Memorandum on the Establishment of a "European Centre for Minority Issues" (ECMI)

Kurt Hamer, Representative for Minorities and Borderlands Issues, to the Minister President of Schleswig-Holstein


European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI)
It is proposed that a European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI) shall be established in the German-Danish borderlands, which in the following shall be referred to as the borderlands of Schleswig-Southern Jutland. The Centre shall be financed by the State of Schleswig-Holstein and the County of Southern Jutland, with the support of the governments in Bonn and Copenhagen. It shall be a cross-border project, an academic institution to be promoted and, to a great extent, to be funded by the EC. Through an affiliated academy ECMI shall deal with all the problems experienced by the minorities in Europe.

Definition of the Term Minority
In this context minorities shall mean all national, cultural, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities whose minority status has been recognized by national legislation or by internationally binding declarations as well as all minorities that define and organize themselves as such.

However, it would be desirable to have the term minority defined in a way that would be acceptable to all states. The definition must not just comprise locally based minorities established throughout generations; at a time when immigration of foreign workers is part of everyday life it must also allow for the formation of new minorities, especially considering the freedom of movement within the EC.

The Copenhagen Meeting in June and the Paris Summit in November of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE showed considerable progress in this field. In the light of the decisions made in this connection, especially in the Copenhagen document on issues of national minorities, it is reasonable to imagine that ECMI could be sponsored by the CSCE.

In this way a permanent cooperation with the Council of Europe could be aimed at. Firstly, the Council of Europe is already working intensively on a draft of a European Minority Charter. Secondly, as opposed to the EC, the Council of Europe must be open to all those members of the CSCE who want to join it. However, it is of vital importance that the CSCE and the Council of Europe are prepared to provide funds for ECMI.

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European Minority Charter
For many years institutions such as the EC and the Council of Europe have been working on the drawing up of a European Minority Charter to be recognized as being legally binding by all member states; however, so far without much success because of the many different, almost unbridgeable notions of the existence of minorities, the definition of the term minority, the status to be granted to such minorities, their rights and the obligation of the state concerning their protection and support.

Only rarely have the discussions about a minority charter been the object of public interest. This is changing now, following the developments in Yugoslavia and the former Eastern bloc. Consequently, the commitments relating to the rights of national minorities, their protection and support mentioned in the document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE have seen great public interest.

Minorities Problems an Issue in a European Peace Scheme
The revolutionary changes in the countries from the Balkans to the Soviet Union and the new outbreaks of national conflicts in these countries clearly show that the resolution of minorities problems has become a central element in a European peace scheme. Following the virtual dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, disarmament and a policy of détente are no longer the main issues in Europe. It has now become more important how and under what conditions people of different nationalities, religions, cultures and languages can live peacefully together and can be guaranteed equal rights in a country and a unified Europe.

This means that there has also been an increase in people's political awareness of the as yet unsolved problems of the minorities in the member states of the EC and the Council of Europe. The already mentioned Second Meeting of the CSCE, which was held in Copenhagen, was another, important step towards a political focusing on issues relating to European minorities. Plans have been made for other conferences within the framework of the CSCE, and there will also be conferences at EC and Council of Europe levels.

Peter Glotz' presumptions in his new book: Der Irrweg des Nationalstaats will prove to be right: The main future problems in Europe will be related to nationality fights, minorities problems and national pogroms. We may also see regional conflicts between national actors. Not only politicians but also scientists are encouraged to prevent this from happening.

The Role of the Academic Community
In order to submit problems for debate and to resolve minorities problems politically, we not only need politically effective means and mechanisms for conflict prevention and settlement. There is also a lack of sufficient, scientific expertise which can be drawn on at all times.

One reason for this is that we have no central, scientific institution that deals with the problems of the European minorities. Such an institution should be established in the very near future.

There is a number of public and private scientific institutions in Europe that deal with the problems of specific regional minorities in particular. In the borderlands of Schleswig-Southern Jutland there is the Danish Institute of Borde Region Studies in Aabenraa, the Institute for Regional Research and Information, and last but not least the North Frisian Institute in Bredsted.

The Mercator project, which is a European network for information about and documentation of regional and minority languages, is a significant step towards integrated research. In cooperation with The European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages in Dublin and the Fryske Academy in Leeuwarden, Holland, the European Commission supports the establishment of a database of regional and minority languages.

This is taking place within the framework of a network of European centres. The database contains information about languages in the broadest sense, which means that it includes information about culture, media and legislation. Plans have been made for the establishment of approximately 20 European centres, which shall represent various linguistic groups. At the time of writing there are centres in Leeuwarden, Holland, Aberystwyth, Wales, Barcelona and Paris, each specializing in their specific field.

It goes without saying that a large number of other research projects, especially in the field of minority languages, are being carried out. But none of these projects and none of the institutions involved, including a number of major scientific ones, can provide the information needed in the field of minority research on a Pan-European level, also with regard to the political implications to be considered. Despite the many projects being carried out, a fundamental problem still exists, namely that of delimitation. Consideration must be given to which research projects ECMI can leave to others. Thus there should be no overlapping projects another, for instance with the Mercator project, whose planned database of regional and minority languages must be taken for granted when considering ECMI's expansion.

