More than 1 million signatures for the protection of Europe’s minoritised languages

Citizens’ initiative clears threshold, seeks new European legislation to promote non-state languages

UDMR president Hunor Kelemen announces iniciative was successful.
UDMR president Hunor Kelemen announces iniciative was successful. Author: Minority Safepack
European citizen initiative Minority Safepack, which seeks to move European institutions to pass new pieces of legislation protecting minoritised languages in the EU, has achieved its goal to reach more than 1 million signatures. This fact will force the European Commission to take into consideration the petition, to meet with its promoters, and to give an answer on what it intends to do with the citizens’ proposal.

Minority Safepack has been driven by FUEN, a European federation that brings together some 90 organizations representing stateless peoples, national minorities and minoritised linguistic groups. Its members are mainly found in Central Europe. But in countries where no FUEN member exist, some local organisations have joined the Minority Safepack effort, such as in the case of the Catalan Countries.

FUEN now wants the Commission to accept the proposal and to launch a European legislative procedure —at the European Parliament or the Council— for the EU to provide a legal basis for promoting minoritised languages in areas such as public services, the media, state and sub-state policies, education and culture.

The Commission, however, can also decide to finally shelve the citizens’ initiative, despite the fact that it has achieved 1,215,789 signatures throughout the Union, according to FUEN’s data. The proposal has also fulfilled the requirement of clearing a specific threshold of signatures in 7 member states. It has exceeded it in eleven: Bulgaria, Denmark, Spain, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.

Great success among Hungarian speakers

Almost half of the signatures reached have been pocketed in Hungary, and a quarter of them in Romania. Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán called on Hungarian citizens to sign the petition “to protect the rights of Hungarians beyond our borders.” In Romania, main party of Transylvania Hungarians UDMR also joined the initiative. In fact, party president Hunor Kelemen has been one of the people in charge of announcing the global result today from Transylvanian capital Cluj.

But the milestone of the 1 million signatures would not have been achieved with Hungarian mobilization only. The remaining supports have arrived from the rest of the EU, where dozens of organizations, bodies, parties and institutions have called to sign. The Austrian case has been a very significant one because of its political mainstreaming: Minority Safepack has been supported by the president of the state of Carinthia, social democrat Peter Kaiser, the president of Tyrol, conservative Günther Platter, Greens’ spokeswoman Regina Petrik and liberal party NEOS.

In the Italian Republic, presidents of South Tyrol and Trentino, Arno Kompatscher and Ugo Rossi, also called to sign the petition, as did the president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont. The Basque Parliament passed an institutional statement encouraging citizens to support it. Minority Safepack also gathered support from grassroots groups and parties from Brittany, Lithuania, Galicia or Friesland, to name a few, as well as the European Free Alliance.