More than 100 million people live in Europe as national minorities. Many of them enjoy the necessary, basic rights in the country where they reside. But not all. Many ethnic minorities, like the ethnic Hungarians living outside of Hungary in the Carpathian Basin, do not enjoy the same rights. And we can find many such examples across Europe. That’s exactly what the Minority SafePack European Citizens’ Initiative is all about.
Introduced with the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007, the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) offers the opportunity for the citizens of Europe to call directly on the European Commission to propose a legal act in an area where the Member States have conferred powers to the EU level. To do this, advocates of the issue are required to gather a minimum of one million signatures within a year from at least one quarter of the Member States. Last April, the Federal Union of European Nationalities, FUEN, launched the Minority SafePack as a European Citizens’ Initiative.
The European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs and Petition Committees recently held a hearing on the Minority SafePack. Loránt Vincze, Balázs Tárnok and Pál Csáky, representatives of FUEN, as well as the Rákóczi Alliance and Slovakia’s Party of the Hungarian Community underlined the reasons for the Minority SafePack campaign.
“There isn’t a single legal regulation in the European Union that would take care of the rights of indigenous minorities, which means that the protection of these indigenous minorities in today’s Europe is non-existent,” said FUEN President Loránt Vincze. Vincze added that the Member States’ monopoly over minority protection should be abolished because if it doesn’t happen, it will lead to further rights violations in certain Member States.
FUEN has gathered some 700 thousand signatures all over Europe, reaching national quotas in Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. If the initiative succeeds, all eyes will turn to the European Commission for a response. During the hearing in the European Parliament, MEP György Schöpflin noted that out of more than 60 initiatives, only one has succeeded.
“Does the EU really want to bring the citizens closer?” asked Schöpflin.
“I urge you all to come together and stand up for the rights of Hungarians living beyond our borders by signing the Minority SafePack initiative,” said Prime Minister Orbán, calling the public’s attention to the issue in a recent Facebook post.
“What we see is people have a hard time understanding the initiative. They don’t know about it. They think that the form is too complicated and difficult to apply. Partly, the European Commission is on the right track, but some adjustments should be made,” said Tárnok, who addressed the shortcomings of the ECI system. If there are already one million signatures behind an issue, according to Tárnok, it shouldn’t simply be “put aside” by the EC.
Pál Csáky, MEP from Slovakia’s Party of the Hungarian Community, said he’s optimistic about the Minority SafePack initiative. Csáky hopes it will eventually lead to the adoption of a new European legal norm as well as new laws regarding the protection of indigenous minorities in Europe.
“It would be a huge mistake if we didn’t put our own indigenous minority issue on the table,” said Csáky, pointing to the recent increase in the number of citizen initiatives.
More than a month remains to sign the Minority SafePack European Citizens’ Initiative. If you haven’t signed yet, you can do so right now here.