UPDATED on September 18, 2021
Despite more than one million European citizens giving their signatures for the Minority SafePack Citizens’ Initiative and despite the European Parliament supporting it with a three-quarter majority and the German Bundestag also adopting a resolution in support of it, the initiative, which aimed to create EU protection for indigenous national minority communities, seems to have now failed after the European Commission rejected its legislative proposals.
“The Commission rejected the request of those for whom preserving Europe’s linguistic and cultural heritage is not merely a good-sounding slogan but a daily challenge. The position of the Commission is nothing more than a patronizing pat on our shoulders, while 1,128,385 signatories were waiting for concrete measures and actions.” – Lóránt Vincze, President of FUEN (Federal Union of European Nationalities), commented on the European Commission’s decision.
“The Commission has now let down the approximately 50 million citizens of the Union who belong to national and linguistic minorities. Millions of them already live in a situation of inequality in their own country; now the European Commission, which is supposed to be the guardian of democracy, the rule of law, dignity and justice, is also turning its back on them,” he said.
On February 5, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium, representatives of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) and the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN) presented legislation proposals to the European Commission for the Minority SafePack Initiative.
The signature drive initiated by RMDSZ, which is Romania’s ethnic Hungarian party, and coordinated by the Federal Union of European Nationalities was launched in April 2017.
The Minority SafePack Initiative calls upon the EU to adopt a set of legal acts to improve the protection of individuals belonging to national and linguistic minorities and to strengthen the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Union. The initiative was signed by 1,128,385 citizens of the 28 member states of the European Union, which makes it the fifth most successful European Citizens’ initiative.
The European Commission first refused to register the initiative in 2013, prompting the organizers to appeal to the General Court of the EU. Later, in 2017, the court allowed it to proceed, and in the following year, organizers gathered more than 1.1 million supporting signatures across Europe, reaching the necessary thresholds in 11 Member States.
After this, the organizers could finally present their legislative proposals at the European Parliament, and the EP reacted to them very positively. In December 2020, the European Parliament decided to support the initiative with a three-quarter majority (524 MEPs voted in favor, 67 against, 103 abstentions). But the EP was not the only one; for example, even the German Bundestag unanimously adopted a resolution appealing to the European Commission to implement the Minority SafePack.
Despite all of the above, in January 2021, the European Commission finally decided against implementing the demands of the initiative. According to their explanation, since the submission of the Minority SafePack in 2013, a wide range of measures have already undertaken various aspects of the initiative. Because of this, the Commission would not propose any further legal acts, as the European Union would meet the objectives of the initiative, including the protection of minorities, with the full implementation of the already existing legislation and measures. “While no further legal acts are proposed, the full implementation of legislation and policies already in place provides a powerful arsenal to support the Initiative’s goals,” said the European Commission’s statement released on January 15.