Union of European national minorities meeting in Trieste
Trieste, 9 September - The Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN), the organisation of Europe's autochthonous national minorities and language groups, opened its annual congress in Trieste, Italy on Thursday with the speakers, including Minister for Slovenians Abroad Helena Jaklitsch, calling for protection of minorities and their working together.
The event, hosted by the Council of Slovenian Organisation (SSO), an organisation of Slovenian minority in Italy, heard FUEN president Lorant Vincze emphasize that protection of autochthonous national minorities and language groups must be part of Europe's future.
Jaklitsch spoke of the significance of ties between minorities and their exchanging best practice, as well as the role of the FUEN in those efforts.
The minister believes the Slovenian standard of protection of national minorities will become the European standard. She said minorities should not be afraid and diversity should be recognised as an asset.
She spoke of the significance of the minority issue in Slovenia, the help it provides to its minorities abroad to preserve their identity, language and culture, and foster cross-border cooperation, and the care for minorities in its territory.
Jaklitsch said no other European country provided such a comprehensive level of protection to minorities, so it had a moral right to expect a higher standard of protection of neighbouring countries, although she added that it would take patience to achieve that.
SSO president Walter Bandelj said that national minorities should not be seen as a threat to the majority population, quite the opposite: they provided value added and development opportunities, in particular in border areas.
He called for dialogue at European level to secure a minimum standard of protection, considering different levels of protection across countries in terms of minority representation, education, language.
He noted the European civic initiative for minorities to be given direct access to EU cohesion funds to make them less dependent on the state authorities. The initiative has collected more than a million signatures, which goes to confirm that minority protection could not continue to be an internal affair of countries.
Founded in 1949, the FUEN brings together more than 100 members from 35 European countries. It advocates the interests of European minorities at regional, national and in particular at European levels.