On 5 November 1992, eleven Council of Europe member states, convinced that the preservation and development of Europe's cultural traditions and wealth depended on the protection of its regional or minority languages, signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
Today, this unique convention comprises 25 states parties and applies to around 80 regional or minority languages, promoting their active use in education, justice, administration, media, culture, economic and social life, and cross-border cooperation.
The Charter's Bureau of the Committee of Experts has issued a declaration which underlines the positive impact the Charter has had on speakers of minority languages in Europe. As a result of the states parties receiving recommendations on how best to protect these languages, the relevant authorities and speakers of the languages have been able to voice their concerns and expectations throughout the monitoring process.
“As a result, some languages that were threatened with extinction only a few years ago have been successfully revitalised. They are now an integral part of the lives of local communities and of the cultural, economic and social fabric of the territories where they are spoken. Other languages have seen their protection increased over time through the acceptance of more provisions, but also through the adoption of more ambitious laws at national level,” the Bureau stressed, also noting significant improvements in the functioning of the monitoring mechanism.
“However, these successes should not conceal the fact that many challenges remain. The Covid-19 pandemic and the politicisation of language issues in too many European states remind us that the progress made is not irreversible and requires constant vigilance”, it warned. Moreover, 21 states have still not ratified the Charter, even though some of them undertook to do so when they joined the Council of Europe. As for member states that have ratified the Charter, they are encouraged to regularly review their level of commitment and to ensure the full implementation of their undertakings.
“The participation of all Council of Europe member states remains necessary to ensure that regional and minority languages continue to be safeguarded, protected and promoted within our "common home",” the Bureau stressed.