EU Court Revives Proposed Law for National Minority Areas

(CN) – Europe’s highest court rebuked the bloc’s governing body Thursday for nixing a legislative proposal aimed at bolstering so-called national minority areas.

A man walks by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on Oct. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, File)

Known as a European citizens’ initiative, the proposal here was submitted to the European Commission in 2013 by Balazs-Arpad Izsak of Romania, Attila Dabis of Hungary and five other people.

Contending that European economic integration could threaten the ethnic, cultural, religious or linguistic characteristics of national minority regions, the group says the law must guarantee that these areas have access to funds, resources and programs from the EU cohesion policy.

Before initiative proponents can begin the process of collecting 1 million signatures to reach the EU legislature, however, they must register their effort with the European Commission.

Setting the stage for the court battle in Luxembourg, the commission rejected the initiative at issue for falling outside the legal framework.

Though the European General Court backed the commission in 2016, the First Chamber of the Court of Justice found Thursday that the commission’s decision must be annulled. 

For the commission to refuse to register a proposed initiative in the mannder that it did, the ruling says, the proposal must fall manifestly outside the framework in terms “of its subject matter and objectives … and, where appropriate, additional information that has been provided by the organizers.”

As for the General Court’s finding that the challengers did not show “that the specific ethnic, cultural, religious or linguistic characteristics of national minority regions could be regarded as a severe and permanent demographic handicap,” Thursday’s ruling says such reasoning was erroneous.

“Where the commission receives an application for registration of a proposed ECI, it is not for it to ascertain, at that stage, that proof has been provided of all the factual elements relied on, or that the reasoning behind the proposed ECI and the proposed measures is adequate,” the ruling states. It must confine itself to examining, for the purpose of assessing whether the condition of registration in Article 4(2)(b) of Regulation No 211/2011 is satisfied, whether from an objective point of view such measures envisaged in the abstract could be adopted on the basis of the treaties.

“It follows that, by considering that the appellants were required to demonstrate that the conditions for the adoption of the proposed act … were met in the present case, the General Court … made an incorrect assessment of the condition of registration.”

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