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

Some Basic Questions regarding the Distribution of Financial Support to Organizations Representing National Minorities

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

Some Basic Questions regarding the Distribution of Financial Support to Organizations Representing National Minorities

Article excerpt

Abstract

National minorities and their organizations need special funding by the responsible public organs and offices in order to be able to e.g. live their special customs, to learn and preserve their minority languages, and to exercise political participation. The cost of cultural life, self-organization and effective political participation per capita tends to be higher for a minority than for the majority population, when the former wants to reach and keep equivalent levels with the majority. Questions to be analysed are: who are the appropriate recipients of public financial means, by what methods and ways - national and international - can the funding take place and what are the well-understood safeguards in respect of the public interest in proper budget management. Last but not least the international law frame for special funding of national minorities has to be examined.

This article is based on a key note speech given to the participants of the expert workshop on 'Distribution of Financial Support to Organizations Representing National Minorities' held at the European Centre for Minority Issues in Flensburg, Germany, December 2013.

Keywords : Funding of minorities, organizations of minorities, project funding, political participation, minority parties, transnational funding, kin-states, bilateral treaties, Germany.

Introduction

The funding of national minorities and their organizations by the state is of high importance to them. And when they have achieved most of the basic rights which are guaranteed in the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (henceforth Framework Convention), the permanent financing of their undertakings is perhaps one of the predominant items of their activities in relation with the institutions and organs of the state. Two examples will illustrate this:

When the government of Schleswig-Holstein reduced the funding of the school system of the Danish minority in 2010 in respect of the 2011 budget very suddenly from 100 % of the costs of an average majority pupil to 85 %, quite a number of demonstrations took place in the settlement region of the Danish minority in Germany (Kühl 2012: 27).

In 2013 a scientific colloquium on Sorbian/Wendish items with the title 'Money rules the world and makes it go round' took place at the Brandenburg University of Technology at Cottbus, the biggest lower Sorbian city.1

In contrast to the importance of the funding by the state from the point of view of the minorities, there is nearly no literature on this topic. Half an exemption can be found in the work of the late DH-MIN, the Committee of Experts on Issues Relating to the Protection of National Minorities under the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH). Inter alia DH-MIN had the tasks

...To act as a forum for the exchange of information, views and experience on policies and good practices for the protection of national minorities ..." and "...to carry out a reflection on transversal issues relevant to Member States... (DH-MIN(2006)022,Appendix 1)

According to these terms of references, the elaboration of actual academic analyses on quite a number of topics of interest to all or to some member states was begun by sending out questionnaires to the member states and publishing the answers. One of the questions was 'Do you distribute public subsidies to national minorities' associations? Which budget (national, regional, local) is used for this purpose?'

This was also one of twelve questions in a questionnaire2 by the DH-MIN, which agreed in 2008:

...to discuss the distribution of public financial support for projects concerning persons belonging to national minorities and their associations, and to hold ... an exchange of views on the existing practices, criteria and models in this field. In addition, it decided to examine the draft questionnaire...(DH-MIN(2008)007,p. 4)

The questionnaire was answered by (only) 23 member states of the Council of Europe, and the answers were published in 2009 (DH-MIN(2009)007 rev 2). …

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