In 2002 - after pressure from citizens - the European Citizens' Initiative was included in the draft European Constitution. That constitution perished after referenda in the Netherlands and France. But in 2009 the citizens' initiative was laid down in the new EU Lisbon Treaty after all. One million citizens are able now to make a proposal that has to be seriously considered by the EU. The first citizens' initiatives were submitted in 2012.
At that moment the 100 linguistic minorities united in the organisation FUEN had already started working. They were looking for and found allies for an initiative to call upon the EU to take national minorities and the rich European linguistic diversity into account in its legislation and policy.
Citizens' initiative submitted in the summer of 2013
According to the rules, a citizens' committee submitted the initiative to the European Commission in the summer of 2013. This citizens' committee consisted of seven prominent representatives from European language communities. Among them was our Frisian member of the executive Jannewietske de Vries, who was in that period the chair of the European language network NPLD, which includes also regions such as Wales and Catalonia.
But the European Commission denied registration of the initiative. According to the Commission the proposals of the initiative allegedly were not within the competence of the EU. A long court case at the European Union Court of Justice followed, which in the beginning of 2017, after more than 3 years, was won by the Minority SafePack Initiative. The new European Commission gave the green light and the campaign started.
Frisian Executive launch campaign
Our provincial executive launched the Frisian campaign on 26 September 2017, the European Day of Languages. In the summer of 2018 it was clear that more than 1,1 million signatures had been collected. That makes the Minority SafePack Initiative the fifth citizens' initiative that fulfilled all the requirements (of approximately 70 initiatives that tried).
But the real success can only be measured by what the European Union will actually do with the initiative. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic the procedure had some delay, but in October a hearing took place and last Monday there was a plenary debate in the European Parliament. The European Commission has to respond in January on whether it will adopt the proposals.
The Commission has always been very hesitant in taking action in the field of national minorities and linguistic diversity, because it is a very sensitive issue in some European countries. We are of the opinion that the EU should listen to its inhabitants and we are glad that there is support for the Minority SafePack Initiative all around Europe.
That support also comes from national and regional governments and parliaments that meanwhile adopted declarations and resolutions about the Minority SafePack Initiative. Three weeks ago, for example the German Bundestag unanimously adopted a similar resolution and this week there will be resolutions on vote in the Dutch House of Representatives and in the European Parliament. These resolutions most likely will be adopted with large majorities.
Eleven Frisian parties sponsor resolution
We are very happy that eleven out of the twelve parties in Fryslân sponsor our resolution. That gives the Frisian Parliament the chance today to send a strong united signal, across the political spectrum: "European Union, take Frisian and other smaller languages in Europe into account! Take a look at the proposals of the Minority SafePack Initiative, which are good for our regions and our languages, and adopt them!"
We also ask the Dutch government to stand up for this issue within the EU context. "We call upon the Dutch government and the European Commission to support the European Citizens' Initiative Minority SafePack Initiative within the European context."
Sijbe Knol, FNP
Attje Meekma, CDA
Charda Kuipers, GrienLinks
Bea Bijlsma, D66
Hanneke Goede, SP
Durk Pool, VVD
Edou Hamstra, PvdA
Menno Brouwer, PvdD
Theun Wiersma, 50PLUS
Lieuwe van der Pol, ChristenUnie
Max Aardema, PVV