Today, the Council of Europe´s Committee of Experts published their evaluation report on Norway´s implementation of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, focusing on the recommendations for immediate action made in the eighth evaluation report in 2021. The immediate action recommendations include taking further measures to protect and promote Kven, Lule Sámi, North Sámi, South Sámi, Romanes and Romani in Norway.
Concerning Kven, the Committee welcomed several measures taken to implement the recommendation to ensure a stronger presence of Kven in the media, including reintroducing Kven in radio broadcasting. The authorities reported that they had strengthened role of Public Broadcasting Company (NRK) in promoting minority languages, including Kven. However, the Committee pointed out that each minority language has its own specific needs and that individual plans should be drawn in co-operation with speakers on a case-by-case basis for a more targeted and effective approach.
The Committee welcomed the allocation of permanent funds to Kven language in kindergartens but underlined the risks of funding Kven in kindergartens through grants, rather than structural funding. The experts also highlighted the need to improve the situation of Kven from primary and secondary education and ensure that students who have opted for Kven as a second language to continue these studies at upper secondary level.
On the recommendations related to Lule Sámi, North Sámi and South Sámi languages, the Committee of Experts commended the efforts by the authorities to increase the number of interpreters available and the use of technology to facilitate the provision of interpretation services for North Sámi speakers in situations where there are no interpreters available in person. The Committee encouraged the authorities to ensure that there are sufficient funds available for putting in place the training of interpreters of Sámi languages in compliance with the New Interpretation Act.
The experts urged the authorities to refrain from further administrative reforms that leave traditionally Sámi areas outside Sámi administrative areas and hindering access to education in Lule Sámi. In addition, the Committee looks forward to receiving information on measures taken to enhance competences of care services and retirement homes for Sámi users.
The authorities have put in place several initiatives to promote Romanes in education, and in public life in general. Setting up a Norwegian-Romanes pre-school is of great importance to help preserve the language and give it visibility within Norwegian society. Equally, the presence of Romanes-speaking mediators in schools can provide a bridge between schools and children and their families and facilitate mutual understanding as well as promote the use of the language in public life. There is also a pilot project to include a programme for the study and teaching of Romanes at university level.
However, the Committee of Experts considered the lack of certified interpreters of Romanes worrying when it concerns children who are in the welfare system. Children represent a group requiring special protection and they should be able to speak their own language when dealing with difficult situations where they are separated from their families. It therefore invites the Norwegian authorities to look into possible ways to certify interpreters of Romanes in order to guarantee availability of quality interpretation as needed, in particular when dealing with children.
In the report, the Committee of Experts was concerned that no specific information was provided about what measures are currently being discussed to promote Romani in public life, in particular in education, and encouraged the authorities to implement this recommendation in the immediate future in co-operation with the speakers.
The Committee of Experts also encouraged the authorities to actively involve the speakers of both Romanes and Romani to the development and implementation of the new Action Plan against Racism and Discrimination.
The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages is the European convention for the protection and promotion of languages used by traditional minorities. Norway was the first state to ratify the Charter in 1993 and it entered into force in the country in 1998. It applies to the following languages: Kven, Romanes, Romani, Lule Sámi, North Sámi and South Sámi.