It is the first time that we had an eye level meeting with the European Commission on our Minority SafePack Initiative since its launch in 2013. We witnessed genuine interest on behalf of Vice President Jourova, Commissioner Gabriel and EC officials. We made clear that we aim to strengthen existing EU policies to support linguistic and cultural diversity and to protect autochthonous minority communities and language groups as part of our European heritage. We are hopeful that the upcoming six months will bring the necessary support and conviction and in the end the EC will decide to start legislative action based on our proposals” – stated Loránt Vincze, President of FUEN and Member of the European Parliament during a press conference organised at the European Parliament, following the meeting at the European Commission.
The legislative proposals based on the nine points of the Minority SafePack European Citizens’ Initiative were presented on Wednesday, the 5 February 2020 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, Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner Responsible for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth and several representatives of the Secretariat General and Directorate General.
“The European Union has by far the biggest influence on the daily life of European citizens and is today one of the most important guarantors of the respect of the rule of law and fundamental rights, but policy at EU-level for the protection of national and linguistic minorities is still lacking. We initiated the Minority SafePack to fill this void” – said in his presentation FUEN President, MEP Loránt Vincze. He cited four reasons why this void needs to be filled. The first is the Copenhagen dilemma: while respect for the rights of national minorities is a part of the set of political criteria an accession-candidate must fulfil at the time of accession, no such criteria applies for states that are already members of the EU. The second is that while the Commission has scrutinised the respect for democracy and the rule of law in Member States, it has so far never done so with regard to the rights of minorities. The third is that political, economic and social forces and globalisation all contribute to an accelerating trend of assimilation and language loss. The last is the institutional point of view, as it would be great to finally see a citizens’ initiative that arrives in a fully successful stage with legal acts adopted by the EU on the request of the citizens.
Representative of the Citizens’ Committee of the MSPI and FUEN Honorary President Professor Hans Heinrich Hansen presented the history of the MSPI. The first discussions started in 2009 on how to use the tool of the European Citizens’ Initiative, in 2013 the Initiative was presented to the European Commission led by Jose Manuel Barroso, that refused to register it. Once the Citizens´ Committee appealed the refusal, the proceedings in the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg started. Once in 2017 the MSPI won in Luxembourg, the European Commission accepted after negotiations 9 out of 11 proposals to be registered. The successful signature collection campaign ended in 2018 with 1 128 385 certified signatures, and achieved the minimum national threshold in 11 Member States. As Romania attacked the Commission’s decision to register the MSPI the EU General Court rendered its decision in late 2019: “The decision makes it clear that EU diversity means not only diversity between Member States, but also diversity within those Member States, and that the EU has a duty to protect this diversity” – he pointed out.