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Print documentpovečaj pisavozmanjšaj pisavo

Political participation of national minorities and persons belonging to them: comparative study of political participation of slovene communities in the neighboring countries of the republic of Slovenia


Project leader: prof. dr. Mitja Žagar
No. Application: 
ARRS-RPROJ-JR-PRIJAVA/2020/844
Applicant - Research organisation:  Inštitut za narodnostna vprašanja (INV)/ Institute for Ethnic Studies (IES)
Partner institutions: Univerza v Ljubljani, Fakulteta za družbene vede (FDV UL) /University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences (FSS), Slovenski razi, skovalni inštitut, Trst (SLORI) /Slovene Research Institute Slovenski znanstveni inštitut, Celovec (SZI)/Slovene Scientific Institute
Researchers: dr. Danijel Grafenauer (IES/INV), dr. Boris Jesih (IES/INV), prof. dr. Matjaž Klemenčič (IES/INV), dr. Barbara Riman (IES/INV), izr. prof. dr. Boštjan Udovič (FSS/FDV UL), dr. Zaira Vidau (SLORI), Milan Obid (SZI)
Duration of the project: October 2021 – September 2024



PRESENTATION OF THE PROJECT:
Keywords:
political participation, minority, national minority, special rights of national minorities and persons belonging to them, political participation of minorities, social participation, Slovene minorities (Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy), special representation, minority autonomy 


Summary:

Political participation is a right that also pertains to national minorities and persons belonging to them (Baron 1985; Macartney 1934; Petrič 1977). The importance of political participation for the inclusion and integration of minorities and their members, for diversity management, for social participation and minority autonomy (Žagar 2006/7 & 2017), for multiculturalism, multicultural and intercultural policies (Bašić et al 2018), and for the processes of inclusive and open public dialogue and democracy (Brousek et al 2020; Žagar 2018) is empasized. Van Deth and Theocharis (2018) define political participation as activities by citizens aimed at influencing political decisions and social and economic processes. The share of participants, the procedures, the scope, the areas and the nature of political participation are criteria for evaluating the quality of democracy.

Political participation of national minorities and their members is supposed to ensure their full and equal inclusion and integration into society and prevent their subordinate and/or marginalised position. Persons belonging to national minorites are both citizens of the country in which they reside and members of a minority community with specific needs and interests. How to regulate their participation to prevent their discrimination? Like any other community, minorities are internally plural and diverse. The concept and system of political participation in a democracy that recognises the existence of minorities and enforces their rights and protection should enable persons belonging to minorities to express their ethnicity as well as their ideological and political affiliation.

The project focuses on the political participation of Slovene minorities in the neighbouring countries, their political activity and organisation, election processes, and activities of elected political representatives at all levels (e.g. local government; regional authorities; national level) since the 1970s (the Helsinki process of CSCE/OSCE) and particularly since Slovenia’s independence, considering the specific developments and circumstances. The project explores electoral laws and systems, the legal and political frameworks, and the regulation and implementation of political participation of Slovene minorities in Austria, Croatia, Italy and Hungary, in particular the activities of elected and/or appointed members of these minorities in the executive and legislative branches of government.

Additionally, we will explore forms of minority self-government and autonomy in individual countries, their participation in various consultative bodies at all levels, and the functioning of their civil society organisations involved in political processes. Persons belonging to those minorities are politically active in minority political parties or in parties of the majority population. At the local and regional levels, they also organise within electoral lists. All these methods  enable the election of minority representatives to governmental and/or consultative institutions at various levels.

The aim of the comparative analysis of political participation of Slovene minorities in the neighbouring countries is to determine how effective the various forms and methods are for asserting the needs and interests of minorities and their members and to what extent they ensure their inclusion, integration, and equality.

The interdisciplinary and inter-institutional project, designed as a series of case and comparative studies, builds on methodological pluralism and combines various disciplinary, multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary approaches and methodologies (della Porta & Keating 2008), including the analysis of literature, sources, media and internet publications, archives, empirical field research, observation, visits to key organisations, institutions and individuals, talks and (semi-structured) interviews, panel discussions, etc. 

Detailed presentation:
1.  Scientific background, problem identification and objective of the proposed research
Contemporary societies are complex, structured, asymmetric, plural, and internally diverse. The ethnic dimension is one of the key facets of societal plurality and diversity; its expression in the countries formed as (one)nation states of titular nations is the presence of national and other ethnic minorities. Ethnic plurality and population diversity in individual environments and the existence of national and other ethnic minorities (as specific minority communities) are the result of historical and current migrations and mobility of people, and/or a specific historical, political, and administrative development (Žagar 1994). Simultaneously with the development of democracy in Europe and globally minority rights and protection evolved, in specific historical circumstances especially rights and protection of national minorities and persons belonging to them. Important milestones in this development are the two world wars. After WW II, the basic concepts of protection, standards, and (special) rights of ethnic minorities and persons belonging to them, as defined by Capotorti (1991, 98), emerged within the development of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the international community, in international (multilateral/bilateral) political and legal documents, and within legal systems of individual countries (Žagar et al. 1998). Along with global efforts and the role of the United Nations (Capotorti 1991), the development of minority protection and of the rights of persons belonging to national minorities in Europe was determined by (political) efforts of the Conference (CSCE)/Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and by the Council of Europe (CoE) in legal regulation and codification (Thornberry et al 2004). In studying minority protection and rights in individual countries, however, one needs to consider also a gap between normative and actual, the implementation of legal provisions and standards.
 
