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Launch of Thematic Commentary No. 4 on the Scope of Application of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities

Strasbourg , 

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“The Framework Convention: a key tool to managing diversity through minority rights”

 

I’m very pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you, even if only at the end of your meeting…

…so that I can underline the importance which I attach to our work to protect national minorities, as embodied in the Framework Convention…

…and as explained in the Thematic Commentary – for which I am very grateful to the Advisory Committee.    

I have been Secretary General since 2009. In that time, I have seen that the mission of this Organisation is changing. Because Europe is changing.

The Council of Europe will always be – above all else – the guardian of the European Convention on Human Rights and its supporting legal instruments. An Organisation devoted to democratic security: to peace and stability built on democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

But, in today’s increasingly fragmented Europe, meeting this mandate means thinking more than ever about inclusion in our societies. About integration. About helping those who are different live together, successfully, so that Europe’s growing diversity is not a weakness, but a strength.  

Many voices now say different. We live in times of rising nationalism, xenophobia and fear – a trend which I know our Human Rights Commissioner and Professor Leuprecht have already spoken about.

More than ever we must defend the rights of minorities and groups at risk of discrimination. And we must demonstrate the benefits of their inclusion to society as a whole.

The Framework Convention helps achieve this, as part of our wider system of human rights protections.

When implemented properly it helps show that - if we harness the talents of all in our societies - everybody benefits. When all children get a good education, for example. When all adults have the chance to work.

And the Framework Convention embodies a principle that will become increasingly important in the months and years ahead: that, in Europe, we are able to accommodate difference while upholding the basic rights and freedoms that all must respect.

It is a clear strength that, in the Council of Europe, the Advisory Committee stands alongside ECRI and also the Committee of Experts for the “Language Charter”. We also benefit from my special representatives on Roma inclusion and Migration.

Each looks at the current crisis of social fragmentation in Europe from a different angle. Each brings unique and complementary expertise to the table.

Their work, their country-by-country assessments, general policy recommendations and reports, combined with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, provide an unmatched guide to member states for ending discrimination and fostering inclusion.

No other organisation can offer that.

And the Council of Europe takes very seriously our responsibility in this regard.

This is why we have also introduced our Action Plan for Building Inclusive Societies, which I’m sure you have heard about today.

What counts, of course, is putting these principles into practice. We will therefore reflect carefully on everything that has been said today. And I find it extremely encouraging to have you on board, and to know that we will continue collaborating towards this goal.

Before I finish I must thank the outgoing Chair of the Advisory Committee, Francesco Palermo, for his tireless work in making the Framework Convention a success, and his commitment to a Europe where no minority fears the majority.

I would also like to thank today’s Chair, Petra Roter, who I know has been putting a welcome emphasis on implementation and concrete results.

Finally, let me thank you all for being here; for helping us strive for a Europe more at ease with its diversity; a Europe which people of all backgrounds, all cultures and all traditions can call home.