10 February 2014

Declaration on “Regional and minority languages in Europe today”

Protecting and promoting regional and minority languages has been a long-standing priority of the Council of Europe in general and its Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in particular.

In this connection, the Bureau of the Congress endorses the conclusions of the Seminar organised in Paris on 9-10 December 2013. It welcomes the Report adopted by the European Parliament in September 2013 on “Endangered European languages and linguistic diversity in the European Union” and the recommendations of the Committee of Experts for the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages for the period 2012-2013.

In the light of the conclusions made by Jean-Claude Frécon, President of the Chamber of Local Authorities, the Bureau notes that the current context of economic and social crisis in Europe is seen as not being conducive to increased efforts to promote regional or minority languages. It is symptomatic that no additional countries have signed the Charter since 2005, even though several countries which had signed have ratified it recently (the latest being Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2010).

The Bureau remains however convinced that progress can be made, and results achieved, when the political will is there and when the various players at local, regional, national and European level join forces. In this connection, it welcomes the fact that a large majority of the French National Assembly voted, on 28 January 2014, in favour of a constitutional amendment permitting the ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages by France, 15 years after its signature.

The Bureau calls on Iceland, Italy and Malta, which have also signed the Charter but not yet ratified it, to follow France’s positive example. In addition, it invites the authorities of Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, the Russian Federation and “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” to ratify the Charter which they committed to do when they joined the Council of Europe.

The Congress – and in particular its Chamber of Regions – will continue to follow up this issue, in close cooperation with the relevant monitoring bodies of the Council of Europe.