Promoting ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in Belarus
Pursuant to Article 20 (1) of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML), “the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe may invite any State not a member of the Council of Europe to accede to this Charter”. Belarus has expressed an interest in acceding to some Council of Europe treaties, including the ECRML. Therefore, the Council of Europe Action Plan for Belarus 2016-2017 adopted by the Committee of Ministers foresaw to identify which provisions of the ECRML are applicable in Belarus. On this basis, the Council of Europe/EU Eastern Partnership Programmatic Co-operation Framework (PCF) 2015-2017 has comprised the project “Promoting the standards of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in Belarus”. Its main aim was to raise awareness of the ECRML, to study the experience of other countries implementing the ECRML, particularly those with Belarusian as a minority language, and assist the authorities of Belarus in examining legal scenarios for the country’s possible accession to this convention.
In 2016 and 2017, Belarusian and Council of Europe experts, in co-operation with national minority associations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other national and local authorities, carried out a comprehensive analysis of the Belarusian legislation pertaining to national minorities and relevant practice in promoting the regional or minority languages traditionally used in Belarus (Estonian, German, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romani, Tatar, Ukrainian and Yiddish). Following this analysis, a specialised working group identified the provisions of the ECRML matching the situation in Belarus. Following an additional review by the competent authorities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the findings in August 2017. Belarus now disposes of the core elements (list of undertakings) of a possible accession instrument on the ECRML and is technically ready to be invited to accede to this treaty.
These legal conclusions as well as presentations of the use of each minority language in practice and of its history in Belarus have been published in the multilingual book "The Republic of Belarus and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languagues", which can be downloaded here.
Download the Belarusian draft accession instrument.
In parallel, awareness-raising activities (round tables, production and distribution of information material) were organised with a view to informing national minority representatives and authorities about the ECRML and European best practice in the field of minority language promotion.
Furthermore, under the co-ordination of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, local authorities in Belarus and experts have identified more than 60 tourist landmarks related to the cultural heritage of the national minorities (e.g. synagogues, churches, palaces, fortresses).
The activities in Belarus continued in 2018 as a country specific component of a regional Council of Europe/EU project and a part of the Council of Europe Action Plan for Belarus.