The political participation of national minorities and persons belonging to them is their fundamental (minority) right (Macartney 1934; Malloy 2005; Petrič 1977). Lately, its importance is emphasized for the inclusion and integration of minorities and their members, for diversity management, for the social participation and autonomy of minorities (Žagar 2006/7 & 2017), for multiculturalism, multicultural and intercultural policies (Bašić at al 2018), and for processes of inclusive and open public dialogue and democracy (Brousek et al. 2020; Žagar 2018)
 
Political participation is the foundation of (political) democracy. Van Deth and Theocharis (2018) define political participation as activities by citizens aimed at influencing political decisions and social and economic processes. The share of participants, procedures, scope, areas and nature of political participation are yardsticks for evaluating the level and quality of democracy in a specific environment (Verba et al 1972) that as one of the Copenhagen criteria include also the position, inclusion, protection, and rights of ethnic and other minorities and their members (Žagar 2017 & 2020).
 
Although in contemporary societies persons belonging to national minorities represent only a small segment of the population, ethnic and cultural diversity, their social, economic and political position, status, inclusion, integration, and participation are important for a successful diversity management and long-term stability and peace. Therefore, researchers are interested in systematic studying of those topics, including their political participation. Generally, they are of interest also to neighbouring countries, which as kin nations consider and/or proclaim themselves as the (external) guardians of “their minorities” in the neighbouring countries and thus influence the bilateral relations between countries. to “maintain concern for the autochthonous Slovene national minorities in neighbouring countries and for Slovene emigrants and workers abroad and foster their contacts with the homeland” (paragraph one of Article 5) and thereby establishes Slovenia’s responsibility and concern for Slovene minority communities and their minority rights, including their political and civic participation in the countries where they live.
 
Political participation of national minorities and persons belonging to them is supposed to ensure their full and equal inclusion and integration into society and prevent their subordinate and/or marginalised position. Members of minorities are both citizens of the country in which they reside and members of a minority community with specific needs and interests (Delanty et al. 2006). To prevent discrimination in regulating their participation, democracies should recognize that like any other community, national and other minorities are internally plural and diverse and their members should be enabled to express their ethnicity as well as their ideological and political affiliation (Žagar, 2017 & 2018).

The specific circumstances and situation of minorities make their equal and full inclusion into the political, economic, and social life of the country where they live more difficult. They seek various possibilities for (integrative) participation, pursuit of their interests, and autonomy (Pan et al 2000) and strive for agreement, equal cooperation and for inclusive and cooperative minority policies. Formal political equality, which includes the political participation of minorities, possibly direct representation in the national parliament, does not yet guarantee the effective inclusion, integration, equality, and participation of minorities and persons belonging to them. Outstanding minority issues, discrimination, and the non-dominant position of minorities, together with unresolved social conflicts with ethnic dimensions, could undermine social stability and democracy in ethnically plural and diverse settings (Jesih 2010), which also applies to the studied countries.
 
The internal civic and political organisation of a minority community, the structure and activities of its minority institutions are, in addition to the size (number), share in the (local) population, settlement area and specifics, factors influencing the life, development, and political participation of such minorities and their members. Minority political participation is a set of approaches, procedures, techniques, methods, and activities enabling the members of a minority community to participate, either directly or indirectly, through their elected and/or appointed representatives in government and consultative bodies, in the political and decision-making processes in a given environment, influence the decisions taken, and thus assert their needs, interests, and human rights and freedoms, including special minority rights. As a formal and actual framework, form, manner and process, the political participation of minorities and their members is a tool for their overall inclusion, integration, and cooperation.
 
The project focuses on the political participation of Slovene minorities and their members in the neighbouring countries, their political activity and organisation, election processes, and activities of elected and/or appointed political representatives at all levels (local government; regional/provincial authorities; national level) since the 1970s (the Helsinki process, CSCE/OSCE) and, particularly, since Slovenia’s independence. With due consideration of the specific developments and circumstances in each country, electoral laws and systems, the legal and political frameworks, and the regulation and implementation of political participation of Slovene minorities in Austria, Croatia, Italy and Hungary are analyzed and compared.
 
In addition to the participation in the executive and legislative branches of government, forms of minority self-government and autonomy in respective countries, participation of persons belonging to minorities in various consultative bodies at all levels, and the functioning of civil society organisations of minority communities involved in political processes will be explored. Members of minorities are politically active in the (mainstream) parties of the majority population and/or minority political parties, while at the local and regional levels they also organise within electoral lists, which enables the election of minority representatives at various levels.
 
The research results and findings of country case studies on the normative regulation and actual situation of the political and civic participation of national minorities and persons belonging to them will be analyzed and compared within the comparative study, considering the international standards and the situation in Slovenia.
 
A theoretical model developed as a tool for comparative research and evaluation of social inclusion, integration, and participation of ethnic minorities and persons belonging to them (Žagar 2017) is used to study the complex topic of political participation of Slovene minorities in neighbouring countries. The segments of the model that are relevant for individual countries will be used in case studies.
 
