution to the linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe. Together with other Europeans, they want to define the future of Europe; a future in which not only large languages or dominant cultures, but also minorities are taken into account. Therefore, they want protection and support for the preservation of their identity. This is what the Minority SafePack Initiative calls for. It is a package of law proposals for the safety of national minorities, a set of EU legal acts that enable the promotion of minority rights, language rights, and the protection of their cultures.

Source here.


What does MSPI contain, what goals does it set?

MSPI wants the European Union to take responsibility and become a genuine promoter of cultural and linguistic diversity across Europe. It wants the Copenhagen Criteria on protecting the rights of minorities to be observed also by the Member States of the EU.

Goals:

  • Stop languages from becoming extinct in Europe
  • Protection of minority cultures
  • Language equality (use of the mother tongue in schools and public administration)
  • Cross-border regional cooperation
  • Free passage of audio-visual content
  • Stop geo-blocking
  • Rights for stateless minorities

Source here.


When, how did it start?

The story of Minority Safepack started at the FUEN Congress in Moscow in 2012, where the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) took up the idea of engaging in a citizens’ initiative for the benefit of European minorities. The initiators (FUEN, YEN, SVP and RMDSZ) signed a cooperation agreement followed by a first discussion meeting in the European Parliament defining the objectives and agreeing on the need to collect 1 million signatures until the elections to the European Parliament in 2014.
In 2013, the initiative was submitted to the European Commission (EC), which rejected its registration in the same year. According to the Commission, the proposed initiative fell “manifestly outside the framework of the Commission’s powers”. In November 2013, the initiators challenged the EC’ s decision at the Court of Justice of the European Union. On February 3rd, 2017, the Court found the initiators were right, and annulled the EC’s previous decision of rejection. In April 2017, the EP registered the MSPI and gave one year to the initiators to collect the 1 million signatures.

The success of collecting MSPI signatures

Milestones

2021
March 24.

Initiators challenge Commission’s decision

The MSPI Committee filed a request for the annulment of the European Commission’s decision on the initiative at the General Court of the European Union. It concluded, that the communication was deeply flawed by the fact that in it the European Commission infringed its legal obligation to state reasons and committed manifest errors of assessment. The Commission had failed to correctly interpret the initiative. The Commissions measures were inappropriate as far as the objectives of the Minority SafePack Initiative are concerned.

Source here

January 14.

EC rejects the call for new laws

The European Commission decided to ignore the voice of more than one million EU citizens and also the resolution of European Parliament. The Commission was unwilling to initiate legal acts for the protection of national and linguistic minorities under the MSPI. With this decision, the European Commission turned its back on several national and linguistic minorities, on more than 1 million citizens, who signed the initiative, and also failed to respond to the call of the European Parliament to propose legal acts. The decision also disregarded a large number of supporting national and regional governments, nGOs and legislative bodies from all across Europe.

Source here

2020
December 17.

MEPs call the Commission to act

With the vote rate of 524 votes in favour, 67 against and 103 abstentions the resolution was adopted. Through the resolution the Parliament pointed out that national and linguistic minorities in the EU are facing assimilation and are losing their languages, processes which are moving them towards in linguistic and cultural impoverishment. Parliament expressed its support for the European Citizens’ Initiative ‘Minority SafePack – one million signatures for diversity in Europe’ and called for legal acts from the Commission that addressed the respective issue.

Source here

December 14.

Plenary debate and resolution in the EP

The European Parliament discussed the proposals of the “Minority SafePack” European Citizens’ Initiative at its plenary meeting. MEPs evaluated the initiative and the proposed resolution at the debate. A vote on amendments to the resolution was held on Wednesday, 16. December 2020, followed by the final vote on Thursday morning, 17. December 2020.

Source here

October 15.

Public Hearing in the EP

The Citizens’ Committee and experts of the Minority SafePack Initiative presented their proposals for the Members of the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council of Europe, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee. The Hearing is co-organized by the Committees on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and on Culture and Education (CULT), together with the Committee on Petitions (PETI). The hearing also involved Committee members statements from REGI, ITRE, JURI and ECON committees which in the ECI areas falling under their competence.

Source here

May 19.

New deadline for public hearing

Due to the pandemic challenges the European Commission adopted a proposal for a time limit regulation for all phases for European citizens’ initiatives (collection, verification and examination). The proposal also regulates the situation of the Minority SafePack Intiative. Originally, a public hearing in the European Parliament was supposed to take place on 23rd of March 2020, and the European Commission was supposed to communicate its point of view before 10 July. Open hearings should be allowed as soon as the public health situation of the organizing country makes them possible.

Source here

March 23.

Public hearing postponed

The MSPI public hearing at the European Parliament was to be held on March 23rd, 2020.  Due to the coronavirus epidemic the hearing was postponed to a later date. The parliamentary debate was planned to take place on April 22nd, but was also postponed due to the pandemic.

February 5.

Presentation of the proposal

Presentation of the proposal

The Citizens’ Committee, the FUEN Presidium and experts presented their legislative proposals to the European Commission. The legislative proposals based on the nine points of the Minority SafePack European Citizens’ Initiative were presented to the European Commission. The MSPI delegation met Věra Jourová, (Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, Responsible for the European Citizens’ Initiative system) and Mariya Gabriel, (European Commissioner Responsible for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth) and several representatives of the Secretariat General and Directorate General.

Source here

January 10.

The EC registered the validated signatures

The statements of support were registered online by the European Commission on January 10th, 2020. From this day on, the European Commission had a timeframe of three months to organize a public hearing in the European Parliament and then let its position regarding the Minority SafePack Initiative be known.

