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CM/Notes/762/10.4revadd3  / 19 September 2001 

CM/Notes/761/10.2... European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages – Reports of the Committee of Experts in respect of Liechtenstein, Hungary, The Netherlands, Croatia and Finland1)


Ministers' Deputies
Notes on the Agenda

CM/Notes/762/10.4 (Restricted) 22 August 2001
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762 Meeting, 5 September 2001
10 Legal questions

10.4 European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages Examination of the reports of the Committee of Experts in respect of Liechtenstein, Hungary, the Netherlands, Croatia and Finland

 

 

Reference documents
CM(2001)96

CM(2001)97

CM(2001)98

CM(2001)99

CM(2001)100 and Corrigendum


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Action
The Deputies are invited to consider the reports of the Committee of Experts of the Charter, and in particular, with a view to their adoption, the recommendations proposed by the Committee with respect to the countries in question.


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1.         Context

 

The Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages was set up in accordance with Article 17 of the Charter.  Its main function is to consider the periodic reports made by each Party to the Charter, to verify the situation regarding that country's regional or minority languages and to make a report to the Committee of Ministers assessing compliance with undertakings.

 

In accordance with Article 16, paragraph 3 of the Charter the Committee of Experts has submitted to the Committee of Ministers its reports on implementation of the Charter in Liechtenstein, Hungary, the Netherlands, Croatia and Finland.  The reports contain proposals from the Committee of Experts for recommendations of the Committee of Ministers to four of these five countries.  The governments concerned have had the opportunity to submit observations on the reports, in accordance with Article 16.3 of the Charter.  These observations are set out in Appendix II to each report.

 

As regards the layout of the reports, in each case Chapter I gives information on the work of the Committee of Experts, the language situation in the country concerned and the particular issues which arose in examination of the situation.  Chapter II is a detailed assessment of compliance with Charter obligations.  Chapter III sums up the Committee of Experts' findings and puts forward recommendations which the Committee of Ministers could make to the country concerned.

 

As this is the first time the Committee of Experts has submitted reports to the Committee of Ministers, a hearing of the Chair of the Committee of Experts has taken place on 18 July 2001 (761st meeting, item 10.2a).  During the same meeting, the Deputies had been invited to have a discussion on the procedure suggested for examining the reports. A short discussion on the procedure took place during this meeting and in the light of the comments made, the Secretariat revised the proposed procedure (see paragraph 2 below).  

The legal basis for the decisions which need taking is to be found in Article 16 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, paragraphs 3 and 4 of which read: 

“3.       On the basis of the reports specified in paragraph 1 and the information mentioned in paragraph 2, the committee of experts shall prepare a report for the Committee of Ministers. This report shall be accompanied by the comments which the Parties have been requested to make and may be made public by the Committee of Ministers.

 

            4.         The report specified in paragraph 3 shall contain in particular the proposals of the committee of experts to the Committee of Ministers for the preparation of such recommendations of the latter body to one or more of the Parties as may be required.”

 

2.         Preparation and adoption of the Committee of Ministers' recommendations

 

Under the Charter the Committee of Ministers is required to decide what action to take on the recommendations made by the Committee of Experts regarding the individual countries.

 

In the Notes on the Agenda for the 761st Meeting (CM/Notes/ 761/10.2), the Secretariat suggested that one way of preparing the draft decisions for adoption by the Ministers' Deputies would be to appoint one Rapporteur for all the Committee of Experts' reports on the Charter.  The Rapporteur would examine each report and submit a draft decision to the Committee of Ministers.  He or she would be empowered to consult the State concerned, to contact the Committee of Experts if necessary and, if appropriate, to convene a meeting open to all interested Delegations.

 

Although this proposal received support, the Chargé d'Affaires of the Russian Federation, in a letter dated 16 July 2001, expressed concerns that such a procedure might be tantamount to the creation of another additional structure modifying the monitoring procedure established by the Charter.