(Theoretical) model of civic and political participation of (ethnic) minorities and their members:

I.  
General approaches to political participation of (national) minorities:
a. Formal participation: constitutionally and legally determined and guaranteed direct and indirect participation, including representation in legislative and executive branches of government at different levels and in public administration; formal basis and existence of consultative bodies and mechanisms.
b. Informal participation: informal inclusion (usually based on specific policies, agreements and decisions) in political processes and decision making; lobbying.
c. Political parties, movements, organisations and associations: (i) Inclusion in mainstream political parties; (ii) Minority political parties; (iii) Other forms of social and political associations and organisations; (iv) Organised actions and movements.
d. (Neo)Corporatist approaches, arrangements, bodies, processes and mechanisms (mostly in form of consultations and consultative bodies involving relevant social and political actors, including trade unions that can influence decision-making).
e. Consociative arrangements: elite power-sharing arrangements and systems, possibly legally regulated and/or informal.
f.   Basic principles: human rights and democracy, equal rights, equality and justice, non-discrimination, limited majority rule, special rights and protection of minorities, inclusion and integration (policies).
g.  Specific systems and mechanisms of minority protection (at all levels), based upon the special rights of minorities.
 
II.    Concepts, types and mechanisms of political participation of (national) minorities:
a.       Elections and electoral systems:
           i.      Reserved minority seats – direct representation of minorities in legislative and representative bodies at different levels, usually representatives elected from special minority lists or in special minority electoral districts (possible also in the first-past-the-post systems).
            ii.      Special minority thresholds, possibly special quotas that ensure over-proportional representation of minorities.
            iii.      Minimal quotas of minority representatives (possibly with the provision that they should be placed on the posts that allow for their election) on the lists of mainstream parties.
             iv.      No formal special minority thresholds and quotas for the participation of minorities, but informal political agreement(s) or declaration(s) of (at least) some mainstream political parties that they will include a certain number or share of minority candidates on their electoral tickets/lists.
b.      Political processes and parties:
            i.      Inclusion and participation of minority politicians and representatives in mainstream political parties, determined by their statutes/constitutions, programmes or by specific arrangements or policies; in some cases, internal rules establish (minimal) quotas for national and other (gender, class, etc.) minorities.
             ii.      Inter-party cooperation and consensus building on minority (related) issues.
             iii.      Minority political parties and their participation in political life and processes, including elections.
c.       Special procedures of decision making, including minority veto and obligatory or consultative opinions of minority institutions, organisations and/or representatives or joint consultative bodies, preferably determined and regulated by law to ensure the necessary stability or, at least, by political agreements.
d.      Inclusion of minority representatives and elites in policy formulation and decision-making through various (Neo)Corporatist and Consociative arrangements and/or (formal and informal) bodies and institutions at all levels of government (from local to national), in different environments and in different contexts.
e.       Affirmative action and other affirmative measures to promote inclusion and integration of minorities and persons belonging to them (sometimes described as actions and policies of “positive discrimination”).
f.        At least proportional, if possible over-proportional employment (quotas) of persons belonging to minorities in the public and private sectors, particularly among public/civil servants in state administration and public institutions.
g.       Monitoring of the situation, position and status of minorities and persons belonging to them; internal and external mechanisms.
h.      Autonomies – minority autonomy, particularly as diverse arrangements of self-rule and management at different levels (from local to national):
             i.      Formal and informal autonomies:
1.       Normative foundations and framework: (a) Constitutional; (b) Legal; (c) Political; (d) Social consensus, usually informal (civic society, self-governing, etc. à fields, such as culture, sports, etc.).
2.       Extent and borders/limits of autonomy (geographic, functional).
3.       Content of autonomy (fields, powers, institutions, etc.).
             ii.      Territorial: (1) Federalism (constitutional); (2) Regionalism (constitutional/legal).
             iii.     Non-territorial autonomies: (1) Functional and personal autonomies (legal and/or political, possibly based upon (formal or informal) social consensus); (2) Cultural autonomy (legal and/or political). (Žagar 2017, 16-18).
 
The aims of the project, its case studies, and comparative analysis are to investigate the historical development and specific situation in each country, the forms, ways and types of political participation of Slovene minorities and persons belonging to them that exist in each country as well as their legal regulation, how effective the various forms and ways of minority (political) participation are in meeting their needs and interests, and to what extent they provide for their inclusion, integration, and equality. In this context, the gap between normative and actual implementation in the respective countries will be explored. The case studies will serve as a basis for the comparative study. The research project, its results and findings will be presented to the scientific and general public, as indicated in the work package on dissemination (WP8) below.
 
We note that despite the relevance and topicality of the research theme, there has yet been no systematic and comprehensive research on the political participation of ethnic minorities and their members in this part of Europe.
 
