Declining minority rights weakens democracy

“Where divisions are built between different ethnic, cultural, linguistic or religious groups, democracy is weakened. The decline in minority rights is a source of real concern as it can threaten the inclusive nature of European societies, ”said the Minister. Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in his biennial report for 2018-2020 released today.

Over the past two years, the Council of Europe’s advisory body has continued to observe the rise of nationalist, populist and xenophobic political parties and movements. While many persons belonging to national minorities still cannot fully participate in the cultural, economic and public life of their society, the xenophobic populist discourse on behalf of the “majority” seeks to limit their space even further. Political representatives of far-right and traditional political parties often play an active role in, or do not condemn, intolerant statements or even hate speech targeting national minorities. Acceptance of such discourse dissuades persons belonging to minorities from seeking an active role in public debate and from participating effectively in public affairs and decision-making in matters which concern them, underlines the Committee.

At the same time, legislation and formal structures for the participation of representatives of national minorities in public affairs are generally in place: in many states, national minorities benefit from institutionalized participation in decision-making either directly, for example through allocation of seats in parliament, either indirectly through consultative mechanisms, such as minority councils, or both. “This is an important step forward compared to the early days of the Framework Convention,” notes the Committee.

However, there are obstacles to the full exercise of this right: thresholds preventing numerically smaller national minorities from effectively participating, the lack of proper assessment of how measures are implemented in practice and ineffective consultation mechanisms in several European countries, for example when peoples’ views on the use of the land they traditionally inhabit are neglected. Another example concerns ineffective participation programs in the development and implementation of national Roma integration strategies. To enable the most vulnerable communities to participate effectively in democratic processes, states must overcome fundamental obstacles, such as poverty, illiteracy or low level of education, lack of identification documents, social exclusion. and spatial segregation. In addition, training of minority representatives to facilitate negotiations with the authorities or the financing of attendance at meetings should be considered.

The Committee of Ministers had today an exchange of views with Marie Hagsgård, Acting Chairperson of the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and took note of the biennial report of the Advisory Committee.

Press release
Backtracking on minority rights is worrying, warns Council of Europe advisory body on national minorities

Minorities and languages ​​- Diversity of identities – Equal rights

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