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Bi-national statement by Germany and Denmark delivered at the Human Dimension Committee meeting on 2 November 2021

We would like to share a story with you about national minorities in Denmark and Germany. The story of the German minority in Southern Denmark and the Danish minority in Northern Germany to be precise. The history of the region is complex, but in very basic terms: Governance over parts of the Northern German territory had been Danish for good parts of history, and parts of what is now the Southern part of Denmark was German governed for many years. A district of my hometown Hamburg that used to be the second largest city of Denmark is called Altona up to this day meaning “all to near”, from an outdated German standpoint of course.

In 1920, the current border between Germany and Denmark was determined through referendums in the aftermath of the First World War and the Treaty of Versailles, still leaving respective national minorities on both sides of the border. 

Our border has a unique character: 100 years ago, it separated people from each other and resulted in the present national minorities in both countries. Today it unites us. The two national minorities - the German minority in Denmark and the Danish minority in Germany - have been positive driving forces for development in the border region and far beyond for many decades.

The border region has seen sustained positive development, where regional actors from the administration, business community, science, culture, and civil society work closely together across the national border. Germans and Danes from the border region may choose to commute across the border for work; they may sing in the choir or join a sports club on the other side of the border. Schooling of national minority children benefits everyone: Many students of German origin, for example, also attend schools designated for the Danish minority. That way, they can master their Danish, become able to study, and possibly work in Denmark later.

In German politics, the Danish minority is exempt from the threshold that parties have to meet to be elected to local and national Parliament – a representative from the Danish minority was actually just elected to the German Bundestag.

The positive development in the border region is largely due to the great commitment of the state of Schleswig-Holstein, the municipalities in Northern Schleswig, the Southern Denmark Region and a large number of committed actors in the region, including not least the national minorities. The success story of the German-Danish borderland, where a coexistence has turned into a cooperation and ultimately into a togetherness, may serve as a model across the OSCE region. We are proud of this.

Based on the success story of our border region, we will continue our commitment to human rights and the protection of minorities worldwide. In doing so, we can also rely on the work of the European Centre for Minority Issues, which has been jointly supported by Germany, Denmark and the state of Schleswig-Holstein since 1996.