In a great show of hypocrisy, the European Commission rang in the new year by completely disregarding and disrespecting our common European values. The leaders of a community “united in diversity” decided to take no action regarding the Minority SafePack European Citizens’ Initiative. Hungary Today has written multiple articles about this topic since the collection of signatures began many months ago, so I will try not to repeat too much information. The gist of it is that more than one million European citizens from 11 different countries signed an initiative to protect the rights of the 50 million individuals who belong to national minority communities in Europe. The Initiative consists of 9 points, including using development funds to protect national minorities, equality for stateless minorities such as Roma, and the creation of a Language Diversity Centre.
After meeting the threshold required for citizens’ initiatives, the proposal reached the European Parliament, where our elected representatives overwhelmingly voted in favour of the bill by more than a 3/4 majority. This vote was surprising, in part, due to the unity displayed by Hungarian MEPs. Every single Hungarian MEP voted in favour of the Initiative, something that is rarely seen in a country with such deep divides between its political parties. Parties that are constantly fighting all voted yes on the Minority SafePack.
On the other hand, the majority of Romanian MEPs unsurprisingly voted “abstain” on the Initiative. Considering that President Klaus Iohannis received the Charlemagne Prize in 2020 for “protection of minorities and cultural diversity”, it is quite sad that not a MEP from his party, PNL, voted in favour of the Minority SafePack initiative. In what may seem like a vindication of Momentum leader András Fekete-Győr’s decision to issue a statement of support for the Romanian USR-PLUS party a few months ago, the majority of USR-PLUS MEPs voted in favour of the initiative. This is a good example of how inter-party diplomacy at the European level can be used to achieve positive results between groups that have been historically opposed to each other.
The initiative then passed to the European Commission, which issued a statement that essentially extolled the virtues of the Initiative and chose to do absolutely nothing.
The European Union is constantly being accused of a lack of transparency, of technocratic leaders that are not held accountable to the voters. And on top of this, the same Union is constantly extolling its human rights record, painting itself as a defender of human rights across the globe.
How can European leaders look themselves in the mirror, when they preach human rights, but take no action when it comes to protecting our own indigenous communities?
This is a European Commission that is willing to fight to the end to force member states to distribute asylum seekers against their will yet will not stand up for the tens of millions of ethnic minorities that have lived in Europe for hundreds, even thousands of years.
Furthermore, the Commission’s answer completely delegitimizes the Citizens’ Initiative process. The Minority SafePack Initiative took a lot of time, effort, and money from various organizations, many of whom, as minority organizations, are already at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with nation states within the EU. Yet this apparently means nothing to those Commission bureaucrats who have no qualms about silencing the voices of over a million Europeans with a wave of their hand. Why would anyone put effort into a future European Citizens’ Initiative, now that the European Commission has displayed its disregard for the process.
The Commission’s power to ignore a Citizens’ Initiative that passed with a three-quarter majority in the European Parliament is a clear example of the European Union’s democratic deficit.
In response to the Commission’s decision Loránt Vincze, president of the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN), drafted an open letter to the European Commission regarding their refusal to implement he Minority SafePack. This has been signed by 64 MEPs, once again it is a pleasant surprise that Tamás Deutsch (Fidesz), Klára Dobrev (DK), and Katalin Cseh (Momentum) are on the page right next to each other. The Commission has not yet responded, but it is clear that if this Initiative ultimately fails, it will be a dark day for both European democracy and human rights.
In the featured photo illustration: EC President Ursula von der Leyen. Photo by MTI/EPA/Olivier Hoslet