Speech by Ms. Caroline Schwarz
Chairman, Dr. Larsen
State Secretary, Mr. Pedersen,
State Secretary, Dr. Bergner,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are celebrating a special anniversary here in Flensburg today: In a ceremonial act 10 years ago, Prince Joachim of Denmark officially opened the European Centre for Minority Issues in the presence of numerous high-ranking politicians and society representatives from Denmark and Germany, as well as ambassadors from many other European countries. A vision had become reality, giving the exemplary minority policies in the German-Danish border region a European, an international dimension.
I am happy that so many noted guests have accepted the invitation to be here and extend to you all a warm welcome. I just great especially the Members of the parliaments in Copenhagen, Berlin and Kiel, as representatives of all our guests.
Establishing the ECMI here on the border between Denmark and Germany was, from the very beginning, an affirmation of the political climate which has been able to develop here in the last few decades: New ground had been broken in minority policies and exemplary objectives achieved: A once historic burden has become a fruit-bearing asset for the future.
In 1955, the Danish Minister of State and Foreign Minister H.C. Hansen and the German Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer overcame obstacles which in the course of decades had become fixed in the minds of quite a few people. With the Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations, they declared their belief in a modern minority policy. Both statesmen signed documents on humanity and international understanding. And they showed their courage in doing so. Today, I would again like to thank the Kingdom of Denmark for the moving celebrations last year at Sonderburg Palace in honour of the 50th anniversary of the Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations.
Soon after the Declarations had been signed, it became clear that it was not only a question of securing the basic rights of the Germans with a Danish passport and the Danes with a German passport. The Declarations pointed well beyond that:
The aim was also to generally promote and strengthen the friendly relations between the Kingdom of Denmark and the Federal Republic of Germany.
Due to its history, Schleswig-Holstein has a special relationship with Denmark. And I am very pleased that the two minorities are no longer bones of contention, but border-crossing bridge-builders. It is this important competence of the minorities which pays off in questions of border-crossing cooperation. We all profit from this.
And, in this spirit, it is characteristic that the ideas for a scientific, minority protection institution of European significance were not carried into the region but were developed from within the region.
The initiative came from Kurt Hamer, the first Commissioner for Borderlands Issues of the government of Land Schleswig-Holstein: Hamer approached the Schleswig-Holstein Minister-President Björn Engholm and the Amtsborgmester of Sønderjylland Kresten Philippsen in 1991 and proposed a border-crossing, internationally recognised institution. With this, Kurt Hamer had set the ball rolling shortly before his death: An important step on the way to establishing the ECMI was the study carried out by the present Consul General Professor Dr. Henrik Becker-Christensen.
After the Iron Curtain fell, nationalist conflicts flared up in Eastern Europe and tension grew between minority and majority populations in various regions of our continent. It was essential not only to overcome Europe’s decades of division. It was essential to achieve a new European peace order. And it was essential to accept different nationalities, cultures and languages - giving living expression to European diversity in a mutual “European house”.
In the German-Danish border area, the spirit of the Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations has been increasingly stimulated over the years - the principles of these Declarations no longer apply solely to the German minority in Denmark and the Danish minority in Germany.
And then, with the foundation of the ECMI, tasks were set which reflect the friendship that has evolved over the years. For the Institute is supported mutually by three founders:
- the Kingdom of Denmark,
- the Federal Republic of Germany
- and Land Schleswig-Holstein.
We - so I believe - all agree that the ECMI draws from the region’s experience but has a more far-reaching effect:
The ECMI holds a large number of conferences and seminars, gives talks and publishes information on projects. The ECMI is a think tank for minority protection, it works actively as facilitator in current minority conflicts and thus becomes a peacekeeping tool. It is a conflict research institute and advisory authority for all those with political responsibility.
Here lies - so I believe - the European significance of the Institute which at the same time benefits us in South Denmark and North Germany: because the work of the European Centre for Minority Issues gives its attention to a region which has succeeded in overcoming the frictions and has thus set an example. It brings delegations from all over Europe to us to show them what is possible. It presents the German-Danish border region as an example: not nostalgically as a kind of open-air museum but as a living competence region of cultural diversity.
One thing is certain, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Europe of the future, the Europe which has finally succeeded in overcoming political division, must be a Europe of cultural diversity. Minority protection is an essential indicator of civilised politics. And I very much welcome the fact that the ECMI will again be presenting itself in Brussels next year, the year of the German EU Council Presidency. Perhaps even in the form of a mutual event involving the national minorities and the Federal Union of European Nationalities? I can already promise you the support of Schleswig-Holstein’s government!
Ladies and Gentlemen, the European Centre for Minority Issues is a success story in the German-Danish border region and gives the minority policies implemented here a European dimension.
In the name of the Land Schleswig-Holstein and all members of the Land Government, I would like to thank all those who promote and support the work of the ECMI. I also wish to express my thanks to the members of the ECMI team for their dedicated work.
I wish the ECMI that they continue in the years to come to work effectively so that we can all live and work together in a peaceable environment of cultural diversity!
Congratulations! And thank you!