EU Court Blocks Romanian Bid to Stop Minority Protection Initiative

(CN) – Wading a second time into a fight over a citizen’s initiative to protect national and linguistic minorities and their cultural heritages, the EU’s general court ruled Tuesday that the European Commission had the authority to register the initiative and gave sufficient reasons for doing so.

Sibiu, Romania.

Tuesday’s ruling by the European General Court – which was not made available in English by press time – comes more than six years after a group of citizens submitted the “Minority SafePack–One Million Signatures for Diversity in Europe” initiative to the commission.

Under EU law, citizens have a shot at direct democracy through the European Citizens’ Initiative to ask the commission to propose legislation of interest to them. Once the commission has registered the initiative, organizers have a year to collect no fewer than 1 million signatures of citizens from at least a quarter of the EU’s 28 member states. If the signature drive succeeds, the commission then either proposes the law to EU lawmakers or rejects the petition – giving reasons for its decision in any event.

The commission initially rejected the Minority SafePack – a package of proposed laws aimed at protecting national minorities, their cultures and their languages – as falling outside its authority. In 2017, the European General Court found the commission hadn’t offered concrete enough reasons for rejecting the initiative, leading the commission to register 9 of the 11 aims sought in the original initiative for signature-gathering.

Minority SafePack organizers gathered over 1.1 million signatures of support, but in the meantime Romania sued to block the initiative from going forward. The country – which saw a whopping 255,000 people sign the petition – said the commission lacked the authority to propose the laws requested in the initiative and gave insufficient reasons for registering it.

The EU’s second highest court dismissed Romania’s action, finding the initiative’s legal proposals as ultimately registered by the commission fall within the commission’s authority, since ensuring the rights of Europe’s 50 million people belonging to a national minority or minority language community is an EU value and objective.

The Luxembourg-based court also found the commission’s reasons for registering the initiative – encouraging citizen participation in democracy and making the EU more accessible – were sufficient and adequately explained.

Romania has two months to lodge an appeal on points of law only with the European Court of Justice.

Initiative organizers are currently waiting for national authorities to submit certification of the final number of valid signatures to the commission. After that, the commission has three months to organize a public hearing in the European Parliament and state its position on the initiative.

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