MEP Vincze calls for minority rights across the EU

The European Union should establish a uniform set of minority right regulations to eliminate their current luck of the draw nature, MEP Loránt Vincze,  President of the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN) said at the European Forum Alpbach on Tuesday.

“If you are a German-born in Italy, you benefit from a totally safe space of autonomy to develop yourself and just exist as a person and minority; if you were born – let’s say as a Turkish person in Greece – you are not recognized by the state,” Vincze said in a session entitled “Minority Rights in the EU.” Almost half of the population of Western Thrace is ethnically Turkish, but they are denied the right to identify themselves as such according to a Minority Rights report.

Loránt Vincze and Balázs Tárnok
Loránt Vincze and Balázs Tárnok at the online session for Minority Rights in the EU, European Forum Alpbach 2020.

“As EU member states handle minorities in very diverse ways, adhering to their own legislative frameworks, there is a need to create standards for the protection of minority rights. This is timely in states such as Romania and Slovakia. In these countries, there is a framework to protect minorities, there are laws, but they are not implemented in reality. That’s a major problem, in my opinion, so the EU should be very attentive,” Vincze added. Hungarians in Romania are the target of various attacks on multiple fronts thanks to infamous, right-wing activists such as Daniel Tanasă, helped by the anti-Hungarian hate speech delivered by the president of the country.

Problems arise when the state is not open to a discussion on minority rights, as its approach is that everything is fine, and you have the most that can be given to minorities.

“This is the case in Romania: We are a Hungarian community of 1.2 million treated the same as a few tens of thousands of other national minorities. The ambitions and problems of the two sizes of groups are not the same. The Hungarians would like to have administrative rights for their group when it comes to organizing cultural life, theaters, and the education system.

It should not be decided in the capital how many classes should be open to

Hungarian-language students but should be decided by the local community,

because they know best,” Vincze said.

In the last decade, there have been many resolutions that pointed to the necessity of having minority rights standards in the EU, but they weren’t followed by any concrete proposals by the EU Commission.

The Minority SafePack initiative is the fifth-most successful European Citizens’ initiative, but unfortunately, the first four resulted in no action from the EU Commission. Vincze, however, believes that this will become the first one to actually trigger legislative action: “How much from those nine proposals that we have on paper is up for discussion. For the moment, we have zero action at the EU level to protect national minorities. Anything we gained would be a plus, something we could build on,” Vincze commented.

Minorities have been and will be a core part of the European Union. As representatives of the member states are jointly shaping the future of the old Continent, Vincze sees this as a good opportunity to lay the groundwork for a new Europe where national minorities have the legal framework for the protection of their rights.

“There is this two-year-long debate on the future of Europe. I believe it is part of the future of Europe to pay more attention to minority rights and that their recognition should be part of this new Europe,”

Vincze added.

Established in 1945, the European Forum Alpbach or EFA is an annual conference on European affairs organized in Austria. As part of the 75th edition, invited speakers among other distinguished guests included António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations; Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics and University Professor at Columbia University; Sebastian Kurz, the Federal Chancellor of Austria; and Valdis Dombrovskis, the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission.

Title image: Screenshot of the Minority SafePack initiative.

Author: István Fekete