Speech by Uffe Toudal Pedersen

TRANSLATION – 6 December 2006 by Maj-Britt R. Hansen
Event: ECMI’s 10th Anniversary
When: 4th December 2006

The spoken word applies

Minister President, ladies and gentlemen

It is a great pleasure and also a great honour for me to hold the Danish speech at ECMI’s Anniversary. The Minister of Science conveys his greetings and wishes ECMI a Happy Anniversary and many good and productive years to come. For both Danes and Germans ECMI’s location in Flensburg is of great symbolic value. As in this area of Europe you find a peaceful coexistence between two national minorities on both sides of the border. Many factors bear credit for that:

  • There has been a strong will to establish a peaceful coexistence among the minority and majority on both sides of the border
  • Based on the Copenhagen-Bonn declarations of 1955 both the German and Danish Governments, together with the government of Schleswig-Holstein in Kiel, have created constructive outlines for this coexistence
  • And in both countries regulations have been adopted which have made it possible, that the national minorities could establish their own institutions and cooperation organs, where the parties could meet in a peaceful and dignified circumstances

On the basis of these peaceful arrangements ECMI has been tasked to involve itself in one of the most urgent subjects in Europe.

The question of minority rights and duties have had a crucial impact on European history. It has released wars and destroyed vast areas of Europe. Understanding and good will is not enough in dealing with these questions. It appears from ECMI’s statutes that it should be ECMI’s goal to work with the relations of national minorities and majorities and the questions, which might arise from that. The problems are to be analysed in a European perspective. The tools, which ECMI should use, are listed in the statutes as research, information and counselling. I would like to concentrate a bit on the research perspective. Research is very much a way of working. You could call it a work ethic, which includes:

  • Working systematically
  • Working thoroughly
  • To be as objective as possible

Without such work ethic the work of the ECMI would have no meaning, primarily because the work of the centre is based on credibility and trust. Credibility in relation to the international organisations ECMI works with, but first of all trust in relation to the minorities and majorities, which the centre work among. ECMI has undertaken a great work in mapping the national minorities in the areas of Europe where tension and armed conflict has been a part of every day life. This mapping is not without purpose. Many conflicts arise as a consequence of the question about in what respects a group of people is a nation or population, which differs from others. It is on this topic where the special European dimension fits in: Identification of a national minority is not part of the problem, but part of the solution. In this connection I could imagine that ECMI could engage in a wider European perspective. I hope that my colleagues in Berlin share my opinion: that minority problems will be on the European agenda for many years to come and that ECMI, if used correctly – could become an important player in the efforts of turning minority groups into valuable members of our European community. Of other initiatives I could mention the projects, which concern political participation and what is called complex power sharing. These projects show ECMI’s interest in securing the practise-oriented projects locally. In relation to both minorities and majorities. The goal should be reached with the tools ECMI has available in order to create a situation, which both minority and majority can benefit from. Research on minorities is also conducted in other places of the world but ECMI is the first research institution, which combines research and implementation of research results into concrete projects. So, actually pioneer work is carried out here in Flensburg. This creates special challenges. If ECMI can live up to these we will have the possibility to see during 2007. The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation has begun an evaluation of ECMI’s activities in cooperation with The Federal Ministry of Interior and The Land Schleswig-Holstein. A panel of leading researchers in the field will carry out the evaluation. The Danish Evaluation Institute will act as a secretariat. I have great confidence that ECMI will get through this evaluation with no scars.

At the end a few remarks on ECMI’s concrete projects: ECMI has projects in both Kosovo and Georgia, two regions, which for many years have been focal points in European politics. It has been and is ECMI’s policy to involve and engage the civil society in the solutions of conflicts between groups of citizens. And here we are back to what I started with: the relations in the Danish-German border area. On both sides of the border the two minorities have managed to organise themselves and through this established a long lasting and constructive cooperation with the respective authorities. This might be the best contribution, which the border region has given Europe. To see, that conflict solutions between minority and majority do not always have to come from the outside, but have to grow on the spot. That is why ECMI should not be resolving conflicts, but like the good midwife help the parties to resolve the conflicts among themselves. ECMI has in the past 10 years already contributed greatly to research within minority issues. It is not always easy to be an international organisation with owners in two different countries. There have been both ups and downs in ECMI’s short history. But somehow you always seem to land on your feet. We can see that ECMI still has a mission in Kosovo and Georgia, where you have had projects through several years. The Danish government would like to contribute to a peaceful coexistence in Europe between many different nations. It is therefore our hope that we also in the future will find ECMI in these parts of Europe, where conflict prevails and creates an existence of poverty and insecurity. I wish you a very happy birthday and hope that you will be able to keep adding to a peaceful development of Europe.

Thank you for listening.


Some Impressions from our anniversary event
We have collected some pictures from our event, which you can view online.

ECMI founders:

The German Federal GovernmentThe German
Federal Government
The Danish GovernmentThe Danish
The Federal State Schleswig-HolsteinThe Federal State