Statement of the Deputy Comissioner for the Rights of National Minorities on the Succes of the European Minority Safepack Initiative

On July 31, 2018, the President of the Federal Union of European Nationalities, i.e. FUEN) Mr. Lóránt Vincze announced that the European citizens’ initiative launched by the organization and entitled  Minority SafePack Initiative (officially called Minority SafePack – One Million Signatures for Diversity in Europe) had officially become successful.

The institution of citizens’ initiatives was introduced by the Reform Treaty of the European Union, i.e. the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, and it is regulated by EU regulation No. 211/2011. The option to take such initiatives is a key instrument of direct democracy for the citizens of the European Union: as long as at least one million citizens of seven EU member states support a legislative initiative submitted by a certain group of citizens, the European Commission will be obliged to examine the possibility of submitting a draft legislation aimed at the EU legal act. The initiators and supporters of Minority SafePack request the European Union to improve the protection of persons who belong to national and linguistic minorities and to strengthen the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Union. From among the 1,320,246 signatures submitted as part of the initiative, as many as 1,128,385 signatures were certified by the national authorities of the 28 member states of the European Union. It was also certified that the required minimum support threshold had been achieved in a total of 11 member states (Bulgaria, Denmark, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Spain, Slovakia and Slovenia).

The collection of signatures was symbolically launched after some six years of preparation, organization and a number of legal disputes at the renewed Bánffy Castle at Bontida, Romania on May 20, 2017 and it was in progress until April 3, 2018, then the certification process took another three months. The announcement of the success marked the end of the first phase of the lengthy period of the initiative. Although the question will only be dealt with by the European Commission to be set up after the 2019 European Parliament elections, it is important to keep the topic on the agenda, as well as to provide accurate information on the goals of the initiative to the decision-makers in the member states and in the European Union until then too.

As the Deputy Commissioner for the Rights of National Minorities in Hungary, I find it very important to note that the European citizens supporting this initiative, including an outstandingly high number of Hungarians living within and outside the territory of Hungary, actively contributed to the success of an all-European citizens’ initiative with added value, as national minority communities for whom it is especially important that they are given the opportunity to freely use their respective mother tongues, to cultivate, preserve and develop their unique cultures and traditions live in each member state of the European Union.

Hungary has been a frontrunner in ensuring the rights to national minorities by laws and in the efficient practical enforcement thereof for as many as three decades by now. This initiative may help spread this attitude in a wider range in the European community and it may also facilitate the adoption of its values.

In addition to the already acknowledged fundamental values of the European Union, it is also necessary to ensure the rights of national minorities in a wider rage than now, as well as to protect these on the level of the Union, in order to ensure that the peace and unity of Europe are preserved and developed, and for the motto of European integration “In varietate concordia”, i.e. “United in diversity” to become a reality.

 

Dr. Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay, Prof. HC

Deputy Commissioner