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Collective Cornish Rights

Some interesting developments in the field of collective rights and self-determination.

Firstly this year a conference will be held at the World Social Forum on the subject of collective rights and self-determination.

CIEMEN has invited representatives of 30 stateless nations across the world to participate in the area of Collective Rights of Peoples, which will host debates, talks, conferences, round tables and other activities for three days (January 29, 30 and 31). The area will consist of two big tents with a capacity for 350 and 200 people, a press office and information stands. The activities will focus on topics related to collective rights of peoples: self-determination, minoritised languages and indigenous peoples, land rights, etc.

A blog for activities has been created but so far it's only in Catalan. Still it looks good and the St Pirans gets a spot: Espai pels Drets Col·lectius dels pobles / Forum Social Mundial 2009

Secondly there has been some movement on the subject of national minorities and lesser used languages in the European Parliament. Full details below taken from Eurolang:

MEPs support call for right to education in mother tongue, autonomy, and targeted funding for lesser used languages

Brussel - Bruxelles, Thursday, 15 January 2009 Ecrit par Davyth Hicks

MEPs voted in favour yesterday for a resolution on fundamental rights. The resolution report, drafted by Giusto Catania (GUE/NGL), sets out new standards on a broad range of fundamental rights and contains several pro lesser used language and national minority clauses.

Key clauses, campaigned for by
EBLUL and the NPLD last year, are for a common definition and standards of national minority protection, a call for all member states to ratify the Framework Convention for National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, a right to education in one’s mother tongue, and targeted EU funding for European lesser-used languages.

The Report: “Underlines the importance of protecting and promoting regional or minority languages, noting that the right to speak and to be educated in one's mother tongue is one of the most basic fundamental rights.” It continues that the, “EU’s multilingualism policy should protect and promote regional and minority languages by targeted funding and specific programmes alongside the Lifelong Learning Programme” - both key EBLUL proposals.

Furthermore, it stressed the importance of political autonomy in helping to nurture stateless languages and cultures. It stated that: “the principles of subsidiarity and self-governance are the most effective ways of handling the problems of traditional national minority communities, following the best practices existing within the Union; encourages the use of appropriate types of self-governance solutions (personal-cultural, territorial, regional autonomies)…”. Referring to the successes of Welsh, Basque and Catalan autonomy.

While the resolution has no immediate legislative force, it does become the formal position of the European Parliament and will be instrumental in future legislation should any be brought forward. The Report will also become a useful tool for language campaigners from across Europe.

Eurolang spoke to Hungarian MEP Kinga Gal, the shadow rapporteur who worked hard on the Report and in getting her group, the EPP, to back it.

She said: "I consider it especially important the adequate reference to the situation of minorities in Europe – making a clear distinction between the traditional national minorities and new minorities, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. The report underlines that while the Copenhagen criteria made clear reference to the protection of minorities, in Community law criteria and norms are missing in the field of the protection of traditional national minorities.

Ms Gal continued, "It is a novelty and very important the paragraph which says that the principles of subsidiarity and self-governance are the most effective ways of handling the rights of people belonging to national minorities, following the best practices existing within the Union. The text encourages the use of appropriate types of self-governance solutions - which is again one of the basic claims of the big traditional minority communities, such as the Hungarians".

MEPs voted by 401 votes in favour, 220 against and 67 on the report. The language and national minority clauses passed unamended, suggesting an increasing acceptance of lesser used language and national minority rights by MEPs.

(Eurolang 2009)

Catania Report on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union 2004-2008

What does all this mean for Kernow? Probably not very much in the near future, but they are all moves in the right direction that will have potential positive fallout for the Cornish movement.

Do we as a people have the collective right to immediate and total independence? No, I don't think so. However do we have the right to a public debate and referendum on a new constitutional settlement within the UK estate? I think the petition of 50,000 signatures calling for a Cornish assembly and our hidden Duchy constitution answer that.

Do we have the right to all our schools being totally bilingual in Cornish/English? No and do we really want that? However do we have the right to a devolved curriculum that treats Cornish identity, culture, history and language in an equitable way with appropriate funding? Of course but how are we going get there?

The Stannary Parliaments application to the European Court of Human Rights has been rejected. The government has refused to recognise the Cornish under the FCNM. The Cornish Fighting Fund has missed its target, even if 40K is quite good during a financial meltdown just before Christmas. So what next? Lets hope that the meeting arranged between Cornish activists and the new Equality and Human Rights Commission result in this body continuing the support for Cornish recognition expressed by the Commission for Racial Equality.

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