2.  State-of-the-art in the proposed field of research and survey of the relevant literature

There are several publications on political participation in general and its role in democratic societies, including monographs (e.g. Theocharis et al. 2018), but not as many studies and publications on the political participation of ethnic minorities and persons belonging to them. Among recent publications dealing with the participation of minorities we list the special issue of the journal Razprave in gradivo/Treatises and Documents (78, 2017) on the situation in Central Europe includes and the studies on the situation in Slovenia and the participation of Slovene minorities in neighbouring countries (e.g. Brezigar et al 2018; Jesih 1985; Wutti 2017; Žagar 2005; etc.). The topicality and relevance of political participation of (ethnic) minorities in Europe is confirmed by case studies of Belgium (Wauters et al 2011), Central European countries (Lantschner 2009), Germany (Street 2014), the Netherlands (Zwan et al. 2018), and the successor states of the former Yugoslavia (Bieber 2008; Kirbiš et al. 2012), as well as by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.1  
 
Among the publications by project team members, it is worth mentioning, in addition to those already stated, the monographs by Zaira Vidau (2015) on the management of linguistic diversity in public administration in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Boris Jesih (2010) on the political participation of Carinthian Slovenes, Matjaž and Vladimir Klemenčič (2006, 2008 & 2010) on Carinthian Slovenes in the Second Austrian Republic, and Matjaž Klemenčič's article (2018) on the “rotten compromise” of 2011, which also deals with political participation at the local and regional level.
 
For the historical overview of political participation of the Slovene minority in Austria relevant publications are the monograph of Dušan Nećak (1982) and the publication Kärnten Dokumentation (Apovnik et al. 1992) that discusses possibilities of autonomous representation of Carinthian Slovenes in public law. The regulation and implementation of political participation of national minorities and their members, which, in addition to participation in political decision-making, should enable the expression of ethnic and minority affiliation and of the internal plurality and diversity of minorities at all levels – from municipal to state (Stainer-Hämmerle et al. 2012) – are essential for their full and equal inclusion and integration (Žagar 2017). Pelinka (2020) considers the Austrian political system as a system, in which political minorities decide “on behalf of [national/ethnic] minorities”, whereby other minorities, such as the Slovene minority in Carinthia, are excluded. In a democracy, political decision-making should be based on the equal inclusion and participation of all – individuals and groups, including national/ethnic and other minorities who aim for a broad consensus. Therefore, the ruling regimes and coalitions should also include representatives of minorities in democratic structures and processes.
 
Especially since the mid-1970s, Slovenes in Austria have been active in political life at all levels. Hence, a considerable number of Slovenes were elected mayors and municipal councillors in the bilingual areas of ​​Carinthia – mostly on the lists of majority parties. Although there are no mechanisms to ensure the election of representatives of the Slovene minority, Slovenes were elected to the Carinthian Provincial Assembly and the Austrian Federal Parliament (Klemenčič et al. 2010; Jesih 2010). In the 2009 elections (Hren 2009), for example, Franc-Jožef Smrtnik was elected as the first mayor of the Unity List (EL – Enotna lista/Einheitsliste), a party that describes itself as a party of open worldviews gathering the Slovene national community that, as a regional party of South Carinthia, is also open to members of the majority nation who support the EL programme and focuses on language, regional, and neighbourhood policies. Smrtnik was re-elected in 2015, while the EL candidate Bernard Sadovnik, president of the Community of Carinthian Slovenes (SKS, one of the three umbrella organisations of Carinthian Slovenes) was elected mayor of Globasnica/Globasnitz. Other successful examples of minority representation include the Straja vas/Hohenthurn electoral community in the Gail Valley (Janko Zwitter, Daniel Mešnik, etc.) and Team Kramer in Dobrla vas/Eberndorf (Štefan Kramer), and the elections to municipal councils (e.g. Info by EL List). Occasionally, the protagonists of the majority parties unite only to prevent the election of Slovene candidates. The project will analyse the election of Slovenes from the minority to government institutions and positions at all levels, their appointment to consultative bodies, and the work and results of elected/appointed representatives/officials.
 
The Slovene minority in Croatia is highly educated and the oldest minority in the country in terms of age of its members. Members of the minority live in areas where the risks of poverty are low, but our research to date has shown that they are politically inactive and apolitical (Riman et al. 2020). Data show that the number of Slovenes in Croatia is declining: right after the breakup of SFRY owing to emigration to Slovenia, and currently mainly due to demographic and natural factors (low birth rate, aging, mortality). In 1990, Slovenes became one of the twenty-two ethnic minorities listed in the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia (1990), while their status and rights were regulated in more detail in the Constitutional Act on the Rights of Ethnic Minorities (2002) adopted in the process of Croatia’s EU integration and in sectoral laws. The Slovene minority is guaranteed the same right to political participation as other constitutionally recognised minorities. At the local level, members of the Slovene community in Croatia are able to co-shape policy through councils and their representatives at the city/municipality/county levels (Act on Elections of Representative Bodies in Local Self-Government Units, 2001), while in the XII electoral district they have the right to elect –together with other minorities present therein – a deputy to the Croatian Parliament (Act on the Election of Deputies to the Croatian Parliament, 1999), but so far no Slovene candidate has been elected yet. For the second consecutive term, Slovenes in Croatia are represented by Ermina Lekaj Prljaskaj, a member of the Albanian minority who has no contact whatsoever with the members of the Slovene minority. In 2020, Barbara Antolić Vupora was the first member of the Slovene minority to be elected to Parliament on the list of the majority party SDP. The political inactivity of Slovenes came to the fore also in the 2019 local elections, where only 22 of the possible 40 councils and representatives of the Slovene minority were elected (Riman et al. 2020). Apart from the study for the Office for Slovenes Abroad, the results of which have been published (Riman et al. 2020), there has been no systematic research on the political participation of Slovenes in Croatia over the past decades, and the issue was only sporadically addressed by some Slovene and Croatian researchers (e.g. Kržišnik Bukić 2006; Josipovič et al. 2014, 29-47; Medvešek et al. 2018, 188-191).
 
