Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities Celebrates its 20-Year Anniversary - Statement by Deputy Commissioner for the Rights of National Minorities Dr. Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe approved the text of the document entitled “Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities” on November 10, 1994. The international treaty was ready to sign on February 1, 1995, then entered into force on February 1, 1998, i.e. exactly twenty years ago. Pursuant to Section 27 of the treaty, which is authentic both in English and French, it was open for ratification not only for the member states of the Council of Europe, but also, as a result of the invitation by the Committee of Ministers, according to the Explanatory Report to the Framework Convention, to the states participating in the European security and cooperation process of the time. In the twenty years since then, 43 of the current 47 member states of the Council of Europe have signed it, and 39 also incorporated it in their respective legal systems. This means that the Framework Convention takes the second place, following the European Convention on Human Rights, with regard to the number of states that have ratified it, in the list of the 222 treaties elaborated and opened for ratification under the aegis of the Council of Europe. Hungary was among the first to sign and enact the Framework Convention.
During the total of the four monitoring cycles between 1998 and 2018, the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention reviewed as many as 148 country reports, paid 127 country visits and adopted 139 reports.
The Framework Convention plays a key role among the international mechanisms of varying efficiency available in Europe for the protection of national minorities, besides the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The data mentioned above speak for themselves, however, the fact that after twenty years, the Framework Convention became a priority point of reference in the European legal space, is much more critical, as this is the only comprehensive international treaty on the protection of minorities that has genuine legal value. During controlling the minority rights ordered to be protected, the Advisory Committee entrusted with monitoring elaborated standards of interpretation, which are regularly and more and more frequently referred to by other international organizations and institutions (from OSCE through the European Union to the European Court of Human Rights) when they make decisions. On the other hand, from the aspect of the legal systems of the state parties, we may presume but at least hope that the minority rights mentioned in the Framework Convention have become an integral part of the constitutional traditions of these states.
The history of Europe also proves that it is not access to minority rights but the very opposite, i. e. the lack of access to minority rights that generates uncertainties in the society and this is what causes conflicts that may ultimately even lead to tragedies. Supporting diversity, which is suggested and ordered to be protected by the minority protection provisions of international law is the only way to follow for a country that wishes to build a protective and accepting state.
For those who are interested in the cause of national minorities, I would recommend the following English video recording and publication assessing the twenty-year activities of the Framework Convention and presenting the challenges of the future:
Dr. Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay, Prof. HC
Deputy Commissioner for Fundamental Rights