 

It should be emphasised that the procedure suggested in CM/Notes/761/10.2 was in no way intended to modify the procedure for monitoring the implementation of the Charter nor to substitute an additional structure, but simply to facilitate the decision-making process of the Committee of Ministers itself.  It is in fact by now a well-established practice at Ministers' Deputies level to prepare items by having recourse either to a Rapporteur Group or to an individual Rapporteur.

 

The suggestion to resort to an individual Rapporteur took account of the scope of the task devolving on the Committee of Ministers under the terms of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.  In particular, the role of the Committee of Ministers under the Charter can be distinguished, on the one hand, from that laid down by the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and, on the other hand, from that assigned to it with respect to the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).

 

According to the Framework Convention it is the Committee of Ministers that monitors its implementation (Article 24.1).  In its work, the Committee of Ministers is assisted by an advisory committee (Article 26.1).  The role of the Advisory Committee, according to Resolution (97) 10, is to consider the state reports and to transmit its opinions to the Committee of Ministers (Art.23 of the Resolution).  On the basis of each opinion, the Committee of Ministers shall consider and adopt its conclusions… and may adopt recommendations in respect of the party concerned.  It is therefore the Committee of Ministers that prepares and adopts its own conclusions (and, if appropriate, its own recommendations).  That, however, is not the case with the Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

 

Under the Charter (Articles 15-17), an independent Committee of Experts is established to evaluate the triennial reports of the States Parties and all other information it may receive from the authorities or from bodies or associations legally established in the State.  The Committee of Experts adopts its own conclusions, which are communicated to the Committee of Ministers together with the comments of the State concerned.  The Committee of Ministers may make it public.  The report of the Committee of Experts therefore stands in its own right.  However, it may contain proposals to the Committee of Ministers for the preparation of recommendations to the Party in question.  The role of the Committee of Ministers is therefore to consider and adopt the proposed recommendations, not the report itself.

 

This relatively circumscribed role of the Committee of Ministers has been further facilitated by the fact that the Committee of Experts has in each case put forward only a limited number of general recommendations for consideration and adoption by the Committee of Ministers.

 

It should also be borne in mind that, as the Chairman of the Committee of Experts reminded the Deputies, the States Parties whose reports are currently under examination are required, under the terms of the Charter, to submit their second periodical reports in the first part of 2002.  In order to give them time, before presenting this second report, to take account of the recommendations resulting from the first report, it is important that the Committee of Ministers should be in a position to adopt these recommendations within a reasonably short space of time.

 

In these circumstances, the Secretariat considered that the "lighter" procedure of an individual Rapporteur, as opposed to referral to a group of Rapporteurs, was justified (all the more so as, given the multidisciplinary character of the Charter, there might be differences of opinion as to which Rapporteur group was competent in this case).

 

On the other hand, the Secretariat did not propose that the Ministers' Deputies immediately discuss the draft recommendations in plenary session.  In particular, it had in mind the distinction between the procedure in the case of the Charter and that applying to the reports of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance.  In the latter case, the country-by-country reports are transmitted by ECRI to the governments of the countries in question, through the Committee of Ministers: the latter does not take a stand on the content of these texts.  In the case of the Charter, on the other hand, the Committee of Ministers is called upon to decide whether or not to address the recommendations in question to the States concerned.  This is a substantive, if closely circumscribed, task.

 

Nevertheless, the Secretariat would certainly have no objections if the Deputies were of the opinion that direct discussion of the substance in plenary session was the most efficient solution, especially as informal contacts with the Delegations of the States concerned by the reports under consideration suggest that none have significant problems with the recommendations proposed by the Committee of Experts.

Under these circumstances, the Deputies might wish to adopt a modified version of the procedure originally proposed.  The Deputies would consider draft decisions prepared by the Secretariat for each of the States Parties concerned, with a view to their adoption.  Should the debate reveal significant problems, the Deputies would entrust to a Rapporteur the task of examining the report(s) in question, consulting the State(s) concerned, contacting the Committee of Experts and, if appropriate, convening a meeting open to all interested delegations.  On the basis of this preparatory work, the Rapporteur would make specific proposals to the Ministers' Deputies.

 

If the Deputies can accept this procedure, they could proceed directly to the examination of the five reports and, in particular, the recommendations to be addressed to the States concerned.