(Source: http://www.minority-safepack.eu/main/index)

 

2018
April 3.

One million signatures in 11 countries reached

One million signatures in 11 countries reached

,320,000 statements of support were collected and the threshold was in 11 Member States (Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Latvia, Spain, Croatia, Denmark, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Lithuania, Italy). By May 8th, 2018, the Citizens’ Committee, FUEN and the local organizers handed over the signatures to the competent national authorities in all 28 EU Member States. 1.128.385 signatures had been validated.

(source: http://www.minority-safepack.eu/main/index)

 

2017
April 3.

Signature collection begins

Signature collection begins

The signature collection was officially announced at the FUEN Congress at the Bánffy Castle in Kolozsvár/Cluj-Napoca on May 17-21, 2017. The goal of the initiators was to start collecting signatures in as many EU member states as possible to show European support for the proposal. FUEN’s signature collection campaign focused primarily on regions with minority populations.

 

March 29.

9 MSPI proposals (out of the 11) registered by the EC

The two omitted points included two topics, respectively; one of the topics referred to linguistic and ethnic non-discrimination. Not accepting this point, the Commission argued that there was no such concept as linguistic discrimination in the relevant provision of European Fundamental Rights. The other omitted point referred to minority national communities. This point tried to ensure that even if their political parties did not reach the electoral threshold in European elections, these communities should still have a seat in the European Parliament. The Commission claimed this to be an EP competence. However, the nine points below were accepted and registered by the Commission.

February 3.

The General Court annulled the EC’s decision of rejection

The General Court annulled the EC’s decision of rejection

At the beginning of 2017, the Court ultimately ruled in favour of the initiators, following which an agreement between the European Commission and the initiators was reached, making the launch of a signature collection possible. Concurrently, Romania entered the proceedings aiming to have the initiative dismissed by the Court, and supporting the Commission in its initial decision rejecting the ECI.

Source here: https://www.fuen.org/en/article/One-more-win-for-European-minorities-before-the-Court-of-Justice-of-the-EU

 

2013
November 25.

Initiators challenged the decision

The initiators challenged the EC’s decision at the Court of Justice of the European Union. They found the Commission’s reasoning controversial, arguing that even though the Commission rejected the initiative, it also wrote that some of the acts requested in the Annex to the Minority SafePack Initiative might be acceptable.

Source here:

(https://www.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/75973/MSPI_Basic_information_de_Boer_en.pdf )

 

July 15.

The initiative was submitted to the European Commission

The initiators called upon the EU to improve the protection of different national and linguistic minorities and enhance cultural and linguistic diversity in the Union. According to the initiators this improved protection should include policy actions in the areas of regional and minority languages, education and culture, regional policy, participation, equality, audio-visual and other media contents, and also regional (state) support. (Source: https://europa.eu/citizens-initiative/initiatives/details/2017/000004_en )

2012
September 13.

The EC rejected the MSPI

The EC rejected the MSPI

The European Commission refused to register the Minority SafePack citizens’ initiative. The refusing decision was made on the grounds that the scope of the initiative fell outside the EC’s competence and so the EC would not have the jurisdictional background to propose the adoption of a legal act (based on the initiative) in the European Union to be further implemented in the Treaties of the European Union. In its rejection the EC failed to mention the particular acts it had considered as falling outside its competence and also failed to elaborate on the parts it had considered potentially possible.

Source: http://ecas.issuelab.org/resources/30429/30429.pdf

May 16.

The beginning: FUEN Congress in Moscow

The beginning: FUEN Congress in Moscow

The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) – the largest member organization of FUEN – decided to propose a citizens’ initiative for the benefit of European minorities. The proposal was to be presented together with FUEN, the South Tyrolean People’s Party (SVP) and the Youth of European Nationalities (YEN). MEP Gyula Winkler, Lóránt Vince (international secretary of RMDSZ) and Jan Diedrichsen (FUEN-director) together explained the status of the citizens’ initiative at the Moscow FUEN Congress. The initiators signed a cooperation agreement.

(Source: https://old.fuen.org/fileadmin/user_upload/downloads/2013.01_Kongressdokumentation_Moskau_2012_EN.pdf)

 


6. The proposal

The Minority SafePack Initiative includes eleven original proposals, nine of which were registered by the European Commission:

Proposals:

  • EU-Recommendation for the protection and promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity
  • Funding programmes to support small linguistic communities,
  • The creation of a Language Diversity Centre
  • The objectives of the EU’s Regional Development Funds to include the protection of national minorities and the promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity
  • Research about the added value of minorities to our societies and Europe
  • Approximating equality for stateless minorities e.g. the Roma
  • A single European copyright law, so that services and broadcasts can be enjoyed in the mother tongue
  • Freedom of service and of access to audio-visual content in minority regions
  • Improve access to regional (state) support for minority culture, media and cultural heritage conservation.


Future plans

The MSPI public hearing at the European Parliament would have been held on March 23rd, 2020. Due to the coronavirus epidemic, the hearing was postponed to an unknown later date. Subsequently, the European Commission’s decision-making deadline was also extended by 6 months. Eventually, the hearing was held on 15th of October.


The role of FUEN

Member States apply different norms and different standards in the field of minority protection: some don’t recognize and disregard the aim of minorities, while others actively promote and protect them. FUEN (Federal Union of European Nationalities) believes that the situation of European minorities cannot be considered solely the internal affair of Member States. Their objective is to strengthen the Council of Europe’s legal instruments and sanction mechanism, while in the EU our goal is to create a legal framework for the protection of national minorities and language groups. The Minority SafePack Initiative, coordinated by FUEN, managed to become the fifth successful ECI, with 1,128,385 validated signatures and 11 EU Member States where the threshold was passed. The successful campaign increased FUEN’s visibility and established it as the flagship organisation in the field of minority protection. Source here

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