WHO ARE WE AND WHAT DO WE DO?
Our treaties – the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) are our standards to evaluate the legal and policy situation in each state. The FCNM protects the human rights of persons belonging to national minorities. The ECRML focuses on historical regional or minority languages as a means to maintain and develop Europe's cultural wealth.
Both treaties entered into force in 1998, making 2023 their 25th anniversary.
We bring together experts from a variety of disciplines and from different countries. They are independent experts working collegially as members of committees (Advisory Committee on the FCNM and Committee of Experts of the ECRML), supported by Council of Europe staff members. They carry out an evaluation of each country, identify gaps in national minority and minority language protection and outline the actions needed to address them in their evaluation reports and opinions.
25th anniversary of the entry into force of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
Statement from Aleksandra Oszmiańska-Pagett, Chair of the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
Regional and minority languages are part of Europe's cultural and intangible heritage. The Council of Europe, aware that their protection and promotion contribute to the construction of a Europe based on respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, adopted the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in 1992.
This treaty, which today marks the 25th anniversary of its entry into force, obliges the 25 States Parties that have ratified it to actively promote the use of these languages in education, justice, administration, media, culture, economic and social life and cross-border cooperation.
Twenty-five years of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
Statement from Petra Roter, President of the Advisory Committee
A quarter-century is a significant milestone in any lifetime, and especially so in the case of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
Twenty-five years means we in the Advisory Committee have entered five cycles of monitoring, we have carried out five country visits to nearly every state party and to Kosovo*, and written five opinions on almost all of them. We have written four thematic commentaries which explain and detail education, participation, language rights and the scope of application of the Framework Convention.
FACTS & FIGURES
National minorities or linguistic groups speaking these 81 languages
39 / 25 FCNM state parties/ECRML state parties
Entry into force of the FCNM & ECRML
First on-the-spot visit of the Advisory Committee (FCNM) and the Committee of Experts (ECRML)
First report of the SG to PACE on the ECRML
First thematic commentary by the Advisory Committee (FCNM)
39 States Parties to the FCNM
25 States Parties to the ECRML
Reform strengthening the FCNM and ECRML monitoring systems
25th anniversary FCNM & ECRML
WHAT IS OUR COMMITMENT?
The upheavals of European history have shown that ‘protecting national minorities is essential to stability, democratic security and peace’ (Preamble of the FCNM) and protecting regional or minority languages ‘represents an important contribution to the building of a Europe based on the principles of democracy and cultural diversity’ (Preamble of the ECRML). Our treaties were adopted against this background. They offer us the tools to make of our commitment to peace, democratic societies, human rights for everyone and Europe’s cultural wealth more than a mere declaration.
HOW DO WE WORK?
We work with governments and national and linguistic minorities to ensure that laws and policies are consistent with the states’ commitments under the FCNM and the ECRML. We are particularly looking into issues of practical implementation. Our information comes from different sources: state parties provide information on how they implement the treaties, whilst minorities channel their practical insight and concerns in reports and meetings with the expert committees. This, together with other research or data available, help our experts to form their own assessment.
Opening up a dialogue on issues of regional or minority languages promotion and minority protection is central to our mission. This is why country visits have a pivotal role in our working methodology: they provide opportunities for face-to-face discussions with our stakeholders, checking facts and listening to different viewpoints.
WHO DO WE WORK WITH?
We value and strive to strengthen our partnership with all relevant Council of Europe bodies as well as other European and global actors working on national minority and minority language protection. We are also closely connected with European research institutions, which enrich our work through in-depth research on emerging issues. Finally, NGOs and minority associations play a key role in our monitoring work, for instance by submitting alternative reports.
Our Council of Europe partners: Commissioner for Human Rights, European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), Roma and Travellers Team, Venice Commission, Parliamentary Assembly, Steering Committee on Anti-Discrimination, Diversity and Inclusion (CDADI);
Our international partners: OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (OSCE HCNM), UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues;
Our European research centre partners and INGO partners: European Centre on Minority Issues (ECMI), EURAC Research, European Language Equality Network (ELEN), Minority Rights Group (MRG), Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity (NPLD), Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN).
