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The European Commission must stand up in support of ethnic communities, Fidesz MEP Kinga Gál said after a European Parliamentary hearing on Minority SafePack, an initiative urging European Union protection for indigenous national minorities in the bloc, on Thursday.

Though indigenous minorities pay taxes and contribute to the economic prosperity of their countries the same as other EU citizens, they are still forced to deal with issues like discrimination in education or the use of their mother tongue, and are often the targets of hate speech, Gál told MTI.

Gál said she believed the EC was still not doing enough to address the issue of national minority rights.

“Whereas the commission often argues that these problems fall under national competences, it is not the least bit shy about openly intervening in other matters of national competence,” she said.

Gál criticised Vera Jourova, the European commissioner for justice, consumer protection and equal opportunities, for “offering nothing but a hollow video message” on the issue.

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She called on the EC not to apply double standards in connection with Europe’s indigenous national minorities and to draft a minority protection plan as soon as possible.

“It’s time the commission took specific measures so that citizens belonging to a national minority have actual equality and protections,” the MEP said.

On another subject, Gál said the EU has extended the deadline for collecting signatures in support of a citizens’ initiative on protecting national regions until Nov. 7. She expressed hope that the initiative which aims to convince the EC to create a cohesion policy that pays special attention to regions with national, ethnic, cultural, religious or linguistic characteristics that are different from those of the surrounding regions would attract the minimum number of required signatures from at least seven member states.

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Hunor Kelemen, head of Romania’s ethnic Hungarian RMDSZ party, said the protection of minorities had become a full-fledged European value, adding, however that certain communities in the EU “still don’t have a right to their own identities”. He said this had to change, arguing that rights should not be dependent on “which half of Europe someone was born in”.

Anna Donáth of Hungary’s opposition Momentum Movement said it was time for the EC to listen to the bloc’s citizens and respond to the Minority SafePack initiative by giving minorities a chance to enforce their interests.

The signature drive initiated by RMDSZ and coordinated by FUEN was launched in April 2017. A total of 1,128,385 signatures were certified across the 28 EU member states over the year-long campaign. The EC registered the signatures in January this year.

In the featured photo illustration: Fidesz MEP Kinga Gál. Photo by Lajos Soós/MTI