National minorities

Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities

Promoting the full and effective equality of persons belonging to minorities

The protection of national minorities has been on the agenda of the Council of Europe since its foundation and has resulted in the adoption of a number of texts from 1949 until present.

The Framework Convention, which entered into force on 1 February 1998, is one of the most comprehensive treaties designed to protect the rights of persons belonging to national minorities. Parties to the Convention undertake to promote the full and effective equality of persons belonging to minorities in all areas of economic, social, political and cultural life together with the conditions that will allow them to express, preserve and develop their culture and identity. Thirty-nine states are currently party to this treaty.

The Framework Convention does not contain a definition of the concept of “national minority” as there is no general definition agreed upon by all Council of Europe member states. Each party to the Framework Convention is therefore left with a margin of appreciation to assess which groups are to be covered by the Convention within their territory. Individuals are free to decide whether or not they wish to be treated as belonging to a national minority.

Based on a reporting system, the monitoring procedure requires each state to submit a first report within one year of entry into force of the Convention and additional reports every five subsequent years. Following its examination of a State Report, the Advisory Committee adopts an Opinion, based on an article by article approach, which is transmitted to the authorities concerned. States Parties have an opportunity to submit comments on this Opinion within four months after which time the comments and the Opinion may be made public. Based on the ACFC Opinion, the Committee of Ministers adopts a Resolution on conclusions and recommendations in respect of the state concerned.