Eu's Numerous Contradictory Approaches to Minority Protection: Internal-External Paradox and Mutually Exclusive Pre-Accession Standards
43 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2006
Date Written: September 2006
The paper makes a sketch of the available European minority protection standards, discussing the most important of them as well as focusing on the relations between the standards available. While a number of legal instruments potentially able to contribute to the elaboration of an EU minority protection standard are available they are mostly limited to guaranteeing simple non-discrimination, which is not enough to ensure minority protection stricto sensu, as outlined e. g. by the PCIJ in the Albanian Schools case. The lack of any viable internal minority protection standard did not prevent the EU from treating minority protection as one of the key-elements of the pre-accession exercise leading to the fifth enlargement, reinforcing the internal - external competence divide and reducing the effectiveness of minority protection in the EU. Although minority protection was one of the Copenhagen political criteria and thus was at the core of the conditionality principle presupposing a fair assessment of the candidate countries' progress on the merits, the Commission clearly used minority protection in a discriminatory way, tolerating the standard of assimilation in one group of the candidate countries (Latvia, Estonia) and backing cultural autonomy in others. Thus, alongside with the internal toleration or simple denial of minority problems, the Commission simultaneously promoted two contradicting approaches to the issue: de facto assimilation (prohibited by art. 5(2) of the Framework Convention) and cultural autonomy, bringing to life a complicated web of partly overlapping - partly contradicting standards. Out of such practice myriad problems arose. An imminent need to change this approach is obvious.
Keywords: EU law, enlargement, minorities, pre-accession, Copenhagen criteria, Baltic states, Roma, Latvia, Estonia, non-discrimination, group rights, human rights
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