Nov 26, 2018

European Parliament Passes Resolution on Minority Rights


The European Parliament adopted a resolution concerning the fundamental rights of minorities in the Europe. On the outset, the resolution focuses on discriminatory practices, hate crimes and linguistic and cultural rights. Formally, the resolution has a sound understanding of portraying the struggles of minorities in contemporary societies and also contains further indicative political steps to be taken by the European Union (EU) institutions.

On Tuesday 13 November 2018, the European Parliament in Strasbourg adopted the resolution “Minimum standards for minorities in the EU”. In general, the resolution considers rights relating to the general socio-economic spheres pertaining to the lives of many minorities in the EU. As the resolution was adopted by a simple majority, it indicates a cross-party support for the initiative and provides further grounds for its political legitimacy. As sign of the European Parliaments political will, the resolution makes a strong reference to the initiative entitled “Minority SafePack”, which sets the general grounding for the EU’s initiative relating to actively exploring further avenues in which minority rights can be progressively protected. As the resolution in part stems from the SafePack initiative, it is also indicative of the support found amongst EU citizens – over 1.2 million Europeans signed the SafePack initiative making minority rights a salient topic in European civil society. It ought to be said that minority rights do not come granted, as the SafePack itself and this resolution faced considerable debate on the floor. On the upside, UNPO is of the opinion that the resolution is a sign of years’ worth of active work and a very positive contribution to the field of minority rights by committed Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

Whilst the purpose of this resolution is not to provide concrete measures on the legal details of how minority rights should be protected, the text remains strongly relevant especially to the European Members of UNPO: Brittany, Savoy and Chameria. Concerning Brittany, a part of France facing lack of accurate linguistic and cultural representation, the resolution provides a political basis to further advocate for a better representation of the Breton language. It should be said that the resolution defines language as an integral part of a person’s identity. As France is continuously lacking active participation in the legislative EU framework on protection of linguistic rights and remains notably absent from the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the resolution passed this week indicates that Brittany has a good case for pursuing linguistic rights independently of Paris. The linguistic normative basis of the resolution clearly stands on the Donostia Protocol adopted in December 2016, the shaping of which UNPO was involved in.

In Savoy, the main problem faced by the people is that of cultural underrepresentation. Concerning cultural rights, the resolution actively encourages the Member States of the EU to accept audio-visual media as an integral element in a minority or a region’s depiction. Whilst lacking direct legal provisions, the resolution does a good job by giving minorities a strong normative basis for an accurate and truthful depiction of their unique and special identities. The latter pertains more to European minorities whose daily lives are plagued by racism and xenophobia. In Chameria, the native Cham population is incredibly diverse yet they all have in common that the borders between states crossed them, and not the other way around. The adopted resolution provides legal grounding for the argument that language is inherently tied with education, and that the latter is the key tool for effective socialisation. The resolution further stresses the need for mother-tongue higher education – an initiative welcomed by the UNPO.

In general, the resolution dedicates a significant proportion to discrimination, hate crimes and hate speech as social phenomena, which is an especially important understanding in the active fight against the root causes of faced by many minorities, including some of our members. It is true that whilst each and every Member of UNPO is unique, it is also the case that most problems faced by minorities in today’s EU transcend geographical areas and many minorities have common elements to their struggles. For especially this reason, the UNPO Secretariat is of the opinion that whilst the resolution is not legally binding, it is most definitely a manifestation of a certain political will – a will for a better and more inclusive future. The resolution, and consequently the MEPs have had a sound understanding of the basic principles of intersectional discrimination – and their general attitude to unite, rather than separate, linked struggles is noteworthy.

The contemporary understanding of discrimination against minorities deserves to be welcomed and the European Parliament to be complimented. To conclude, it is also evident that the adopted resolution reflects a certain trend of human rights in the EU moving into the statistical domain, as both the European Commission and the Fundamental Rights Agency are actively encouraged towards a more quantitative methods-based approach. The resolution also launches a strong call for the Commission and the Member States of the EU to draw up a common framework on the minimum standards for the protection of minorities, with a particular emphasis that the end result should ideally be a relevant EU directive.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia