Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Selective Europeanization: A Path Dependency Perspective on Danish Minority Policy

Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Selective Europeanization: A Path Dependency Perspective on Danish Minority Policy

Article excerpt

This article draws on Europeanization literature in analysing the impact of European-level norms and rules on Danish minority policy from the early 1990s onwards. European-level norms and rules as developed by the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe (CoE) have had many, differing effects on domestic minority regimes in Europe. At the centre of European-level promoted norms and rules is the idea of making states more proactive and inclusive of their national minority groups (Henrard, 2008). Such processes typically require that states implement measures and promote conditions for preserving minority identities, developing the cultural diversity of minorities with a historical presence, and making commitments to previously excluded groups (Ahmed, 2011; Shoraka, 2010).

Europeanization-in terms of domestic adaptation to European-level norms and rules pertaining to national minority rights-shows a paradoxical and ambiguous development in the Danish case. This is especially evident in relation to the ratification and implementation of CoE's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) (Council of Europe, 1995) and its European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) (Council of Europe, 1992). Following ratification, several states parties to the two CoE instruments introduced new measures within domestic national minority policies (Letschert, 2005; Hofmann, 2005), while various countries have also engaged in broader recognition of national minorities (Eide, 2008). Denmark, however, has demonstrated a careful and selective approach, characterized by narrow interpretations, careful application and reservations. The existing Danish "one-minority" approach, which protects the German minority in South Jutland exclusively, has been reconfirmed and modestly updated in accordance with norms and rules flowing from European-level obligations. Here, the one-minority approach refers to the exclusive recognition granted to the German minority in South Jutland as a national minority in Denmark. This policy dates back to the 1920s and the partition of the former duchy of Schleswig through two plebiscites in connection with the Versailles Peace Treaty. The outcomes of the plebiscites created a new border, a German minority in Denmark, a Danish minority in Germany, and led to the formation of minority policies in each country through interstate negotiations between Germany and Denmark. Denmark's minority policy is thus constructed specifically for the German minority living in South Jutland, covering principles of free education, free use of German in public affairs, freedom to identify as German and free kin-state relations (Becker-Christensen, 1984). Such principles, steadily developed since the 1920s and institutionalized in 1955 with the Bonn-Copenhagen declarations, have been modestly adjusted to European norms and rules on minority rights, especially in the fields of language, cross-border interaction and media coverage. However, the resulting pressures of Europeanization have had only a modest effect on Danish minority policy. While selective European norms have been adopted, existing policy is still shaped by institutional arrangements originally designed through Danish and German interstate negotiations and applied only to the German minority living in South Jutland. Despite the historical presence of other minority groups in Denmark, the FCNM and ECRML are only narrowly applied (Weller, 2008) and Denmark shies away from extending recognition to other national minorities in Denmark. For example, Denmark is one of the few countries in Europe, and the only Scandinavian country, not to recognize the Roma community as a national minority. Similarly, the historically present Faeroese and Greenlanders are also excluded from national minority protection under Danish minority policy, even when pressured by various CoE bodies and other international non-governmental organizations. The populations of the Faroe Islands and Greenland are subjects of special agreements in Denmark and inhabitants of the two islands have not expressed an explicit demand to be recognized as national minorities in Denmark. …

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