  

3.         Publication of reports

 

Under Article 16 of the Charter the Committee of Experts reports can be made public by decision of the Committee of Ministers.  The Committee of Experts itself, in a letter from its Chair dated 8 June 2001, urges the Committee of Ministers to make the reports public.  Similarly the Parliamentary Assembly, in Recommendation 1492 on the rights of national minorities, requested publication of the reports.  The Deputies might express a view on the question, bearing in mind the Committee of Ministers' policy of transparency.  They might consider deciding that every report examined by the Committee of Ministers will automatically be published unless the state concerned objects, in which case the Committee of Ministers would take an ad hoc decision.

  

 

 

Financing assured: YES

 

 

  


DRAFT DECISIONS 

 

762nd meeting – 5 September 2001

 

 

Item 10.4

 

European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

Examination of the Committee of Experts' reports on Liechtenstein, Hungary, the Netherlands, Croatia and Finland

(CM(2001)96, CM(2001)97, CM(2001)98, CM(2001)99, CM(2001)100 and Corrigendum)

 

 

Decisions

 

The Deputies:

 

1.         took note of the reports of the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in respect of Liechtenstein, Hungary, the Netherlands, Croatia and Finland, as they appear in CM(2001)96 to CM(2001)100 and Corrigendum;

 

2.         adopted the recommendations proposed by the Committee of Experts as they appear in the Appendices I to IV to these Notes and agreed to forward them to the respective member states;

 

3.         authorised automatic declassification of each report after it had been examined by the Committee of Ministers unless the state concerned objected to its publication.

  


APPENDIX I

 

Draft Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers on the application of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages by Hungary

 

 

The Committee of Ministers,

 

In accordance with Article 16 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages;

 

Bearing in mind the instrument of ratification submitted by the Republic of Hungary on 26 April 1995;

 

Having taken note of the evaluation made by the Committee of Experts of the Charter with respect to the application of the Charter by the Republic of Hungary;

 

Bearing in mind that this evaluation is based on information submitted by Hungary in its initial periodical report, supplementary information provided by the Hungarian Government, information submitted by bodies and associations legally established in Hungary, and information obtained by the Committee of Experts during its “on the spot visit”, 

 

Recommends that the Republic of Hungary:

 

1.        establish a policy for developing the Romani and Beas languages, with the aim of facilitating their use in public life, and respond to the needs of the users of these languages, in particular in education;

 

2.        strengthen the institutional infrastructure for teaching in and of the minority languages, and develop further the possibilities of bilingual education and provide sufficient teacher training;

 

3.        strengthen the possibilities of speakers of minority languages to use their language before the courts and in relations with the administration, by taking organisational and other appropriate measures to ensure that the existing legal mechanisms can be utilised in practice;

 

4.        continue to develop the potential of its newly established system of minority self-governments in view of the valuable contribution it can make to the promotion of the minority languages.

 


APPENDIX II

 

Draft Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers on the application of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages by the Netherlands

 

 

The Committee of Ministers,

 

In accordance with Article 16 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages;

 

Bearing in mind the instrument of acceptance submitted by the Kingdom of the Netherlands on 2 May 1996;

 

Having taken note of the evaluation made by the Committee of Experts of the Charter with respect to the application of the Charter by the Kingdom of the Netherlands;

 

Having taken note of the comments submitted by the Dutch authorities on the content of the report of the Committee of Experts;

 

Bearing in mind that this evaluation is based on information submitted by the Netherlands in its initial periodical report, supplementary information given by the Dutch authorities, information submitted by bodies and associations legally established in this country and information obtained by the Committee of Experts during its on-the-spot visit;

 

Recommends that the Netherlands: take account of all the observations of the Committee of Experts and, as a matter of priority:

 

1.        take the necessary steps to ensure that a substantial part of pre-school and primary education is available in Frisian. In order to achieve the objectives fixed by the authorities in respect of Frisian, the quality and the continuity of the teaching of Frisian throughout the education process, and in particular in secondary education, should be improved. Further efforts should be made to ensure and improve the necessary basic and further teacher training;

 

2.        ensure the practical implementation of the existing legal provisions as regards the use of Frisian in relation to the judicial and administrative authorities;

 

3.        take into account the special needs of broadcasting in Frisian and consider increasing its financial support;

 

4.        develop a general national language policy for those languages covered only by Part II of the Charter, based on the objectives and principles outlined therein.