As regards the protection and status of the Slovene minority in Italy, the key years were 2001 when the state Law No. 38 on the protection of the Slovene linguistic minority in the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia was adopted on 23 February 2001, and 2007 when the regional Law No. 26 on the protection of the Slovene linguistic minority was adopted on 16 November 2007 to implement Law No. 38. In accordance with Article 6 of the Italian Constitution, which introduces the principle of protection of linguistic minorities, and in accordance with European and international law as well as the state Law No. 482 on the protection of historical linguistic minorities of 15 December 1999, two mentioned laws regulate the fundamental rights of the Slovene national community in Italy and ensure its cultural autonomy, focused primarily on the public use of the Slovene language, education (with Slovene as language of instruction and bilingual), and autonomous organisation in the fields of culture and economy. Such legal framework creates the conditions for the existence and development of the minority community. In the province of Trieste, known as Zone A administered by the Anglo-American allied administration in cooperation with the Italian state between 1945 and 1954, the Special Statute of the 1954 London Agreement guaranteed the Slovene minority: the right to its own civic and political organisations to preserve and develop its language and culture, the right to schools with Slovene as language of instruction, the right to use Slovene in relations with public and judicial administration, and the right to mass media in the Slovene language (Stranj 1992; Troha 2003; Zobec 2017). These rights were partially extended to the province of Gorizia.In the province of Udine, where the Slovene population lives in the municipalities of Natisone Valleys, Torre Valleys, Resia, and Canale Valley minority protection was only introduced by Law No. 38/2001.

Political representatives of the Slovene community in Italy have been regularly elected to the Italian Parliament, the Regional Council of the Autonomous Region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and provincial and municipal bodies (also to the posts of mayors and members of municipal councils), but their election is not guaranteed by law. The only exception is the electoral law of the Autonomous Region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia No. 17 of 18 June 2007 which, based on Article 12 of the Autonomous Statute, provides for a lower electoral threshold for the election of a candidate of the Slovene ethnic party Slovene Community. The Law No. 38/2001 does not contain any special regulations on the election of Slovene political representatives to various political bodies and authorities. Article 26 thereof only entails a general recommendation that the legislation on the election of Senators and Members of Parliament in Rome should contain provisions that facilitate the election of Slovene candidates.
 
The Slovene minority in Italy is politically and ideologically plural. Traditionally, Slovenes have identified themselves mainly with left-wing and centre-left parties and the Slovene Community (Slovenska skupnost) party, which defines itself as a party gathering members of the Slovene minority, but since the 1990s, Slovene candidates have also joined right-wing parties. The socio-political environment has changed radically in the last decade at the level of political ideas (Bogatec 2019, Brezigar et al. 2018 & 2020), electoral choices (Bogatec 2019, Brezigar et al. 2018 & 2020), national identity and demography (Jagodic 2017), as well as due to legal and administrative changes introduced by Italy without the Slovene community having any (direct) influence thereon. All the above reduces the chances of electing Slovene candidates to various political bodies at the local, regional and state levels. With the abolition of the provinces in the Autonomous Region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia in 2016, the Slovene elected political representation in the provinces of Trieste, Gorizia and Udine was abolished. In 2020, following a constitutional reform, Italy significantly reduced the number of elected representatives to Parliament, which in the absence of effective legal and socio-political mechanisms could jeopardise the election of a political representative of the Slovene national community to the Italian Parliament in the next national elections.

Inclusion and integration of the Slovene minority in Italy in political decision-making processes at the local, regional and state levels have been facilitated in the past decades by consultative bodies including representatives of the Slovene national community and political players at the state and local levels in Italy and Slovenia, such as the Parity Committee for the Problems of the Slovene Minority, the Institutional Roundtable for the Slovene Minority at the Italian Ministry of the Interior, the Consult for the Problems of the Slovene Ethnic Minority of the Municipality of Gorizia, the Consultative Commission, the Regional Education Commission, the Slovene Representative to the National University Council at the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research as well as the Ministry for Slovenes Abroad, the Government Office for Slovenes Abroad, and the Government Council for Slovenes in Neighbouring Countries in Slovenia. The umbrella/representative organisations that bring together under their auspices most Slovene institutions and organisations in the provinces of Trieste, Gorizia and Udine, are the Slovene Cultural and Economic Union (SKGZ) and the Council of Slovene Organisations (SSO), recognised as reference organisations of the Slovene national community in Italy under the regional Law No. 26/2007. They are an expression of civil society, but they also appear in the political arena as counterparts of various European, national and local political institutions in Italy and Slovenia (Bogatec 2019, Brezigar et al. 2018 & 2020).
 
Political participation of Slovene national minority in Hungary exists at the local and regional level through its own minority self-government, a specific type of minority autonomy and at the national level, represented by the Advocate of Slovenes in the Hungarian Parliament, National Assembly. In addition to good cooperation between the minority self-government and local government having, the role of the current Advocate of Slovenes in the national parliament Erika Köles Kiss, who without the right to vote can influence certain political decisions is particularly relevant for Slovenes in Hungary. Her proposals are at least occasionally taken into account by individual ministries and other state bodies, especially when it comes to matters related to minority protection (e.g. Ružič 2015). In this context, cooperation among the Advocate, minority self-government and the Union of Slovenes in Hungary, the umbrella civil society organisation in very important. Additionally, the importance of the bilateral Agreement on Ensuring the Special Rights of the Slovene National Minority in the Republic of Hungary and the Hungarian National Community in the Republic of Slovenia for the status, protection and political participation of Slovene national minority should be mentioned (e.g. Komac et al. 2018).

