Minority Rights: A Liberal Contractualist Case
DO WE NEED MINORITY RIGHTS? CONCEPTUAL ISSUES, pp. 59-83, J. Raikka, ed., The Hague/London/Boston: Kluwer Academic Publisher/Kluwer Law International, 1996
32 Pages Posted: 30 Dec 2010
Date Written: 1996
The permanent presence of minorities in Europe raise pressing practical and philosophical challenges concerning the protection of their culture. The scope of questions is broad: there are a wide variety of minorities, cultural expressions and state practices -- and hence a broad range of conflicts and proposed resolutions even within liberal states committed to equal respect for all citizens. Minorities enjoy different ranges of legal claims. Are these differences in legal claims defensible from the point of view of justice? Indigenous peoples and national minorities include the Basque in France, Catalan in Spain, and the Lapps in Finland, Sweden and Norway. They enjoy or claim legal protections aimed at maintaining their own ways of life without being forced into assimilation (ILO Convention 1989; UN Draft Declaration, 1995). Furthermore, these minorities often claim legal powers of self-government over their community and territory. Minorities which entered the established European nation states, on the other hand, seldom enjoy similar protections. These include immigrant groups and their descendants, such as minorities who arrived as temporary 'guest workers', and minority settlers of longer standing such as the Swedes in Finland. Even though movement of labor within the EU is an express goal, migrant workers and their families have more limited legal claims, to effective access to education and cultural life (UN Convention 1990). And immigrants to the EU, both workers and refugees, have weaker claims still. Indeed, the growing migratory pressure to Europe from non-European countries causes concern, particularly when jobs are scarce (Westendorp Reflection Group Report 1995, sec 6, 45). Thus political and philosophical debate surrounding immigrants to the EU has focussed on the policies of admission rather than on the terms of stay, both for immigration (Schengen agreements 1985, 1990) and asylum (Dublin Convention 1990; Barry and Goodin 1992). In that light, refugees' interest in protecting their culture within the receiving country has received less attention.This article seeks to bring liberal contractualism to bear on some of the philosophical issues raised by the claims regarding cultural protection by minorities in Europe. The aim is to explore what our commitment to equal respect entails with regards to legal protection and promotion of minority cultures. Section 1 presents some of the central philosophical and practical challenges facing such a normative theory of cultural rights. Section 2 sketches a liberal contractualist perspective regarding the value of cultural membership within a liberal framework. Section 3 develops some responses to the philosophical issues.
Keywords: minorities, Europe, legal protection, cultural rights, normative theory, philosophy
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