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ECMI's Tasks

If established, ECMI will have three main tasks, the first of which is investigation into the history of minorities and their social, political and legal situation in a pan-European context. The results obtained must be documented and communicated to any interested parties. As already mentioned, the numerous results obtained by already existing institutions can be drawn on, especially where historical, ethnic and linguistic research is concerned. However, research into the sociology of minorities and the political aspect of their situation could be intensified.

In order for results to be documented and communicated they must be regularly published. An academy affiliated to ECMI should be responsible for the documentation, communication and exchange of research results throughout Europe. The academy could arrange colloquia, symposia, seminars and conferences for scientists, members of European minorities, politicians and all others who take an interest in issues relating to minorities. In order to be able to house such an academy ECMI needs its own premises.

Archive and Documentation
The second task consists of the building up of an archive and of comparative documentation. Also here, already existing institutions can be drawn on. This can easily be achieved by means of modern computer technology and linking of databases.

Inter european Conflict Research
ECMI's third main task is completely new and closely connected with international peace research. It consists of inter european conflict research, especially with regards to the problems of minorities. The objective would be to identify the reasons for tensions between majorities and minorities and between the minorities themselves and to identify the mechanisms that lead to mutual hatred, to discrimination and suppression. Moreover, strategies could be developed, on a scientific basis, for the relief of these tensions and for the implementation of international norms that guarantee the protection, promotion and mutual tolerance of minorities.

The document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE of 29 June 1990 contains important statements concerning the rights of national minorities, their protection and promotion. The decision made in the final point (43) also refers to the commitments mentioned in the document: "... proposals designed to strengthen the human dimension mechanism, and to consider adopting, in the context of the further development of the CSCE process, appropriate new measures." They agree that these measures should contribute to "achieving further effective progress, enhance conflict prevention and confidence in the field of the human dimension of the CSCE."

Within the wide range of the numerous proposals designed "to strengthen the human dimension mechanism" ECMI could find its appropriate place.

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ECMI's Seat

Regional Location
At the Copenhagen Meeting of the CSCE several statesmen pointed to the successful and exemplary resolution of the problems of minorities in Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein, which is a strong argument in favour of establishing ECMI in the borderlands of Schleswig-Southern Jutland.

Here, based on their bitter past experiences, the population has succeeded in making peace, and the peaceful impulses emanating from this region and the good neighbourliness prevailing make the region exemplary. Here, the rights of the Danish and German minorities and of the Frisians to engage in cultural, social and political activities are guaranteed by law. Ideologically and practically a climate of great importance to the academic work has been created here. The population of this area and their political spokesmen and women support and actively contribute to this work.

However, the final decision as to where to locate the centre should not be made until all possibilities have been examined. When choosing the location two conditions should be fulfilled. Part of ECMI shall be based in Southern Jutland, and part in Schleswig. Only in this way can the cross-border nature of the institution be reflected in its organizational structure. Furthermore, both localities must be unique in a way that they will further motivate scientists from different countries to follow a calling with ECMI.

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ECMI's Organisation

The "European Centre for Minority Issues" shall be an autonomous, politically independent institution. It shall be a higher educational institution with university status and it shall be internationally recognized and have its own budget. Collaboration and academic cooperation with existing institutes and institutions in Europe and with the institutes in Aabenraa, Flensburg and Bredsted and the university in Kiel could also be obvious possibilities.

Staff Structure
ECMI should have a fixed number of permanently employed researchers (the actual figure cannot yet be determined) as well as the necessary number of academic employees and other members of staff required for this work. There could also be a temporary team of researchers working on specific projects. Furthermore, ECMI could delegate research assignments to external institutions. Together, the researchers must cover a broad spectrum of disciplines and, such as ethnologists, linguists, sociologists, psychologists, geographers, political scientists, historians and specialists in constitutional law, etc.

A distinction must be made between research work and pure organizational work. The latter includes academy meetings, publishing activities, the building up of a network of employees throughout Europe and the establishment of an electronic network.

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In principle, ECMI shall be a cross-border project which shall, to a great extent, be financed by the EC. The project shall be developed and supported through cooperation between Danish and German politicians. Furthermore, as already mentioned, it shall be examined whether or not the project shall be sponsored by the CSCE.

ECMI shall be financed by the State of Schleswig-Holstein and the County of Southem Jutland. Consideration shall be given to whether or not the town of Flensburg and the counties of North Friesland and Schleswig-Flensburg shall share the responsibility. The minorities of the borderlands of Schleswig-Southern Jutland could participate on the ideological level. The County of Southern Jutland and the state government in Kiel must therefore take the first decisive steps.

Expert Statement and Political Backing
The political committees in question should first make a decision to the effect that an international expert commission should be set up for the purpose of defining ECMI's tasks in a written statement. The commission shall delimit these tasks in relation to existing institutions, make announcements about the internal staff structure, draw up ECMI's organizational statutes, make a calculation of costs, and make proposals for its location and for the gradual realization of the project.

At the same time political backing of the project must be obtained from Copenhagen, Bonn, Brussels, and the CSCE respectively. On the basis of the expert statement and the two capitals' consent to back up the project and the EC's and the CSCE's promise to support it financially, and maybe even make it one of their projects, final decisions can be made.

ECMI Working Group
In order to coordinate all steps connected with the realization of ECMI from the beginning, it is suggested that the County of Southern Jutland and State of Schleswig-Holstein together set up an "ECMI working group", which can also appoint external experts on an ad-hoc basis.

Nortorf, 28 November 1990

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Kurt Hamer

ECMI founders:

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