Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities



Protection of national minorities: Council of Europe monitoring body publishes report on Italy

Strasbourg, 01.06.2011 – The Council of Europe Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities today published its Third Opinion on Italy, and the government’s Comments (also available in Italian).

Italy has continued to support the preservation and the development of the linguistic and cultural identity of persons belonging to linguistic minorities. Well-established systems of protection are in place and bilingualism is guaranteed in areas such as the Autonomous Province of Bolzano - South Tyrol and the Aosta Valley. Several other regions or provinces, such as the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, have adopted regional laws for the protection of linguistic minorities. However, persons belonging to linguistic minorities are concerned about the impact of budgetary cuts.

While certain measures have been taken by some authorities, the situation of the Roma and Sinti has seriously deteriorated and remains a source of deep concern. In the absence of specific legislation at national level and of a comprehensive strategy for their protection, these persons continue to face poverty, hostility and systematic discrimination in most sectors. Although only very few Roma and Sinti share a nomadic lifestyle, they continue to be placed in ‘camps for nomads’, which perpetuates their segregation and marginalisation. The approach of the authorities to the problems faced by the Roma and Sinti, marked by the use of emergency orders and punitive rather than constructive measures, is not in line with the principles of the Framework Convention. Certain measures taken in the last few years, including the population ‘census’ conducted in 2008 in the ‘camps for nomads’, are particularly problematic from the human rights’ perspective.

In recent years, Italian society has experienced a particularly worrying increase in racist and xenophobic attitudes, including extreme violence in some cases, towards persons belonging to vulnerable groups such as the Roma and Sinti, migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees. Such hostile attitudes are sometimes found also at institutional level and they are increasingly present in political discourse and the media, as well as on the Internet and during sport events. Frequent cases of abuse and violence committed against persons belonging to these vulnerable groups by law enforcement officers are a source of deep concern. This requires urgent, firm and effective action on behalf of the authorities at all levels.

The Advisory Committee recommends in particular to:

  • Adopt and implement effectively a specific legislative framework and a comprehensive strategy of integration and protection of Roma and Sinti, in consultation with their representatives, and taking adequately into account the differences existing within these communities;
  • Ensure by means of urgent measures adequate living conditions for the Roma and Sinti living in camps and guarantee the Roma and Sinti equal access to housing, employment, education and health care; put an end to the undue use of emergency and security measures in tackling the situation of the Roma and Sinti;
  • Prevent, combat and sanction effectively all forms of discrimination, intolerance, racism and xenophobia, including at institutional level and in political discourse; prevent and combat, while fully respecting the editorial independence of the media, the spread of prejudice and racist language through the media, as well as on the Internet and in sports events;

The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities provides for a monitoring system whereby the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, assisted by the Advisory Committee, composed of independent experts, evaluates the implementation of the convention.

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