Tove H. Malloy

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Minority Issues in Europe: Rights, Concepts, Policy

The period from the Peace of Augsburg (1555) to the second Lisbon Treaty (in force 2009), represents essentially four minority discourses aimed at governing minority issues. The first and most powerful, the security discourse, formed during the Reformation around the need to protect the freedom of religion of minority groups living in homelands governed by a different religious creed. Later in Europe’s history, the security discourse expanded to include national and ethnic minorities, and it remains a vital part of European intergovernmental politics around the Helsinki Process, especially in areas where so-called ‘frozen’ conflicts have stalled the possibility to protect minorities. Early on these issues were governed by inter-state treaties and later by the League of Nations; today, they are monitored mainly by the dialogue mandate of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The second discourse, the justice discourse, emerged as a result of the atrocities committed against minorities during World War II, and formed first around the United Nations (UN) system’s peace mandate in the immediate aftermath of the War, and later around the Council of Europe’s democratization mandate. The justice discourse regulates the human rights domain, and minority rights have ironically by default also become part of this discourse – by default because initially minority rights were not included in the UN system. The third discourse, the cohesion discourse formed around the European Economic Community, now the European Union (EU), in the 1980s, when the Single Act (1986) laid the foundation for greater cohesion among member states, and thus eventually for the cohesion of the European Continent, with the number of member states growing after the opening up of the Soviet bloc. This discourse has regulated minority protection through two main instruments: the conditionality track for new members of the EU and the social inclusion track for all member states. Finally, the fourth discourse, the European citizenship discourse, emerged during the drafting of the Maastricht Treaty (adopted 1991) and the conceptualization of the EU transition from being mainly an economic integration project to becoming a political project. This discourse has grappled with seminal issues, such as a common European identity in light of the EU’s so-called ‘democratic deficit.’ The European citizenship discourse incorporates mainly two strands of articulations with regard to minorities: One is on dual/multiple and transnational citizenship and the other on active citizenship and participation. While these discourses have different starting points, they exist today in parallel as well as overlapping within the field of minority issues.

Read more about this in a new edited volume, Minority Issues in Europe: Rights, Concepts, Policy (Frank & Timme, 2013). See also,



An ECPR standing group

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