Struggle for official recognition of Silesian nation
“The founders of an association of people with Silesian heritage on Nov. 17 filed a second complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg against the Polish courts. They demand the right to register the association as an advocate for a Silesian minority nationality.
However, according to Polish law such a minority doesn’t officially exist.
The 2005 law enumerates nine national minorities in Poland: Jewish, Belarusian, Russian, Ukrainian, Slovakian, Chechen, German, Lithuanian and Armenian. There is no Silesian minority because the 2005 act specifies that such a minority should identify with a nation. There is no nation of Silesia, and that’s why authorities classify Silesian people as Polish or German.
The Silesians who are fighting to become a national minority declare that their main aim is to create two autonomic regions within historic borders: Upper and Lower Silesia. They refer to pre-World War II when Silesia was autonomous.
From 1920 until the war, Silesia had its own parliament and budget. After the war ended in 1945, Silesian autonomy was annulled. And under current Polish law there is no provision for autonomous territories in Poland.
In July 2006, the District Court in Katowice refused registration to the Silesian minority committee.
Now the committee founders have appealed the decision to the Supreme Court in Warsaw.
The founders of the association cite the results of a 2003 survey in which people living in Poland were asked about their nationality. According to the Polish Central Statistics Office, Silesians declared themselves the biggest national minority.
This represented a major success for the Silesian Autonomy Movement, which has long campaigned for official recognition of a Silesian nation in Poland. However, census officials have continued to refuse to accept Silesian as a declaration of nationality.
And Polish courts consequently have refused to acknowledge the Silesian minority.
Andrzej Roczniok, one of the founders of the Silesian association, said: “”It is incomprehensible that in the Polish census 173,000 people could declare their Silesian nationality, and now these people can’t found and register the association.””
The founders of the association say that legalization of the Silesian minority isn’t connected with voting privileges, but they want the right to form associations of people who have similar views. According to the daily newspaper Dziennik Zachodni, the efforts to legally establish the association began in 1996. In Strasbourg in 2004, the human rights court said that Polish courts had the right to refuse the association’s registration.
This time, the founders claim that they have fulfilled all requirements that are needed to be registered according to Polish law.
“”In a new statute we have written that the association is the organization of people who declare the Silesian nationality,”” Roczniok said. “”We have changed the previous statement that the association is the organization of the Silesian national minority.””
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