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The collection of signatures for the citizens’ initiative of the Szekler National Council (SZNT) may continue after the European Parliament’s recent approval to push back the deadline of the SZNT’s petition, aimed at ensuring European Union protection for ethnic regions across the bloc. The number of signatures collected outside Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia must be increased in order for the initiative to succeed.

In 2013, the SZNT submitted a citizens’ initiative to the European Commission to allow national minorities in EU member states to be given the opportunity to access EU funds directly, in order to increase their ability to build their communities and preserve their cultures. As a result of a legal dispute, petitioning only started in 2019, with the signature campaign ending on May 7, 2020. In total, the supporting signatures of more than one million EU citizens were collected. However, the number of signatures failed to meet the required threshold of support from at least seven EU Member States – the required number of signatures were only collected in Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia.

Why Would National Regions Benefit Europe?

After the deadline, the SZNT argued that the petitioning could not succeed as restrictions were introduced in most EU countries to curb the coronavirus pandemic. On May 20th, the Commission announced that it had approved a six-month extension for collecting signatures that was still in progress on March 11th. However, the decision could only be considered a proposal that required approval from both the European Parliament and the European Council.

‘If you want a future for your community and culture in Europe, you should sign this European Citizens’ Initiative’ – interview with Attila Dabis, the Szekler National Council’s foreign affairs officer

It is after these developments that the European Parliament voted on July 9th to extend the deadline of the SZNT’s petition, along with other Citizens’ initiatives that were hindered by the novel coronavirus epidemic. The deadline will be prolonged by the time lost due to the pandemic. As a result, the collection of signatures for the citizens’ initiative may now continue. In order for the initiative to go forward, a minimum number of signatories must be collected now in at least seven EU countries, with the required threshold depending on the country in question.

Featured photo illustration by Zoltán Balogh/MTI