 

 

 

APPENDIX III

 

Draft Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers on the application of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages by Croatia

 

 

The Committee of Ministers,

 

In accordance with Article 16 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages;

 

Bearing in mind the instrument of ratification submitted by the Republic of Croatia on 5 November 1997;

 

Having taken note of the evaluation made by the Committee of Experts of the Charter with respect to the application of the Charter by the Republic of Croatia;

 

Having taken note of the comments submitted by the Croatian authorities on the content of the report of the Committee of Experts

 

Bearing in mind that this evaluation is based on information submitted by Croatia in its initial periodical report, supplementary information given by the Croatian Government, information submitted by bodies and associations legally established in Croatia, and information obtained by the Committee of Experts during its “on-the-spot visit”;

 

Recommends that the Republic of Croatia take account of all the observations of the Committee of Experts and, as a matter of priority:

 

1.         adopt and effectively apply the legal acts and regulations necessary to implement the existing constitutional

            provisions and basic statutory acts aimed at protecting and ensuring the use of regional or minority languages;

 

2.         establish by legal means an adequate institutional infrastructure for the teaching in and of the regional or minority

            languages in accordance with the obligations of Croatia under Article 8 of the Charter, and in particular provide

            sufficient teaching materials and teacher training in regional or minority languages;

 

3.         create institutional mechanisms that encourage direct participation of the users of regional or minority languages

            in planning, funding and organising cultural activities and in the field of the mass media;

 

4.         create the necessary legal basis for the official use of regional or minority languages by state and regional

            administration as well as in the courts of law and in particular avoid abdicating to local authorities the choice as

            to where Articles 9 and 10 of the Charter will be applied;

 

5.         re-examine the administrative divisions created since 1992 in order to overcome the obstacles to the promotion   

            of the regional or minority languages created by these newly established administrative divisions;

 

6.         strengthen its mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of its undertakings, thus providing more

            comprehensive information;

 

7.         make its periodical reports on the application of the Charter public, thus ensuring that the organisations and

            persons concerned are informed of the rights and duties established under the Charter and its implementation.

 

 

APPENDIX IV

 

Draft Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers on the application of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages by Finland

  

The Committee of Ministers, 

In accordance with Article 16 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages;

 

Bearing in mind the instrument of acceptance submitted by Republic of Finland on 9 November 1994;

 

Having taken note of the evaluation made by the Committee of Experts of the Charter with respect to the application of the Charter by the Republic of Finland;

 

Having taken note of the comments submitted by the Finnish authorities on the content of the report of the Committee of Experts;

 

Bearing in mind that this evaluation is based on information submitted by Finland in its initial periodical report, supplementary information given by the Finnish authorities, information submitted by bodies and associations legally established in Finland and on the information obtained by the Committee of Experts during its “on-the- spot” visit;

 

Recommends that the Republic of Finland take account of all the observations of the Committee of Experts and, as a matter of priority:

 

1.         take immediate measures to strengthen the position of the Sami language in the field of education. Special efforts should be devoted to pre-school and primary education and to making available the necessary teacher training and teaching materials for Skolt and Inari Sami which seem to be in danger of extinction;

 

2.         increase the presence of Sami within the media, in particular by encouraging, through concrete measures, the creation of newspapers and the broadcasting of regular television programmes;

 

3.         provide favourable conditions to encourage the use of Swedish and Sami before judicial and administrative authorities, in particular by taking measures aimed at improving the language skills of legal officials and administrative personnel in Swedish and in Sami;

 

4.         ensure the provision of services in Swedish and Sami in the health care and social welfare sectors to those who so wish;

 

5.         make its periodical reports on the application of the Charter public, thus ensuring that organisations and persons concerned are informed of the rights and duties established under the Charter and its implementation.



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