Die Identität der Mehrheit und die Grenzen ihres Schutzes - 10.1628/000389117X15151513970364 - Mohr Siebeck
Rechtswissenschaft

Björnstjern Baade

Die Identität der Mehrheit und die Grenzen ihres Schutzes

Jahrgang 142 () / Heft 4, S. 566-613 (48)

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In recent years, political forces have gained traction in various European societies and parliaments that deem it necessary to protect a country's majority identity. This article explores the question whether and in how far the majority within a society may legally protect or support its own identity. It shows that the protection of majority identity can, in principle, satisfy the neutrality requirements laid down in the German Basic Law and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Although pluralism rightly enjoys a prominent place in national and international human rights jurisprudence, States may, to a certain extent, support emanations of a majority identity. The neutrality required from States in this regard need not be iconoclastic: discarding any and all connections to traditional sources of legitimacy would in fact contradict the very purpose of neutrality, which is to preserve a State's legitimacy towards all of its citizens. In compensation, however, minority interests must be given more weight in the same context. To promote a majority identity while at the same time categorically refusing to accommodate minority interests exceeds the restrictions neutrality and human rights impose on state action. The principle of neutrality as well as the rights to freedom of religion (Art. 4 Basic Law, Art. 9 ECHR) and to equality (Art. 3 Basic Law, Art. 14 ECHR) do not require a complete accomodation of every minority interest, but they do require to strike a reasonable (fair) balance between the competing interests. Although the legal concept of a 'reasonable accomodation' originates in Canadian constitutional law, it describes a universal balancing situation which involves state decisions that are superficially neutral but de facto more burdensome for a minority. In substance, it is well-established in German constitutional law and in the jurisprudence of the Eurpean Court of Human Rights. Both, the legitimacy of promoting majority identity to a certain extent as well as the necessary compensation by reasonable accomodation, are confirmed by the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, in particular in Art. 2 No. 8 and Art. 5, and by the subsequent state practice relating to these provisions. This legal framework is relevant, e.g., to the determination of school curricula and exemptions therefrom, to the decision which cultural and art projects to subsidize with public funds, and to many situations where minority identity conflicts with legal norms based on majority identity. While the promotion of majority identity is generally legitimate, its protection must not be abused to infringe on minority interests where sufficient legitimate reasons to do so do not exist. In and of itself, majority identity can never be a legitimate reason to restrict the freedom of individuals in a democratic State under the rule of law.
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Björnstjern Baade ist Doktorand am Lehrstuhl für Öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht der Freien Universität Berlin.