Minority rights / Intergruop for traditional minorities, national communities and languages

Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages

The EP Minority Intergroup adopted a resolution in the Mikó Case
At its meeting in Strasbourg on Thursday the European Parliament’s Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages Intergroup adopted a resolution and showed its solidarity with regard to the case of the Székely Mikó High School and the protests of the Hungarian minority in Romania.

MEPs Gyula Winkler and Csaba Sógor (DAHR, EPP) presented the situation that emerged after the renationalization of the Székely Mikó High School’s building owned by the Reformed Church of Transylvania.

Gyula Winkler presented DAHR’s administrative actions in this field and mentioned that DAHR’s MEPs also wrote a letter to Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. The MEP talked about the violation of the Reformed Church’s rights following the second nationalization of its property in Sfântu Gheorghe and called attention to the court ruling against three persons who merely applied the law in the matter.

DAHR’s MEP also spoke about the process of restitution of the nationalized properties of the Hungarian community in Transylvania and the historical churches: Romania has committed itself to this process since it is part of the Copenhagen Criteria. “The restitution process of the properties belonging to the Hungarian community and the historical churches nationalized by the communist regime is lengthy and cumbersome, and presently seems to have come to a halt. (…) DAHR has committed itself to use any democratic and administrative means necessary, in Brussels and in Bucharest, in order to restart this process and also to find a rightful solution to the situation in Sfântu Gheorghe. We consider the renationalization of the building an attack on the Hungarian community because it creates a dangerous precedent with regard to the respect of property” – stated Gyula Winkler.

DAHR MEP called the first-degree criminal conviction of the three members of the Romanian restitution committee, including former secretary of state Attila Markó outright “kafkaesque”. Gyula Winkler showed that the members of the committee have been sentenced by the court for the application of the provisions of the laws in force at the moment and the restitution of the building of the Székely Mikó High School. This ruling contradicts a 2006 ruling of the same court that reinforces the property rights of the Reformed Church over the building.

DAHR’s MEP Csaba Sógor talked about the lengthy process of the restitution of properties that belonged to the Transylvanian churches and have been nationalized during the communist regime. The Hungarian MEP from Transylvania showed that only 35 percent of the buildings falling under the provisions of law no. 501/2002 have been restituted during the last 10 years.

Csaba Sógor explained that the ruling in the Mikó case can be considered an attack against the Hungarian community and a clear intent of halting the restitution process since there have already been government level attempts to eliminate the right to in kind restitutions. The legislative proposal was taken off the table at the pressure of DAHR. The Hungarian MEP from Transylvania also presented the foreseeable consequences of the Mikó case: “Not all localities that have restituted buildings are governed by Hungarians. This ruling sets the basis for the same kind of renationalization everywhere. (…) There are several hundred such buildings in the country, many of them housing educational institutions. These are all in danger now, since not only school buildings may be renationalized, but all the other restituted buildings as well.” – said Csaba Sógor.

The members of the EP’s Minority Intergroup agreed upon the fact that Brussels and the European Commission needs to stop using a double standard with regard to the problems of national minorities living in the member states. The MEPs present decided to support DAHR actions to resume and speed up the process of restitution of nationalized properties in Romania.

The members of the intergroup see the Mikó case as worrisome with regard to the rule of law in Romania, especially in the context of recent political events in Bucharest. The subject has been debated on the plenary session of the EP as well.

The Resolution can be accessed here.

Csaba Sógor calls for increased support of multilingualism
2012. 07.13

DAHR’s MEP Csaba Sógor addressed a letter to Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. In his letter the MEP saluted the Erasmus for All initiative highlighting the measures that support the use of languages and multilingualism.

Referring to the NGO Platform for Multilingualism Report, Csaba Sógor stated that multilingualism and language learning is a key element in acquiring basic skills and increasing employment. These can be tools for the EU in creating jobs and ensuring growth.

As a member of the EP’s Minority Intergroup, the Hungarian MEP from Transylvania saluted the protection of Europe’s regional and minority languages through six of the Erasmus for All programme’s goals that make the enhancement of linguistic diversity the main element of the programme.

Making reference to the conclusions of the Council of the European Union from November 2011 (http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/educ/126373.pdf), Csaba Sógor called for the European programme level support for lesser used languages, as well as for learning languages from neighboring countries so that they spur economic and cultural exchanges between citizens.

The MEP reminded commissioner Vassiliou that speakers of minority or regional languages represent 10% of the entire population of the EU, and urged that future EU programs include budgetary lines for the promotion of the use of minority and regional languages.

- The European Commission policy on multilingualism is a cornerstone of the EU’s success story. The civil society had an important role in this achievement. Language learning is one of the means that can help in recovering from the current complex crisis, so all EU institutions, but mainly the EC should support it through the coordination of all factors involved – declared Csaba Sógor.

The situation of minority language rights in France and Romania discussed in Strasbourg
2012. 05. 24.

The issue of regional and minority language use in France was the main subject of the May 24th meeting of the European Parliament’s Minority Intergroup.

The debate organized by the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages (EBLUL) took place because language rights claims became increasingly louder during the demonstrations in the regions of Bretagne, Corsica, Occitania and Alsace of France. The successful coordination is mainly the merit of the French EBLUL.

The Minority Intergroup put this debate on the agenda immediately after the French presidential elections because François Hollande included the reassuring settlement of regional and minority language rights into his election programme and made promises that France will finally ratify the European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages thus acknowledging the rights of native speakers of regional and minority languages to use these languages.

