Speech by Consul General Dr. Henrik Becker-Christensen

on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI), 30 November 01, Sankelmark Academy

Your Excellencies, Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

For a long time it has been quite common in the Danish-German borderland that children on both sides of the border have a German father and a Danish mother - or the opposite. It is, you may say, a sign of good understanding between the two nationalities. So if you were invited to a birthday party in such a family where, for instance, the child had become five years old, you would not by any means find it unusual.

But when you realize that the child has got not only two, but three parents - that are in fact three governments - and that the child itself is an international institution responsible for minority issues, you will recognize that it is a very special birthday - but not the less a happy one.

In other words: it is a great pleasure and a great honour for me today as Consul General in Flensburg to represent the Danish side of ECMI's family. I have been asked to greet all of you and wish ECMI the very best for its future.

Then now let me be so modest to say some words about my own relationship to the birthday child of today.

Back in the early nineties, I knew from the press and other sources that the Schleswig-Holstein State Government, the German Federal Government and the Danish Government were discussing the plan of Kurt Hamer1 to establish a European Centre for Minority Issues in the Danish-German borderland. At that time, I was working as Director of the Danish Institute of Border Region Research in Aabenraa.

In the spring of 1994, Kurt Hamer's idea became a reality for me when the German Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Danish prime minister's department asked me to prepare a report about its realization.

It was a very fascinating job. The result was a report of 68 pages - in German it was called a "Hauptgutachten"- which became part of the decision to found ECMI in 1996. I had the pleasure of being part of the Board in the first years of ECMI's existence - and ever since I have followed the activities at Kompagnietor with great interest.

In the light of this, obviously my wife and I are very happy to be invited to this birthday party. We can see that the five year old child is doing fine and behaving well.

ECMI is a very special institution in the Danish-German borderland - in several ways: it is an international construction, with an international staff and, last but not least, international duties.

In recent years we have witnessed growing transborder cooperation between our local and regional authorities. The region Sønderjylland/Schleswig and the partnership agreement between the county of Sønderjylland and the Schleswig-Holstein State Government are well known examples in this direction. I could also mention the Danish-German hospital cooperation in Flensburg, the Danish-German ambulance cooperation and the cooperation between the University of Flensburg and the Southern Danish University department in Sønderborg. But as far as I know, ECMI is the first institution in the Danish-German borderland which is financed from both sides of the border - and the only institution which is being financed through a cooperation which involves all three governments: the Danish Government, the Schleswig-Holstein State Government and the German Federal Government.

This is quite remarkable and a sign of the good relationship between Denmark and Germany.

The foundation of ECMI in the Danish-German borderland is also a sign of the fact, that Denmark and Germany since the Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations in 1955 have been able to find good solutions for the respective national minorities - solutions which cannot be exported, but which may serve as a moral example to others, showing that one can reach valid solutions concerning minority questions if good will is shown by all sides involved. It is a good thing for ECMI to bring along in the luggage, when trying to fulfil its task in more troubled areas of Europe.

On a day like this I would therefore like to congratulate ECMI's founding and funding fathers and mothers, congratulate its Board and its staff - and congratulate us all, that ECMI on this account has got the chance to make its contribution to stabilizing a world which has become more democratic, but also far more complicated - and in some parts of Europe also more violent - since 1989.

Happy Birthday ECMI - and thank you all for listening.

Kurt Hamer was the first Representative for Borderland Issues of Schleswig-Holstein.

ECMI founders:

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