Dynamics of Integration in the OSCE area: National Minorities and Bridge Building

In December 2016 the European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI) published a report on the integration of national minorities in the OSCE area and their bridge-building potential. The project was developed at the request of the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) in response to the priorities set by the 2016 German OSCE Chairmanship.

New challenges to security and stability in some OSCE participating States have inspired the German Chairmanship to choose national minorities as one of its priorities and to look at the positive contributions national minorities have made throughout the entire OSCE area to the countries in which they live, as well as to their kin states. Upon the Chairmanship’s request, the Office of the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) coordinated a project and collaborated with the European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI), the European Academy of Bolzano/Bozen (EURAC) and Associate Professor Nina Bagdasarova, to explore the “bridge-building potential” of national minorities by conducting an OSCE-wide study.

Mixed Zone Event at the MC in Hamburg Enlarge image Mixed Zone Event at the MC in Hamburg (© Auswärtiges Amt)

First recommendations were presented during an event in the margins of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg on 9 December 2016. The Special Representative for the German OSCE Chairmanship, Gernot Erler, took part in this event that included representatives from civil society, academia and media and encouraged participating States to continue working with and perceiving national minorities in a positive and constructive manner:

“There are many examples where national minorities act as bridge-builders within their countries or across borders, thus contributing in a positive way to stability and security in their home region.” Referring in particular to the positive example of the German-Danish agreements on neighbourly relations and the protection and promotion of minorities, Erler underlined that “national minorities can provide links, how they can act as intermediaries who stimulate understanding and contribute to good neighbourly relations. Very often, the bridges built by national minorities provide stimuli to economic growth and cross-border cooperation.”

SR Erler at the Mixed Zone Event on the margins of the Ministerial Council in Hamburg Enlarge image SR Erler at the Mixed Zone Event on the margins of the Ministerial Council in Hamburg (© Auswärtiges Amt)

The report concludes that it would appear that national minorities work in their home communities to help maintain not only cultural heritage and cultural traditions but also to improve infrastructure and services, the environment, and access to education. It argues, therefore, that peaceful and constructive cooperation across participating States’ borders is becoming an integral part of national minority activities, and therefore an important contribution to friendly and good-neighbourly relations and international peace.


On the right you can download the complete report in English and Russian language.

ECMI Background info

The European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI) conducts practice and policy-oriented research, provides information and documentation, and offers advisory services concerning minority-majority relations in Europe. It serves European governments and regional intergovernmental organizations as well as non-dominant groups throughout. The Centre co-operates with the academic community, the media and the general public through the timely provision of information and analysis.

more information on ECMI

ECMI Report

ECMI Report English Version

Here you can download the English language version of the ECMI Report on National Minorities

ECMI Report Russian Version

Here you can download the Russian language version of the ECMI Report on National Minorities.