Invited speakers included specialists such as renowned French legal expert and specialist of the Council of Europe Jean-Marie Woehrling, Breton language rights activist Tangi Louarn and Occitan journalist David Grosclaude, who also acts as political advisor in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region. Analyzing the new political situation, all three specialists agreed that speakers of minority languages in France hopefully await the ratification of the Charter.

Upon a proposal from DAHR’s MEPs Csaba Sógor and Gyula Winkler, the next guests of the Intergroup will be Hungarian DAHR representatives from Romania who will raise awareness among MEPs dedicated to the cause of minorities about the recent, troubling events in Romania concerning the Hungarian minority.
DAHR’s MEP Csaba Sógor explained: Together with my colleague, Mr. Winkler, we asked for the subject to be put on the agenda, because through the Intergroup we want to call attention to the problems the Hungarian community in Romania is facing, hoping that these dangerous tendencies can be corrected and future negative actions prevented.

Csaba Sógor emphasized the importance of the protection of Catalan language rights
2012. 03. 19.
In its meeting held during the plenary session of the EP from last week, the European Parliament’s Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages debated several topics related to the language rights of traditional national minorities.

The agenda consisted of the presentation of several publications in the subject. First, Professor Alex Riemersma of the Mercator Research Institute presented the recently published methodological guide for the early learning of the Frisian language, followed by the editors and authors of the SVI – Südtiroler Volksgruppen-Institut, who presented their publications. The quarterly Europaisches Journal für Minderheitenfragen – IGM was presented by Dr. Beata Sybille-Pfeil, while the book presenting the South-Tyrolean culture (Südtirolismen. Erinnerungskulturen - Gegenwartsreflexionen - Zukunftvisionen) was presented by the author, Georg Grote.
Professor Riemersma devised the methodology of the Early Transmission of Linguistic Heritage through the EU funded MELT (Multilingual Early Language Transmission) program. The aim of MELT is to provide early multilingual education for children between the ages of 0 and 4, although later it was extended to children between 0 and 8 through the involvement of highly trained kindergarten teachers who also provided on-line courses. The novelty of the project is that it provides development courses not only for practicing teachers, but also for those not yet qualified who are currently conducting their studies.
Professor Riemersma did not hide the fact that the implementation of the project is set back by the lack of properly trained kindergarten teachers. He considers that this problem could be solved through the initiation of multilingual MA courses. He also feels that the Frisian authorities’ initiative needs more technical and financial support.
The interdisciplinary minority journal IGM is being published since 2008: it is a mainly scientific journal, which can be used by politicians and specialists alike. It has proven to be a great tool for researchers, professors and decision makers. The online edition has over 400 viewers.
South-Tyrolean EPP MEP Berndt Posselt suggested that the journal follow the situation of Germans in Slovenia and Albanians in Serbia as well.
DAHR’s MEP Csaba Sógor saluted the fact that the relationship between Szeklerland and South Tyrol is tightening and said that the latter should be considered a model for the implementation of linguistic rights and that its achievement should be followed by other member states as well. The MEP also called attention to the fact that, according to recent information, the use of Catalan in the public administration of the Balearic Islands is being threatened, even though it is an official language there.
Co-president of the Intergroup, MSZP MEP Csaba Tabajdi expressed his belief that the autonomy in South Tyrol had a large contribution to the economic development of the region and urged for the model to be adopted by other member states of the EU as soon as possible. On the other hand, he suggested that the relation between the economic situation of a region and the level of danger minority language rights face there should be seriously considered as a topic of research.
FIDESZ’s MEP György Schöpflin reflected on the remarks of previous speakers and said that all across Europe decision makers needed to acknowledge an awakening of minority identity.
South-Tyrolean EPP MEP Herbert Dorfmann considered that there is a need for an economic survey that explains the impact of the autonomy of the German speaking population of South Tyrol on the regions' productivity and development. 

Minority protection in the EU should be based on the model of the Roma Strategy
2012. 01. 20.

The January plenary session of the European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg was dominated by mid-term elections inside the house. MEPs elected a new President, while the committees and working groups also changed their leader.

The former co-presidents of the Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages, Swedish liberal Carl Hagglund and Hungarian EPP member Kinga Gál handed over their mandate of co-chair to Hungarian socialist Csaba Tabajdi and Corsican French green MEP François Alfonsi. in the meeting on the 19th of January 2012. The former co-presidents presented, as an activity report, a recently edited volume on the major events in the field of minority protection, entitled "Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages. The issue raised in the European Parliament's Intergroup, 2009-2011, ISBN 978-963-08-3185-7, Brussels-Budapest, 2011, 71 p.

The main goal of the Intergroup for the next two years is to urge the European Commission (EC) to prepare, on the request of the European Parliament, a strategy for the protection of ethnic national minorities in Europe, based on the Roma Strategy 's model..

The guest of the meeting was Jonathan Hill, member of the cabinet of European Commissioner  Androulla Vassiliou, responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. Hill presented in details the EU programme "Erasmus for All"  on education, training, youth and sport. For More information on the programme see the following link: http://ec.europa.eu/education/erasmus-for-all/doc/com_en.pdf

Erasmus for All will run between 2014 and 2020. It has a budget of over 19 billion euros, representing 2% of the entire EU budget. This complex programme opens a new chapter in the EU financing mechanism. Upon its creation, the EC strived to correlate EU programmes with flexible solutions through simple and streamlined structures in order to ensure synergy between transnational actions and structural funds, as well as national and regional measures. The main challenge of the programme lies within the means to answer multiple crisis in Europe through investment into human resources in the fields of education and training with the enforcement of the principle of mobility and strengthening of European values. Based on the express request of commissioner Vassiliou, Erasmus for All , through its conception, will put an emphasis on the