The Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages, chaired by Kinga Gál (Fidesz-EPP), met yesterday in Strasbourg with the chief of the advisory committee of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Professor Rainer Hofmann. In addition the Intergroup heard from the FCNM Secretariat’s head, Ms Michele Akip.
Professor Hofmann discussed the workings of the FCNM offering numerous insights and examples as the Convention continues to be implemented in most EU member states.
He underlined how the FCNM has a positive impact for national minoritries in EU accession states because the Convention sets a benchmark for those states to meet before they can join.
Most of the the 39 Council of Europe Member States have ratified the Convention except for: those that have signed but not ratified: Belgium, Greece, Iceland and Luxembourg; neither signed nor ratified: Andorra, France, Monaco, Turkey; with a special regime for Kosovo.
Speaking on linguistic rights Professor Hofmann described the “chilling” effect that some state legislation has had on national minority languages, such as Hungarian in Slovakia, and that this was incompatible with the FCNM and European norms, often adversely affecting neighbourhood relations.
Professor Hofmann listed some of the FCNM’s achievements such as the creation of a treaty-based mechanism to address majority/minority-situations with potential for destabilisation and conflict, and an overall improvement in the legal protection of minority rights as human rights as a result of additional treaty law coupled with an international monitoring mechanism.
He underlined also the important contribution of NGOs and the close cooperation of the Intergroup to the work of the FCNM. He encouraged NGOs and MEPs to continue in their work of providing information and data to the FCNM.
Michele Akip focused on the pragmatic aspects of the FCNM process from the initial Advisory Committee visits to the national minorities to the State Reports, describing how some States were “very open” while others more reserved in their dealings with the Council of Europe. She underlined the importance of having Reports that reflect the actual situations for national minorities, and the continuing co-operation of the Council of Europe with the EU.
Intergroup members raised several questions. For example, that while some national minorities may have rights, e.g. access to media, they often do not have the financial resources to actually benefit from those rights. Another MEP asked about the more general problem of varying standards in national minority protection across the EU. Professor Hofmann replied that states should support measures for national minorities. Referring to the Lisbon Treaty and the negotiations for the EU to join the ECHR, he said that EU law could now be used to set the standard on national minority protection.
The meeting concluded with Kinga Gál inviting the FCNM Advisory Committee to give its expert opinion on her forthcoming European Parliament Report on Fundamental Rights.
For the photos, please visit: https://galkinga.hu/hu/foto/30/