OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Visits ECMI to Mark 30th Anniversary


The ECMI had the privilege of welcoming the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) from May 10th to May 12th. This visit was part of the HCNM's 30th anniversary celebrations and aimed to highlight the crucial role of the OSCE in promoting and protecting the rights of national minorities, as well as discuss the challenges and opportunities for minority rights in the Danish-German border region.

The HCNM delegation, led by High Commissioner Amb. Kairat Abdrakhmanov, engaged in a range of activities during the visit, including a dinner with representatives of regional institutions and ECMI staff on May 10th. Esteemed guests, such as Johannes Callsen, Commissioner for National Minority Affairs of the Government of Schleswig-Holstein, Linda Pieper, Head of the Department for Minority Affairs of the Government of Schleswig-Holstein, and Jørgen Kühl, Chair of the ECMI Executive Board, attended the dinner.

On May 11th, the HCNM delegation began their day with a coffee reception and meeting with the ECMI staff to learn more about the research and action-oriented work of the ECMI. This session allowed them to better understand the daily operations and achievements of the ECMI and look for the best ways of how these two institutions can cooperate and use each other’s research and other capacities. The delegation also met with representatives from all the national minorities recognized by the Government of Schleswig-Holstein (Hinrich Jürgensen, Uwe Jessen (BDN); Frank Nickelsen, Heinrich Bahnsen (Friesenrat); Marlo Thormann, Kelly Laubinger (Sinti Union Schleswig-Holstein e.V.); Matthäus Weiß, Rolf Schlotter (Verband Deutscher Sinti und Roma e.V.); Gitte Hougaard Werner, Jens A. Christiansen (SSF), where the High Commissioner listened to their concerns and challenges.

Another highlight of the visit was the Expert Meeting, "Three Decades of HCNM's Experience in Quiet Diplomacy and Conflict Prevention: Lessons Learned and New Challenges," held at the Central Danish Library. The meeting brought together prominent experts in the field of minority studies and focused on the lessons learned from HCNM's work and providing critical reflections to inform the way forward for the HCNM in the contemporary security architecture.

The ECMI had invited three experts - Stéphanie Marsal (Human and Minority Rights Consultant), Stefan Wolff (Professor of International Security, Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham), and Emma Lantschner (First Vice-President of the Council of Europe's Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities) - to prepare short papers which were presented at the meeting as food for thought for the discussion. The papers focused on the persona of successive High Commissioners and quiet diplomacy, the High Commissioner as a changemaker on the ground, and the role of the HCNM as a norm-setter in the European minority rights regime.

The papers were presented in respective panels, moderated by Anton Thomsen (Senior Adviser to the HCNM), Sarah Stephan (Project Officer, HCNM), and Andreea Cârstocea (ECMI), including discussants Walter Kemp (Senior Fellow at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, and Strategic Policy Adviser at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy), Tove Malloy (Professor of European Studies at the Europa-Universität Flensburg), Joshua Castellino (Executive Co-Director & Professor of Law, Minority Rights Group International), Kateryna Haertel (Researcher, Office of the Federal Union of European Nationalities in Brussels), Nataša Bošković (Human and Minority Rights Consultant), Jim Fitzgerald (Director of Equal Rights Trust), River Hustad (Senior Legal Adviser to the HCNM).

After the expert meeting, the ECMI hosted a reception at their headquarters in Kompagnietor, where the HCNM delegation had the opportunity to continue the discussions with their hosts and esteemed guests. The reception was attended by several dignitaries, including Hannes Fuhrig, City President of Flensburg; Fabian Geyer, Mayor of Flensburg; and Kim Andersen, General Consul of the Danish Kingdom in Flensburg.

This visit was of great importance for the ECMI and the Danish-German border region, providing an opportunity to discuss the challenges and opportunities for minority rights in the region and highlighting the important role of the HCNM in promoting and protecting the rights of national minorities in Europe. The ECMI is committed to continuing its work to promote and protect the rights of national minorities in Europe, and to support the work of the HCNM in this area.

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