EPP Group Members committed to the protection of traditional minorities in the EU organised a public hearing today with high-level experts and politicians from all around Europe. They all agreed that in order to build up a European minority protection system, common European standards and institutional frameworks have to be set up.

"A future EU minority protection system should be a two-step structure based on the common European minority protection standards and at the same time on the distinct concerns of each minority community taken into account by a Member State's national legislation. I strongly hope that the EPP Group will be the driving force in Europe on this important matter", said József Nagy MEP in his opening speech.

“National minorities are constituent entities of many of the EU Member States. I expect the EU and the Member States concerned to consider such minorities as an enrichment of their political, cultural and social landscape. Loyal minorities and generous majorities should complement each other’s efforts for a good common future”, pointed out Michael Gahler MEP.

"I highly appreciate the fact that today's hearing was held with the close cooperation of MEPs belonging to the Hungarian minority living in different Member States and with the support of non-Hungarian Members as well”, said Pál Csáky MEP.

“There are plenty of possibilities in the current legislative foundation of the EU that would allow us to take proactive steps for benefiting traditional minorities who are contributors to Europe’s rich diversity. We have the best examples of minority protection in our Member States - just think about South Tyrol or Schleswig-Hohlstein. I believe that minority rights should benefit all minorities, not just some of them”, said Monika Hohlmeier MEP, the EPP Group Spokeswoman in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee of the European Parliament.

Herbert Dorfmann MEP said: “Regarding minority issues in Europe, we can actually learn from each other. We have existing models - one of them is the autonomy of my region, South Tyrol. It could be an example for other regions in Europe but also beyond our borders, for example in Ukraine.”

Kinga Gál MEP, Co-Chairwoman of the Minority Intergroup, commented: "This hearing also reflects the results of the work carried out over the last 10 years. While endangered species are protected by EU legislation, national and linguistic minorities are not protected by any acquis. Non-discrimination regulations are not sufficient. The European Commission consistently denies the adoption of EU legislation in the field; however, the Lisbon Treaty has created ground for this. The European Citizens’ Initiative on the topic supported by hundreds of thousands has also been rejected. The European Parliament, due to the lack of political will, has not adopted a Resolution regarding the protection of national minorities since 2005; therefore, it would be timely to move on."

Csaba Sógor MEP said: "The European Union has to address the issue of the assimilation process that the traditional national minorities are going through. These communities have been living in the same regions for centuries, they have not migrated, but state borders have changed around them. Every community is unique, but they all share the same need for guaranteeing the enforcement of the minority protection laws so they may use their language and preserve their culture and identity. The European Union should encourage Member States to exchange best practices in terms of minority protection measures", concluded Csaba Sógor MEP who believes today's hearing will inspire momentum for European minority protection.

NOTE TO EDITORS

The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 219 Members from 27 Member States

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