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The Eastern Partnership holds hopes for minorities and indigenous peoples but must show stronger political commitment to the implementation of reforms

16 June 2014

Minority and indigenous rights should be a more distinctive part of the development of closer ties between the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries in coming years, says Minority Rights Group Europe (MRG) in its new report launched today at the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum in Brussels.

The human rights organization’s landmark report Partnership for all? Measuring the impact of Eastern Partnership on minorities explains the opportunities that the Eastern Partnership holds for minorities and indigenous peoples and why the current process does not fully benefit them. There is a need for stronger political commitment from both the EU and the Eastern Partnership governments to the implementation of reforms regarding minority and indigenous communities, says MRG.

‘The rights of minorities and indigenous peoples are key to ensuring that dialogue replaces conflict in the region,’ says Mark Lattimer, Executive Director of Minority Rights Group International. ‘And marginalized communities should be able to participate themselves in the Eastern Partnership process. Such involvement is necessary to guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.’

The Eastern Partnership programme, encompassing Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, was launched in 2009 to enable these countries to achieve association status through political reform processes, economic cooperation including free trade and visa liberalization.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union and independence, the emergence of the new countries was based on a nation-state concept. Citizens of a once indivisible country were suddenly split into “natives” and “outsiders”. The latter were often not guaranteed basic rights and citizenship. Many thus became undocumented migrants, displaced and refugees, leaving their homes due to the threat of violence and armed conflict, or because of severe discrimination.

Minority and indigenous rights are mainstreamed in the main policy documents (Action Plans, Visa Liberalization Action Plans, Country Progress Reports), but these often lack concrete benchmarks or timelines for their implementation, says MRG. Armenia for example aims to ensure access to education for minorities in their native languages within the secondary education system, but there are no mechanisms for measuring progress. In the Action Plans, the same steps have continued to be proposed since 2009.

Financial support is inherently limited for minorities and indigenous peoples due to a flawed planning process. The European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, for example, does not systematically address minority or indigenous concerns when it comes to sector development such as health or education. Minority and indigenous peoples’ organizations, in particular smaller ones, may not be able to secure grants through the Civil Society Facility and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, due to a lack of information, experience or capacity to manage larger amounts of funding.

‘There are challenges to overcome as well as several opportunities the EU can offer for the region,’ says Irene Fedorovych, the Programme Coordinator of Social Action Center in Ukraine. ‘Especially the younger generations have positive attitudes towards a closer engagement with the EU. There is a belief that the EU should not only engage in the monitoring of minority and indigenous rights, but also support the governments and the civil society in the implementation of concrete steps to put rights into practice.’

Launch event

Venue: EuropeAid Info point, 43/45 rue de la Loi, 1040 Bruxelles

Time: 12.30-1.30 pm, 16 June 2014


  • Jean-Louis Ville, Head of Unit, European Commission, DEVCO, Governance, Democracy, Gender, Human Rights
  • Mark Lattimer, Executive Director, Minority Rights Group International
  • Irene Fedorovych, Programme Coordinator, Social Action Center, Ukraine

For more information or to arrange interviews please contact target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>the MRG Press Office.