Diversity in representation and political participation

Diversity in EU law has also recently included promotion of diversity in the realm of political participation. The CFR recognises political rights in the traditional human rights formulae: thus, there are the rights to free expression, assembly and association (Articles 11 and 12 CFR). The right to express one's views, to freely assemble and associate as groups is of course vital to the collective element of minority groups. Furthermore, there are additional EU legal provisions which specifically provide a right for regional and local authorities and regimes to participate in EU level decision-making. This will encompass those regimes and authorities representing minority groups.

Under Article 4(2) TEU, the Union is to respect the national identities of its member states, including regional and local self-government.

A number of provisions lay out the framework designed to fulfil this obligation. Article 5 TEU and Article 5 of the Protocol on subsidiarity and proportionality (Protocol 2) require that the EU shall not act if regional or local bodies can act. Under Article 2 of the subsidiarity Protocol, the Commission will consult regional and local dimensions of any envisaged action, if appropriate.

The role given to regional and local authorities and associations is supported by Article 11 TEU, under which the EU is to maintain a dialogue with representative associations and citizens. These are thus given direct involvement in all areas of EU action. Likewise, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions are given a general advisory role under Article 13(4) TEU and Article 300(1) TFEU. Significantly, the former body is to consist of, inter alia, representatives from cultural areas (Article 300(2) TFEU). The Committee of Regions is to consist of representatives of regional and local bodies (Article 300(3) TFEU). In addition, under Article 12 TEU, national parliaments are given responsibility to ensure that the principle of subsidiarity is complied with. Where national parliaments are in support of regional and local territories, this can play in the favour of the latter. In addition, under Article 8 of the subsidiarity protocol, the CJEU is given jurisdiction in actions brought on grounds of infringement of the principle of subsidiarity by a legislative act.

The above opportunities for enhanced local representation are important, but are also limited in their reach to minority groups. There are currently no legal rights for enhanced or special participation in political systems specifically for minorities. Enhanced representation for minorities in decisions that affect them is also not recognised by the CFR. Thus, minorities receive these political rights in the same way as any member of the EU population.

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