The Intergroup featured substantial presentations from large delegations representing Slovenes from northeastern Italy, on the initiative of Mr Peterle MEP (EPP), and the Danish national minority from northern Germany.
The Slovenes delegation featured Mr. Damijan Terpin, Regional Secretary of Slovene minority party Slovenska Skupnost, Tomaž Špacapan, Zgonik town councillor and member of the youth party ‘Mladi za Mlade’, and Vida Forčič, Matija Mozenič and Barbera Ferluga discussing the school situation. The Danish-German delegation comprised Mr Flemming Meyer chairman of Sydslesvigsk Vælgerforening (SSW) and MP in the Schleswig Holstein Landtag, Mr Olaf Runz from the Danish school association Dansk Skoleforening, Mr Jens Christiansen from the culture NGO Sydslesvigsk Forening, Mr Udo Jessen (Skoleforening Vice-Chair), and Mr Jan Diedrichsen from the national minority organisation FUEN.
Mr Terpin outlined the work of the Slovenska Skupnost party in representing the 80,000 Slovenes in the north east and the difficulties in having existing minority laws implemented despite agreements made with the Italian state dating from 1954. Mr Špacapan presented the huge amount of work done in detailing the absence of bilingual signage at important road junctions in the Trieste area. Ms Vida Forčič, Matija Mozenič and Barbera Ferluga illustrated the sharp decline in the number of Slovene schools in the region, the lack of funding for teachers, maintaining school building, and for teaching materials. This despite agreements with Italy for continued support.
Intergroup Co-Chair Kinga Gál welcomed the presentation and the presence and commitment of the young delegation. Mr Terpin added that Italy had still not ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Language or the Framework Convention for National Minorities, the two Council of Europe benchmark treaties for national minority protection.
Mr Meyer opened for the Danish German delegation describing the current situation in the Schleswig region where government cuts to education have been unfairly distributed with the Danish schools having to make the biggest reductions. The Danish schools will now only receive 85% of what the German schools have amounting to a 15%, 7.4 million euro, cut overall leading to job losses and school closures. He highlighted how this “unravels years of positive minority policy” and amounts to the “abandonment of the principle of equal treatment.”
“Danish minority children were expected to take a majority of the cuts”, said Mr Runz, adding that while the German Federal Government had donated 3.5 million euro “it was only a sticking plaster on the problem.” Mr Christiansen commented that the matter has now become one affecting bilateral relations between Germany and Denmark and undermined the claim that Schleswig Holstein’s minority policy was an example of best practice.
Mr Jan Diedrichsen argued that the funding cuts would never have happened 20 or 30 years ago and how there was a risk of losing a successful minority policy that took 50 years to create. He emphasised that the Schleswig-Holstein Government must think twice before continuing with the cuts.
MEPs strongly supported the comments made by both delegations and considered further actions. Francois Alfonsi (EFA/Greens) pointed out that the “EU has obligations on cultural diversity, things need to be done or it will be very bleak for the future”, he said. Mr Dorfmann (EPP) pointed to the proposed reintroduction of border controls in Europe and how this disproportionately affected cross-border national minorities.