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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2001, Vol. 4 No. 1 .

Rewriting Rights in Europe
Linda Hancock and Carolyn O’Brien (eds.)

Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000
240pp. Index. Hb: 50; ISBN 0-7546-2002-6

Despite the rather general indication of the title, the actual focus of this volume is on rights and the EU, including both current and future members. The essays examine a variety of perspectives looking at a wide range of rights from civil and political to socio-economic. The perspectives of the essays range from looking at rights in a general sense to more particular areas of inquiry with a number of contributions dealing directly with minority issues.

In particular, Stefan Auer provides a discussion on minority rights in Central Europe. He describes the efforts at finding ways for different ethnic groups to live in peace as one of the most pressing problems in the post-communist era. His study demonstrates the problems which arise with strategies of indifference - where ethnic differences are ignored, or equally the pitfalls faced in an active policy of recognising differences. His conclusion is that while we can look to a wide range of theorists and commentators for suggestions as to how a multi-ethnic society should be ordered, ultimately it will come down to the particular context and strategies of the society in question. Some may be disappointed in the lack of conclusions in Auer's work but as Martin Krygier's essay makes clear, when it comes to issues of rights in post-communist Europe there are more questions than answers. Krygier's piece further demonstrates that while we can make use of universal ideas and practices for the protection of rights we must be able to accommodate fundamental social and cultural particularities if the rights project is to be useful. Two further contributions dealing with women, immigration and nationalism, in France show that the problems of accommodating ethnic differences are equally a problem in the current Member States of the EU.

The individual essays in this collection are in themselves interesting and useful pieces. However there is some question as to whether the essays come together in a single coherent volume dealing with human rights in Europe. The included essays deal with a theoretical undertaking about conceptions of rights, an empirical based study of economic rights, a detailed study of the accession process that is more about the economics of membership than rights or cultural issues, a look at the ECHR and its limitations as a legal tool in the hands of the courts and a piece on the new International Criminal court which is far from clear on how it relates to rights in Europe. The title of the volume promises a good deal, but unfortunately the content does not deliver.

Dr. Richard Burchill
School of Law

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