A regular congress of the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN) (1) will convene on May 16-20, and, for the first time in the organization’s history, the event is going to be held in Russia. FUEN was founded in 1949, the same year as the Council of Europe, in the framework of an announced integrated human rights policy. Currently, FUEN boasts a membership comprising 86 ethnic minorities from 32 European and post-Soviet countries, extensively coordinates activities with EU parliamentarians, and works closely with the Project on Ethnic Relations which is patronized by the US Department of State (2)…
Nominally independent, FUEN is known to receive generous financial infusions from the German police ministry which in fact picks representatives for the group’s annual congresses. Money is also poured into FUEN by the Düsseldorf-based Nirmann Foundation Charitable Trust. The FUEN headquarters being sited in Flensburg, Germany, the circumstances combined earned it the reputation of Germany’s thinly veiled political venture.
FUEN takes every opportunity to stress its opposition to separatism or any plans to change existing national borders by force, and cautiously avoids potentially compromising contacts with radicals. Nevertheless, the stated objective of FUEN is complete emancipation of ethnic communities in line with the policy of greater independence of European regions. It is a highlight of the FUEN record that it was instrumental in drafting the key documents which defined Europe’s ethnic «new order» – the 1992 European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the 1994 Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
These days — as pressure mounts on national statehood and sovereignty while attempts multiply to erase the concept of a political nation from the vocabulary of contemporary policy — ethnicity and, accordingly, minority rights advocacy emerge as the alternatives supposed to fill in the niche. Berlin, in particular, exercises the approach as a part of the Regionalization of Europe strategy which can be traced back to the view expressed by a XIX century German politician who called for extracting ethnic groups from existing statehood configurations with an eye to future combinations (3). Germany is generally considered to be a monoethnic country and therefore faces no risks to its territorial integrity in this connection, but there is little doubt that the doctrine serves to undermine scores of other countries.
FUEN counts among its members fairly large ethnic communities which sustain their own statehoods but, in part, reside as minorities in other countries, along with extremely small ethnic groups with no history of independent statehood. Despite the heterogeneity, FUEN suggests that, while stressing their right to otherness and distinct traits, its members uphold a unified set of demands, and ignores completely the obvious fact that some of the minorities are unprepared to embrace autonomy in any form. This alone should make it clear that FUEN is pursuing some sort of a hidden political agenda. FUEN demands are expressed in its increasingly pushy resolutions which are submitted on an annual basis to the EU and the Council of Europe.
FUEN is propped up by an extensive network of affiliated organizations, one of them being the European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI) founded by the German and Dutch governments in 1966. It is worth noting that Stefan Troebst, a Bundeswehr school professor and an expert on fascism in the Balkan region, used to be the ECMI director in 1996-2000. In a public address, German president Roman Herzog described Troebst as a heir to the legacy of Gustav Weigand, a German linguist whose inquiries into ethnology were cited by the Nazi as an ideological foundation for the policy of partitioning the Balkans (4). Predictably, the main ECMI contribution to building “the Europe of the Regions” was the group’s input during the carving up of Yugoslavia.
The statuses of ethnic minorities in Russia and Ukraine came into sharp FUEN focus since the two countries signed into the Council of Europe. Importantly, the ECMI interest is not limited to minorities like the Kabarday, the Ingush, or the Crimean Tatars whose organizations hold FUEN memberships, delegate representatives to the organization’s congresses, and supply to the forums information which eventually surfaces in the Council of Europe resolutions (in 2005, for example, FUEN campaigned vigorously against alleged violations of the rights of the Mari people (5)). According to its president Hans Heinrich Hansen who criticized Russia over its ethnic policies and urged Moscow to take stronger measures to address minority problems, FUEN intends to be the defender of all minorities in Russia (6).
The plans for the upcoming FUEN congress in Russia extend beyond the traditional program built around minority rights. A relatively new mission on the forum agenda is to promote in Russia the so-called civil initiative which is the top transnational instrument of direct democracy prescribed by the Lisbon Treaty. According to its provision which entered into force on April 1, 2012, the initiative enables one million EU citizens, who are nationals of at least one quarter of the Member States, to call directly on the European Commission to propose legal acts. Legal processes are thus partially crowd-sourced to constituencies, and FUEN hopes to employ the mechanism in the interests of minorities at the European level (7). The question arising naturally, though, is why the civil initiative issue has to be discussed in Russia which is not a EU country and has nothing to do with the Lisbon Treaty.
It should be taken into account that FUEN is trying to get a foothold in Russia at the time when the country is, in addition to the bouquet of Caucasian separatisms, confronted with the rising Tatar nationalism. At the moment, Radicals in Tatarstan evidently hope to benefit from the recent dismissal of the province’s police chief who, reportedly, was quite successful at reigning in Tatar nationalism. Experts warn that a new tide of it is rising across the region (8) as nationalist events, mostly staged by the Azatlyk youth organization, are becoming a customary part of the political scene in Tatarstan. Azatlyk announced that its next rally – a celebration of the declaration of Jihad against Russia – would take place on May 15, that is, on the eve of the opening in Moscow of the FUEN congress (9). Given the context, it mat be unsound to view the debates at the gathering as purely theoretical.
1. The organization is referred to in French as the Federalist Union of Europe’s ethnic communities
2. L’UFCE, ou l’Europe des régions ethniques // La lettrе voléе. Vendredi 09 juin 2006 //www.lalettrevolee. net /article-2966545-6.html
3. Hillard P. Requiem allemand sur l’Europe //www.strategicsinternational.com/f4hillard.htm