Prof. dr. sc. Vesna Crnić-Grotić, Chair of the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

Video message recorded for the NPLD Networking Breakfast organised in Brussels on 21 September 2021 to celebrate the European Day of Languages (26 September)


“Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear colleagues and friends,

It gives me great pleasure to participate today in this event organized by the NPLD - Networking Breakfast celebrating the European Day of Languages. My participation is, of course, modern, in line with the new normal – pre-recorded. I would like to express my gratitude to Mr Vicent Fenollar for giving me the opportunity to say a few words to you on behalf of the Committee of Experts for the ECRML about the challenges in the field of promotion and protection of regional or minority languages in Europe in these challenging times.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been with us for a long time already and that has affected regional or minority languages and their use. In the early days of the pandemic the Committee of Experts warned about the need to use regional or minority languages in providing necessary information to the population about the sanitary measures necessary to prevent the spread of the disease. Remember how confused and scared we all were and without proper information it was even worse.

Furthermore, the Committee of Experts realised the downsides of the online education with respect to regional or minority languages that quickly became a dominant model of education. Many states took care of the education in the majority official language, neglecting sometimes the needs of the speakers of regional or minority languages to also get quality education. Our public statement tried to point to this potential discriminatory treatment. It is also quite clear that some of the aspects of the covid-style education will remain and it is therefore important to establish some ground rules for the future. Education in regional or minority languages, in general, may be seen as challenging but the Charter is there to provide a good legal framework for all stages and levels. At one point, we even hoped that there will be a decisive move in France but that did not last for long.

Nevertheless, the period in question had many positive developments in relation to the Charter and its implementation. Let me emphasize that there have been positive changes of ratification instruments of some of the states-parties to the Charter. The United Kingdom enlarged the protection given to the Manx Gaelic language by ratifying Part III undertakings in respect of the territory of the Isle of Man. Germany notified the Council of Europe that it has accepted additional Part III undertakings under the European Charter with regard to Danish, North Frisian and Low German in the Land Schleswig-Holstein. Norway just informed us that they were extending their ratification under Part III to the two smaller Sami languages: South and Lule Sami. So far, only North Sami has been covered by the more elaborate protection under Part III. Both South and Lule Sami are in a very precarious situation with only a couple of hundreds of speakers. It is commendable that Norway established a good communication with the representatives of these languages in order to strengthen them and preserve them. It is interesting to note that such measures gave rise to new languages being “discovered” and there is a wish to bring them back to life as a cultural wealth of their communities.

Finally, Portugal is the first country to sign the Charter since the last ratification deposited in 2010. A small linguistic community using Mirandese will be protected by the Charter and that should ensure a more structured approach to its preservation. We are now eagerly waiting for Portugal to deposit its ratification instrument and become the 26th state party to the Charter. We are very happy with this development.

Allow me further to mention that since June this year the Committee of Experts has been “back in business” – we have started our visits and full monitoring of the application of the Charter in the states-parties. So far, we’ve visited Poland, Cyprus, Ukraine, Norway. I must say that we have been enthusiastically received and welcomed by the speakers regardless of the still precarious health situation. Additional visits are planned.

Finally, under the presidency of Hungary, the Council of Europe has held two conferences dedicated to minorities and their languages, showing the importance of this topic for the member states of the Council. We can only wish that this interest will be kept and bring results in their favour.

I wish you all a good breakfast and a very nice day. Thank you.”

 Rijeka, 21 September 2021