In the Dutch parliament building on 15 February 2018, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) organised an event to honor one of its former High Commissioners, the late Mr. Max van der Stoel (1924-2011).
Many Dutch and international diplomats were invited to receive the highly anticipated biography of Max van der Stoel, the first and longest serving High Commissioner on National Minorities of the OSCE. He was appointed as the first OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities in 1992 and served until 2001.
President Festim Lato was also invited and he was given the opportunity to discuss the Cham issue with the first vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans.
European Commissioner Frans Timmermans was the Senior Advisor and Private Secretary of Max van der Stoel from 1995 to 1998 when the latter was High Commissioner on National Minorities. During these years Mr. Timmermans got to know the High Commissioner as a person who struggled against any form of oppression and dictatorship. He stood firm in support of the values of human rights and democracy and for the plight of national minorities in Europe and elsewhere.
In 2001 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands introduced a biannual prize to an individual or organisation whose extraordinary achievements have improved the position of national minorities in Europe. This Max van der Stoel Award is one of the main beacons of hope that the OSCE provides to those communities who are struggling to get their grievances addressed and their rights accepted.
The situation of the Cham community living in exile from their original homeland bears many resemblances to the many issues faced by the late High Commissioner on National Minorities.
In his speech the first vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans showed himself a genuine heir to the ideals of the late High Commissioner. He too is relentlessly advocating for the rights of all to be recognised.
During the event the Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato discussed the political situation of Chameria with Commissioner Frans Timmermans. He explained the historical injustice done to the Cham community and their expulsion between 1913 and 1944. The president also gave the Commissioner a detailed written description of the history of the Cham community as well as the advocacy campaign to get the issue on the political agenda. The Commissioner proved very open and receptive to the Cham claim for justice.
The objective of all the political forces in Europe should be to cooperate in bringing this issue to a righteous solution. The Commissioner has shown himself to be a strong and vocal advocate for the values that hold Europe together. President Festim Lato is confident that the Commissioner will show resolve and support the quest of the Cham to get justice and that there will be many more meetings and cooperations in the near future.