POSITIVE DEVELOPMENTS OVER THE LAST 25 YEARS
These examples are taken out from the recent evaluation reports and opinions of both monitoring bodies on the FCNM and the ECRML. They provide a snapshot of the range of positive steps taken in some of the cross-cutting areas covered by the two treaties.
How many states are parties to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages?
The following 25 States have ratified the Charter: Armenia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom.
How many regional or minority languages traditionally spoken in Europe are currently protected by the Language Charter?
- More than forty
- More than sixty
- (1)More than eighty
In Europe, more than 80 regional or minority languages currently benefit from the protection of the Charter. Their use is promoted in education, justice, public administration and services, media, cultural activities and facilities, economic and social life and transfrontier exchanges. Thanks to the Charter, some languages threatened with extinction have been successfully revitalised. This number is constantly growing. Since 2020, some States Parties have also agreed to review their level of commitment in order to reflect improvements in the situation of regional or minority languages traditionally spoken on their territory.
A regional or minority language protected under the Language Charter:
- should have less than 5,000 speakers
- cannot be official language of any state
- (1)should be traditionally used on the territory of the state party
Article 1 of the Charter defines regional or minority languages as languages which are “traditionally used within a given territory of a State by nationals of that State who form a group numerically smaller than the rest of the State's population; and different from the official language(s) of that State”. It also indicates that the regional or minority languages do not include dialects of the official language(s) of the State or the languages of migrants. Apart from that, there are no conditions linked to the number of speakers or their status or presence in other states.
You are a mayor of the town where a regional or minority language is spoken. When making bilingual topographic signs you make sure that:
- (1)The name in the regional or minority language is not smaller than the name in the official language
- The name in regional or minority language is an exact translation of the name in the official language, to avoid confusion
- Only streets in historical centre have bilingual names
The use of regional or minority languages in topographic signage is a promotional measure to increase the visibility and prestige of these languages. The name in regional or minority language should therefore be at least the same size and style (i.e. in terms of font or colour) with the name in the official language.
When a state ratifies the Language Charter, it commits to protect and promote the regional or minority languages traditionally spoken on its territory. The respect of this commitment is:
- Monitored by the European Court of Human Rights
- (1)Monitored by a committee of independent experts
- Not monitored
The implementation of the Charter by the states parties to it is monitored by the Committee of Experts. It is composed of 25 independent experts, who have a recognised expertise in the field of protection and promotion of regional or minority languages. The current Chair of the Committee is Aleksandra Oszmiańska-Pagett, from Poland.
The Romani language is spoken by Roma in many European states. How many states have recognised this language and protect it under the Language Charter:
The Romani language, which is sometimes also referred to as ‘Romani’, ‘Romany’, ‘Romanes’, ‘Romani Ćhib’, or ‘Roma language’, is recognised and protected in 16 states parties to the Language Charter: Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden and Ukraine.
Which states could become a party to the Language Charter or to the Framework Convention?
- Belgium, France, Greece and Turkey
- Morocco, Kazakhstan, Canada
- (1)All of the above
Any state could be a party to the Language Charter or the Framework Convention, whether they are a member of the Council of Europe or not. Non-member states, however, would have to be invited to do so.
Which one of the following states has not ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities?
- San Marino
Among the states mentioned in the list, Andorra is the only state that did not ratify the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. San Marino ratified only the Framework Convention, and Liechtenstein ratified both the Framework Convention and the Language Charter.
What is the definition of a “national minority” according to the Framework Convention?
- Any group of people making up in a country, including migrants and refugees
- Any group having lived traditionally in a country for more than 100 years;
- (1)Neither! There is no international definition of national minority.
