Update: 08.01.2018

European Conventions for the Protection of Minorities

Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM)

Official Text

The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities was drawn up within the Council of Europe by the Ad Hoc Committee for the Protection of National Minorities (CAHMIN), was adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 10 November 1994 and opened for signature by the member States of the Council of Europe on 1 February 1995. 

The Framework Convention is the first legally binding multilateral instrument devoted to the protection of national minorities. It aims at specifying the legal principles which states undertake to respect in order to ensure the protection of national minorities. 

The Framework Convention contains mostly provisions setting out objectives which the state parties undertake to pursue and therefore is not directly applicable. Subsequently this leaves the states concerned a measure of discretion in the implementation of the objectives which they have undertaken to achieve, thus enabling them to take particular circumstances into account.

The Framework Convention contains no definition of the notion of national minority. It was decided to adopt a pragmatic approach, based on the recognition that it is impossible to arrive at a definition capable of mustering general support of all Council of Europe members.

The implementation of the principles set out in this Framework Convention is done through national legislation and appropriate governmental policies. It does not imply the recognition of collective rights. The emphasis is placed on the protection of persons belonging to national minorities, who may exercise their rights individually and in community with others.

Further Sources

European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

Official Text

The main purpose of the Charter is cultural. It is designed to protect and promote regional or minority languages as a threatened aspect of Europe’s cultural heritage. For this reason it not only contains a non-discrimination clause concerning the use of these languages but also provides for measures offering active support for them: the aim is to ensure, as far as reasonably possible, the use of regional or minority languages in education and the media and to permit their use in judicial and administrative settings, economic and social life and cultural activities. The charter sets out to protect and promote regional or minority languages, not linguistic minorities.

The Charter is designed to fully respect national sovereignty and territorial integrity. It respects official languages and the development regional or minority languages cannot obstruct knowledge and promotion of official languages. An intercultural and multilingual approach has been taken in the Charter, with each category of language taking its rightful place. In each state the cultural and social reality must be taken into account.

There are eight fundamental principles and objectives set out in the Charter which are applicable to all languages and they are as follows:

  1. 1. Recognition of regional or minority languages as an expression of cultural wealth.
  2. 2. Respect for the geographical area of each regional or minority language.
  3. 3. The need for resolute action to promote such languages.
  4. 4. The facilitation and/or encouragement of the use of such languages, in speech and writing, in public and private life.
  5. 5. The provision of appropriate forms and means for the teaching and study of such languages at all appropriate stages.
  6. 6. The promotion of relevant transnational exchanges.
  7. 7. The prohibition of all forms of unjustified distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference relating to the use of a regional or minority language and intended to discourage or endanger its maintenance or development.
  8. 8. The promotion by states of mutual understanding between all the country’s linguistic groups.

Further Sources

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