– This is a historical moment. For the first time the Sámi Parliament holds a plenary session in the European Parliament. Simultaneously this is an excellent opportunity for the Sámi’s to have an impact on the EU-level. Being the only group of indigenous peoples within the EU, we wish to put the focal point on our needs, as well as the needs of other indigenous groups, as we often see our interests being squeezed by the national majorities, says Mr. Klemetti Näkkäläjärvi, Chair of the Sámi Parliament of Finland.
The European Union has in its Communication ”The European Union and the Arctic Region”, committed to a dialogue with the indigenous peoples, and there has been dialogue with the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton when she visited Finland in 2011.
– I am very glad that MEP Nils Torvalds has invited us to Brussels. He is the first MEP who has shown this level of commitment to the dialogue between the EU and indigenous peoples. This is an example of how the EU can commit itself to a serious dialogue, Mr. Näkkäläjärvi points out.
– The democratically elected Sámi Parliament is a good example for the rest of Europe. It is a shame that so many indigenous groups do not have the same rights as the Sámi people. We should, however, not forget that there is still a great need for improvement also for the Sámi people, says MEP Nils Torvalds.
During the visit in Brussels, the main focus will be on the language, cultural and commercial rights of the Sámi population within the EU. The Sámi Parliament will also meet with the Vice President of the European Commission, Mr. Olli Rehn.
– We have high expectations for our visit in Brussels. Our most urgent need is to get a clear way of negotiating with the European Union, and get the issues important to us on the agenda. We need to make sure the Interreg Sápmi-program stays intact, and that the financing of the program is secured. There are also issues with the administration and bureaucracy that need to be addressed. The most efficient way would be to move the administration directly to the Sámi Parliament. We also hope that there would be a balanced approach to the protection of wild animals and the protection of the traditional reindeer herding in the Sami areas, mr Näkkäläjärvi concludes.
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Nils Torvalds, MEP