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

Introduction: Distribution of Financial Support to Organizations Representing National Minorities

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

Introduction: Distribution of Financial Support to Organizations Representing National Minorities

Article excerpt

The four articles included in this Special Issue of the Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe are based on presentations given at the expert workshop on the Distribution of Financial Support to Organizations Representing National Minorities, organized by the European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI) in Flensburg, Germany between 5-6 December 2013.

The workshop examined a set of issues related to the funding of national minority organizations (in the broader meaning of the term), such as minority parties, minority councils, minority associations, etc. The focus of the workshop was on the issue of funding as directed by states to minority organizations, thus enabling the participation of these ethnic groups to political and public life. The participation of national minorities to political and public life is to a great extent determined by the activity of 'representative' organizations, and funding is of fundamental importance for them to be able to function adequately. The amounts and manner of distribution of financial support, its uses, and the mechanisms in place to oversee the legality and transparency of its use are all important components in this process.

Given the centrality of the issue of funding for the participation of national minorities to public life, there is surprisingly little empirical research, policy analysis, or academic literature on the topic. One should however note the 2009 contribution of the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on Issues Relating to the Protection of National Minorities (DH-MIN), which drafted a questionnaire requesting information from member states on a range of topics related to the distribution, use, and auditing of this type of financial support. In 2010, following the receipt of answers from 23 member states, a compilation of these answers was drafted and made public; however, with the DH-MIN discontinuing its activity in 2010, the analysis of the contents was not carried out. The DH-MIN initiative was meant to fill a gap in the knowledge and understanding of the mechanisms underlying the distribution of financial support to minority organizations in Europe.

In this context, the workshop organized by ECMI aimed to contribute to the advancement of knowledge and understanding of the issue of funding of minority organizations, by identifying areas in need of further research and initiating the creation of a framework that will allow for future comprehensive recommendations to governments in this respect.

The first article included in this special issue is based on the key-note speech given by the author, Detlev Rein, who refers to his experience as chairman of the DH-MIN during its efforts to collect information concerning the funding of minority organizations, and builds on the example of Germany and its practices in offering financial support to the various types of minority organizations on its territory. In the case of the funding of projects proposed by minority organizations, the author emphasizes the importance of understanding the various implications of a fair distribution of funds among the various minority groups, as well as the rationale of funding such projects, e.g. understanding how priorities are set and how minority needs can be best met. Concerning political participation, Rein stresses the importance of analyzing available funding by first looking into the types and roles of organizations existing in any state, such as private law associations of minorities; special associations, bodies and committees where minority questions are dealt with; and minority parties or associations running for seats in local, regional or national parliaments. In the absence of a clear methodological approach, an analysis of the funding available for political participation would not be meaningful. Finally, focusing on minority funding from an international perspective, Rein outlines the main aspects of the international legal framework concerning transnational funding for national minorities, reflecting also on their importance and applicability. …

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