In reviewing the political participation of minorities, one cannot ignore the international dimensions defined by international organisations (e.g. the Council of Europe, OSCE) or the measures and activities of the European Union, the EU Member States, and other countries. We refer to research carried out in the 1980s and 1990s (Rath 1983; Uhlaner et al. 1987), after the end of the Cold War and especially after 2000, when research into minority political participation intensified (Crowley 2001; OHCHR 2009; Kaya 2013; Žagar 2017). This can be explained by the fact that minorities have become an important aspect of the understanding of overall governance among the countries (Crowley 2010), in international relations, and in diplomacy (Kemp 2001; Feldman 2005; Kastoryano 2010).
 
2.1. Research approaches and methodology

The interdisciplinary and inter-institutional research project bringing together researchers from social sciences and humanities as well as some key institutions involved in ethnic and minority studies and research on political participation in Slovenia and neighbouring countries is designed as an interlinked series of case and comparative studies. The research of highly complex and dynamic phenomena and concepts, such as the political participation of minorities and their members, builds on methodological pluralism and combines disciplinary, multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary approaches and methodologies (della Porta et al. 2008) established in social sciences and humanities, especially law, political science, sociology, and historiography, while also developing new approaches and methods optimally adapted to the researched phenomena. The following research methods and techniques will be used: case studies and comparative study; collection, processing and analysis of literature, sources (including online), documents, existing research projects and databases, media and internet publications; archives and desk research, empirical field research including observation (with/without participation), visits to key organisations, institutions and individuals, talks and (semi-structured) interviews, surveys and panel discussions if necessary, and possibly SWOT analysis and discussion.
 
Regarding work and research in archives, we plan visits to national, regional/provincial and other archival institutions in the selected countries, as well as overview and analysis of media (especially newspapers) and other material kept by the Institute for Ethnic Studies, the Slovene Research Institute and the National and Study Library in Trieste, and the Slovene Scientific Institute in Klagenfurt.
 
As part of field research, we plan visits to relevant minority institutions, organisations and associations, selected local self-government units where members of Slovene minorities live and exercise their political participation, local and selected authorities/bodies at other levels (e.g. province, region, state) in which elected and/or appointed representatives of the minority community have been engaged in the studied countries. The initial list of field visits and locations will be determined on the basis of known data, previous research and existing contacts with minority representatives in the selected countries, and will be expanded based on the results of our research. Interviewees (e.g. members and officials of minority organisations, members of municipal councils, mayors, representatives in representative bodies at the provincial/regional and state levels) and institutions and individuals for the survey will be added to the list according to the available funds using the “snowball” method.
 
3.  Detailed description of the work programme
The aim of the project is to perform a comprehensive and in-depth research of political participation of Slovene minorities and persons belonging to them at all levels (from local to national) in the neighbouring countries, namely Austria, Croatia, Italy and Hungary, using the presented research approaches, methods and techniques. Reviewing the historical development of minority political participation in each country, we will focus on the period since the 1970s, considering the Helsinki Process of the Conference/Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE/OSCE) a turning point in the development of European minority protection. We will take into account specific historical milestones in individual countries (e.g. the Osimo Agreements (1975) for Italy, the Act on National Communities in the Republic of Austria (1976), the political transition in Croatia and Hungary, etc.). A special emphasis will be placed on the period after Slovenia gained its independence, while field research will focus on the present moment and development of political participation of Slovene minorities and their members in the above countries.
 
We are particularly interested in how political participation and the activities of elected and/or appointed members of minorities affected the position and status of Slovene minorities and their members in each country, and how and to what extent they contributed to better social inclusion, integration, and participation in all spheres of life. We will start by analysing the constitutional and legal framework and regulation of minority rights and political participation of minorities and persons belonging to them, the electoral system and laws, and minority policies in each country, as well as the similarities and differences between them. Based on the theoretical model of (political) participation of minorities (Žagar 2017), we will determine the possibilities and models existing in individual countries and study how they are implemented. We will explore the political organisation and functioning of minorities and their members in the selected countries, the role of minority structures, associations, organisations (including umbrella organisations) and institutions, the (co)operation of minorities and their members in majority political parties as well as in minority parties and (electoral) lists, specific electoral processes and activity of elected and/or appointed representatives at all levels (e.g. local government; regional authorities or provinces; national level). In addition to the participation of minorities and their members in the executive and legislative branches of power, we will examine different forms of minority self-government and autonomy in individual countries, participation in various consultative bodies at all levels, and functioning of civil society organisations of minorities involved in political processes. Based on the research data and results, we will assess the gap between normative (legal/political framework, proclaimed principles) and actual implementation and the de facto position and situation of minorities. The case studies of individual countries will be supplemented with a comparative analysis that will present, analyse, comment on, and evaluate the similarities and differences. Funds permitting, the comparative analysis will also cover Slovenia.
 
