Annual conference of the FUEN Non-Kin-State Working Group: Intensive exchange in Spreewald/BÅ‚ota

Such problem areas were also addressed in the country reports, during which the minority representatives who had travelled to the conference exchanged views on current issues in their respective organisations and discussed plans for the coming year.

The agenda also included a panel discussion on economic structural change in Lusatia – away from the extraction of fossil fuels and towards a sustainable region of the future – and the contribution of the Sorbs/Wends to this process. In this context, the projects “UNESCO 5” (joint project of the Lusatian UNESCO sites), “ZARI” (network for regional identity and the Sorbian language) and “Zorja” (immersive programme for learning the Lower Sorbian language) were also presented.

Last but not least, the group visited a still active open-cast lignite mine in Welzow/Wjelcej and the site of a former mining area, which now serves as a local recreation area. An exchange then took place at the local Welzow Archaeotechnical Centre, an educational facility that uses experiments, restoration work and excavations to convey the history and culture of the region. During the discussion with the employees of the facility, it became clear that the prospective end of lignite mining in the region would also have negative consequences for the local communities – for example, the loss of jobs and the associated exodus of young people in particular. In addition, there is little support from the federal government and the state of Brandenburg to adequately manage the structural change.

“The visit to Welzow/Wjelcej was certainly a highlight of the conference”, says Bahne Bahnsen. “We were able to gain a vivid impression of how extensive open-cast lignite mining was and still is here.” However, the AG spokesperson is not only satisfied with this item on the programme, but also with the course and content of the conference as a whole. He is already looking forward to the next meeting in a year's time.

Photos: Kornél Szilágyi

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Background: The FUEN Non-Kin State Working Group

The Non-Kin State Working Group was established by FUEN in 2017 to give minorities without a mother state the opportunity to discuss their specific concerns and challenges, find solutions and develop joint strategies for the preservation of their small languages and cultures. It currently comprises 40 organisations from 17 different countries.