The notion of "national minority" is not defined in the Framework Convention. Each state party has a margin of appreciation to determine to which groups the convention applies. This definition must be non-discriminatory, established in good faith and in accordance with the principle of free self-identification.
Which are the six recognised national minorities in Austria?
- (1)Croatians, Hungarians, Slovenes, Slovaks, Czechs and Roma
- Jews, Croatians, Hungarians, Slovenes, Slovaks and Czechs
- Germans, Jews, Croatians, Hungarians, Slovenes and Slovaks
Austria officially recognises Croatians, Hungarians, Slovenes, Slovaks, Czechs and Roma as national minorities.
Which of the following groups in the United Kingdom are not formally recognised by the government as national minorities?
- Ulster Scots
- (1)Scottish Gaelic
The United Kingdom formally recognised Ulster Scots and Cornish national minorities in 2022 and 2014, respectively. However, the Framework Convention applies broadly in the United Kingdom, including many ethnic and religious groups.
How many countries are party to the Framework Convention?
39 European states have signed and ratified the Framework Convention, the world’s most comprehensive treaty protecting the rights of persons belonging to national minorities.
The Advisory Committee is a committee of independent experts responsible for evaluating the implementation of the Framework Convention in the States Parties. How many members does it have?
- As many as states parties, i.e. 39
The Advisory Committee has 18 members. They are elected by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for a mandate four years. The current President of the Advisory Committee is Petra Roter (Slovenia). Half of the members of the Committee are replaced every two years to ensure a rotation
Which of the following languages has 14 vowels:
There are 14 vowels in Hungarian. Russian has ten vowels and one semi-vowel whereas Romanian has seven and two or four (different views exist) semi-vowels.
Which of the following Alphabets contains geometrical secrets behind it:
- (1)Armenian Alphabet
- Arabic Alphabet
- Kurdish Alphabet
The first letter of the Armenian alphabet is A «Ա» and stands for “Astvats” which means God, while the last letter in the alphabet is K «Ք» which stands for “Kristos” meaning Christ. If the Armenian alphabet is arranged into an equilateral triangle, the three letters at the edges read A, K and S describing the Holy trinity, the Father God (Astvats), Son Christ (Kristos) and the Holy Spirit (Surb Hogin) of the Christian faith. If the Armenian letters are arranged inside a square of an octagram, reading clockwise, the letters at the edges form the old native Armenian name for the Armenian country “Hayk”.
Swedish the official language of which country below?
Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. Approximately 87% of Finns speak Finnish as their first language. Approximately 5% of Finns speak Swedish as their first language. Swedish is spoken the most on Finland’s western and southern coast.
Which minority is Europe’s largest ethnic minority?
An estimated 10-12 million Roma live on the European continent. Originally from present-day north-west India and Pakistan, Roma arrived on the European continent from the 14th century onwards and are present in at least 40 of the 46 Council of Europe member states.
Which of the three minorities below is not of Slavic origin?
Gagauz are a Turkic, predominantly Christian Orthodox, minority living mostly in Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus. Gorani are a Slavic Muslim ethnic group inhabiting Albania, Kosovo* and North Macedonia. Sorbs are a West Slavic people particularly inhabiting the German states of Saxony and Brandenburg.
Who said "the language of Europe is translation"?
- (1)Umberto Eco
- Jorge Luis Borges
- Saint Jerome
« La lingua dell'Europa è la traduzione »
Who said: “You can never understand one language until you understand at least two”?
- (1)Geoffrey Willams
- Oscar Wilde
- Queen Elizabeth II
Your score: [[score]]
Congratulations! You are a true expert ready to join the expert committees on our two conventions!
Well done! You are pressing hard on the heels of the champions! To get even better explore more about the Language Charter and the Framework Convention!
Good job! You are a real explorer discovering the fascinating world of national minorities and their languages! Explore more!
Not bad! Don’t be afraid to dig deeper and expand your knowledge about minority rights and languages!