The aim of studying the political participation of Slovene minorities and their members in neighbouring countries is to determine the forms and methods of such participation, the effectiveness of the various forms and ways to meet the needs and interests of minorities and their members, and the extent to which they ensure their inclusion, integration, and equality. The research will take place in work packages (WP) that will be coordinated by individual leaders and involve all project team members, depending on the research interests and needs. Exceptionally, external collaborators can also be involved. Our working hypothesis is that the political participation of minorities and their members, especially if successful, contributes to their better overall inclusion, integration, equality, and participation. This hypothesis will be tested against research questions, either general questions listed below and concerning all WP, or specific questions listed under individual WP. The general research questions for all case studies and comparative studies are as follows:
-   What is the normative framework and legal regulation of political participation of the Slovene minority and its members? What general approaches are in place in a specific environment?
-    What concepts, types, mechanisms, and channels of political participation of (national) minorities are there in a respective country? Is there any form of (minority) autonomy in the country?
-     How is the ethnic minority organised and how does it exercise its political participation?
-    Is there a minority political party and/or electoral list? How does it work?
-    How do members of the minority join the majority parties and do the latter enable their election?
-    How do elected and/or appointed members of Slovene minority in government and consultative institutions/bodies at all levels (local government, provinces, regions, state level) operate, pursue minority interests, and influence political decision-making in a respective country? How do they communicate with their constituents and their minority community? What problems do they perceive? What is their role in specific cases? What is their demographic and social structure?
-   How does the political participation of the national minority and its members contribute to the implementation of their rights, to better overall inclusion, integration, and participation? Are there any positive practices in a respective country?
-    What is the gap between normative (political/legal framework) and actual implementation?
-    What are the topics of current debates on minority political participation and its future development in respective countries and globally?
 
WP1: Project management and administration; Leader: Mitja Žagar; Months: 1-36 + report
-   The project leader will organise and coordinate the work of researchers, WP leaders and WP, the organisation of events in accordance with the work plan and budget of the project, provide for information flow and regular communication and convene meetings (at the beginning, at least twice a year in the course of the project, at the end) to agree on the work, tasks and methodological issues, and for ongoing risk assessment and management.
-    The project leader provides for regular reporting, including the final report of the project in accordance with the contract concluded with the Slovenian Research Agency and regulations, and for communication with the funder.
-    The WP leaders appointed for the purpose of easier implementation and better coordination of work, coordinate the work and provide for the implementation of the work plan, the expected results and goals within their WP, and report to the project leader.
-    The Institute for Ethnic Studies, as the applicant, provides for the financial and administrative support of the project, including requests and financial reports in accordance with the rules and instructions of the Slovenian Research Agency.
Planned results: project implemented in line with the contract, timeline, and budget; interim reports and final report on the project.

WP2: Methodology, theory, concepts, and models; Leader: Mitja Žagar;  Months: 1-36
-   Design (M: 1-3), coordination, evaluation, and development of methodological approaches and research methods and techniques as a basis for the activities under WP (case and comparative studies). Development of methodology and questions for interviews and survey questionnaires. Resolving methodological issues. (M: 1-36)
-    Analysis and verification of existing theory and development of theories, concepts, working definitions, and theoretical models as a basis for work and research under the project. (M: 1-36)
-    Review, analysis, evaluation, and interpretation of WP and project research results, case studies and comparative studies, and collected primary data. (M: 6-36)
-    Drawing up recommendations and review of identified good practices. (M: 12-36)
Planned results: development of theory (especially concepts and theoretical models) and methodology; interpretation and evaluation of research results; material for reports, particularly the final report of the project; recommendations and review of good practices.
 
Under individual WP (WP3: Austria, WP4: Croatia, WP5: Italy and WP6: Hungary), through case studies and with concerted research approaches, methods and techniques, deriving from the presented theoretical model of political participation of minorities, we will systematically explore the political participation of the Slovene minority and its members (persons belonging to it) in the selected country according to the following thematic sets:
-   Presentation of the minority, its position and status, internal pluralism and diversity, including ideological and political preferences.
-   A historical overview of the development, milestones, characteristics, and nature of political participation.
-    Review and analysis of the applicable regulation of political participation of the minority.
-    Review and analysis of the organisation and functioning of the minority.
-    Review, analysis, and evaluation of the political participation of the minority and its members, particularly the election and activity of elected and/or appointed representatives and officials from minority ranks in government and consultative bodies at all levels (local, regional/provincial, state/federal), and identification of expected development trends based on general and specific research questions.
-    The gap between normative and actual implementation of political participation of the minority.
-     Review of problems and positive practices, interpretation of research results, and assessment of the situation.
-     Possible proposals for recommendations for a better functioning and development of political participation of the minority.

WP3: Case study: Austria; Leader: Matjaž Klemenčič; Months: 2-33   
Based on the above research approaches and methods and theoretical grounds, the case study of the political participation of the Slovene minority and its members in Austria will rely on desk, archival and field research and will cover all the above segments and thematic sets, plus an additional question: What was the impact of the 2011 compromise on the minority and its position?
Methods: analysis of documents and sources, including archives; discourse analysis; field and empirical research (observation, visits, interviews, talks, panels).
Planned results: case study; review of positive practices; scientific publications in journals/monographs.
 
