Forthcoming European Parliament report on minimum standards for minorities in the EU

Forthcoming European Parliament report on minimum standards for minorities in the EU

On 12 November the European Parliament will discuss and vote on minimum standards for minorities in the EU. The report itself is not a legally binding document, but it contains the list of recommendations addressed to other EU institutions and the Member States. In his comment for the ICELDS, Aleksejs Dimitrovs, the European Free Alliance Advisor on Legal Affairs, Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and expert in the issues of equality and non-discrimination, provides an overview of the forthcoming report and the impact of its adoption.

In fact, the report is the most complete overview of the Parliament’s position on the rights of national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities in the EU. The previous report of this kind was adopted as a European Parliament resolution in 2005. Over 13 years the situation has changed, or unfortunately it remained the same in some Member States. Of course, additional dynamics to the need to update the position has been caused by the recent success of the European Citizens’ Initiative ‘Minority SafePack’.

Rapporteur József Nagy himself belongs to Hungarian minority in Slovakia and represents the centre-right European People’s Party, the largest political group in the European Parliament. To some extent, he built his work on the recent Resolution 1985 (2014) ‘The situation and rights of national minorities in Europe’ of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Other political groups also introduced their amendments. Therefore, the report adopted in the EP Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on 10 October can be seen as a joint achievement. 44 Members supported it, four voted against and four abstained.

The report concentrates on several topics. First, it focuses on combating discrimination, hate crime and hate speech. Second, it deals with national and ethnic minorities as such. Interestingly, the report recommends that, with respect to the principles of subsidiarity, proportionality and non-discrimination, a definition of a ‘national minority’ should be based on the definition laid down in Recommendation 1201 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (1993). At the same time, it indicates the need to protect all national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, regardless of the definition, and stresses that any definition should be applied in a flexible manner, as de facto inclusion of beneficiaries under the protection of minority rights often forms part of an evolutionary process that may eventually lead to formal recognition.

There are also chapters related to cultural rights, the right to education and language rights. Most of the Parliament’s recommendations are based on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.

As a conclusion, the report contains a call on the Commission to draw up a common framework of EU minimum standards for the protection of minorities. This framework could consist of at least three instruments:

– the guidelines reflecting good practices within the Member States;

– a Commission recommendation, taking into consideration existing national measures, subsidiarity and proportionality;

– a legislative proposal for a directive on minimum standards for minorities in the EU, including clear benchmarks and sanctions.

Without doubt, if adopted in this form, the report will cause a very interesting discussion on the EU competence to take action on the rights of persons belonging to minorities. However, under all circumstances, it certainly should be welcomed that after several years of relative silence one of the EU institutions gets back to the discussion on minority rights.

Image: © European Union 2017 – source:EP – Architecture Studio, Photographer: Marc Dossmann

Share this post