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

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). As the DH-MIN was suspended in 2010 (Rein 2013: 229-31), unfortunately no analysis of the collected material took place. But it seems that this collection of factual and legal data is the only one dealing with the subject of this article. And some material on the topic of this article can be found in the context of two other questionnaires of DH-MIN.

With no intention to discuss the definition of a 'national minority', this article only deals with national minorities that are recognized in a given state as a national minority in the interaction between that state, the minorities and their organizations, and the bodies of the Framework Convention resp. the Council of Europe European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (henceforth Language Charter). The important problems - not only with regard to financial support - when this triangle is not given, are kept out by this limitation. If, for instance, a state does not accept the concept of special protection of national minorities and of positive action according to Article 4 of the Framework Convention, the problem of financial support is secondary.

Additionally, the legal and factual situation of minorities, which live in regions of a territorially defined partial autonomy, where most of the inhabitants are - on the level of the nation state - members of a minority, will not be discussed. …

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