WP4: Case study: Croatia; Leader: Barbara Riman; Months: 2-33   
Based on the above research approaches and methods and theoretical grounds, the case study of the political participation of the Slovene minority and its members in Croatia will rely on desk, archival and field research and will cover all the above segments and thematic sets, plus two additional questions:
-  Why are the members of the Slovene minority in Croatia apolitical and not politically active?
-   Would a more active role in politics have an impact on their position?
Methods: analysis of documents and sources, including archives; discourse analysis; field and empirical research (observation, visits, interviews, talks, panels).
Planned results: case study; review of positive practices; scientif, ic publications in journals/monographs.

WP5: Case study: Italy; Leader: Zaira Vidau; Months: 2-33   
Based on the above research approaches and methods and theoretical grounds, the case study of the political participation of the Slovene minority and its members in Italy will rely on desk, archival and field research and will cover all the above segments and thematic sets, plus the following additional questions:
-  Why are the legally guaranteed mechanisms/tools of political participation weak and ineffective?
-   Why and how have administrative and constitutional reforms in Italy in the last five years led to a decline in the number of Slovene elected political representatives at the local and state levels?
-  How do identity, demographic and ideological changes among Slovene voters reduce the chances of electing Slovene candidates to various political bodies , at the local and state levels?
Methods: analysis of documents and sources, in, cluding archives; discourse analysis; field and empirical research (observation, visits, interviews, talks, panels).
Planned results: case study; review of positive practices; scientific publications in journals/monographs.
 
WP6:    Case study: Hungary; Leader: Boris Jesih; Months: 2-33   
Based on the above research approaches and methods and theoretical grounds, the case study of the political participation of the Slovene minority and its members in Hungary will rely on desk, archival and field research and will cover all the above segments and thematic sets, plus two additional questions:
-  What is the relationship and cooperation between the Advocate of minority rights in Parliament and the minority self-government?
-   How does the bilateral Agreement on Ensuring the Special Rights of the Slovene National Minority in the Republic of Hungary and the Hungarian National, , , , ,, , , Community in the Republic of Slovenia affect the position of the Slovene minority and its members and their political participation?
Methods: analysis of documents and sources, including archives; discourse analysis; field and empirical research (observation, visits, interviews, talks, panels).
Planned results: case study; review of positive practices; scientific publications in journals/monographs.
 
WP7: Comparative study and international framework; Leader: Boštjan Udovič    Months: 18-36
Based on concerted research approaches, methods and techniques, the theoretical model of political participation of minorities, international standards, and case studies of Austria, Croatia, Italy and Hungary, the comparative study will include the following:
-          Review, analysis and comparison of research data and results from case studies, which will highlight, assess and interpret the similarities and differences between countries in terms of:
o   Position and status, internal plurality and diversity of minority communities;
o   Historical development of political participation of minorities;
o   Normative framework and regulation of political participation of minorities;
o   Organisation, internal structure and activity of the minority;
o   Current state of minority political participation and prospects of development;
o   Overview of problems and positive practices;
o   Gap between normative and actual implementation;
o   Comparison with Slovenia (depending on funding).
-    Assessment of the state-of-affairs and prospects of development from the point of view of the international community and international relations.
-     Proposals for future research on minority political participation in Europe.
-     Proposals for recommendations to decision-makers at all levels and to minority communities, organisations and institutions for the development of minority political participation in individual countries and in Europe as a whole.
Methods: analysis of documents and sources, including archives; discourse analysis; case study analysis.
Planned results: comparative study; scientific publications in journals/monographs.

WP8:  Dissemination; Leader: Mitja Žagar; Months: 1-36
To disseminate information about the project and its research results, we plan various activities and the use of various channels to reach specific target audiences. To name a few:
-  Online presentation of the project on the IES website ((http://www.inv.si/) to present the project and its activities to the widest possible interested audience – with links and occasional posts on the websites of partner institutions. (M: 1-36)
-   Networking and contacts with members, organisations, and institutions of Slovene minorities, interested government and other institutions in neighbouring countries, and with interested institutions and organisations in Slovenia that will present the project and its results. (M: 3-36)
-   Presentations of the project in the mass media through articles, publications and media appearances of researchers (e.g. “Studio ob 17h” on Radio Slovenia, minority broadcasts, etc.), and transmission of information to the media and STA. (M: 1-36)
-   Roundtables, panel discussions and public debates (live and/or online) on political participation of minorities, project results and new scientific findings, at least one in each country under consideration, in the environment where the Slovene minority lives, to which we will invite interested minority members, minority organisations and institutions, and the interested public and institutions. (M: 18-36)
-   Scientific publications and dissemination at scientific meetings and conferences: scientific publications in domestic and foreign scientific journals and monographs (M: 18-36 and after the expiry of the project, depending on the duration of review procedures); papers and contributions for scientific meetings and conferences, and public lectures (M: 6-36 and after the expiry of the project); preparation of the manuscript of a scientific monograph and its publication after the completion of the project (M: 24-36 and after the expiry of the project)
Planned results: presentation of the project to the public and potential interested users; contributions for publication in scientific journals and monographs; presentations at international scientific meetings and conferences; preparation and publication of a scientific monograph.
 
_______________________
1 E.g.: Sejdić and Finci vs. B&H, https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/fre#{%22itemid%22:[%22001-96491%22]}



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