Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
Rapporteur Group on Legal Co-operation
GR-J(2007)13 11 October 20071
European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
Failure to comply with the reporting obligation
Item to be considered by the GR-J at its meeting on 6 November 2007
At its 27th meeting (September 2007), the Committee of Experts of the Charter of regional or minority languages considered the issue of reporting delays of State parties to the Charter and their consequences for the monitoring mechanism which supervises the implementation of this instrument. An exchange of views took place regarding the possibility of initiating the monitoring procedure without State reports in case of serious delay. The Committee of Experts decided to send this proposal to the Committee of Ministers for approval.
According to Article 15 of the Charter, States Parties are obliged to submit periodical reports one year after entry into force and every three years thereafter. It has already been the case in the past that some States were late in submitting their report. Whereas in most cases there have been no serious delays, it has been a matter of concern for some States. Denmark's first report was over a year late, as was the Netherlands' second report, and currently, Austria is 19 months overdue in submitting its second periodical report, and the Netherlands were 18 months overdue with their 3rd report.
In a similar situation, the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities proposed a procedure for the commencement of monitoring without a State report in cases of serious delays. This proposal was accepted by the Committee of Ministers in March 2003 and, as a result, monitoring without State report is currently possible, upon the Committee of Ministers’ authorisation, if a State is more than two years late in submitting its report (according to Rule 21 of Resolution (97)10, the monitoring cycle of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities is five years). This decision applies to all monitoring cycles.
At present, the Charter Secretariat reminds States one year before the due date of their obligation to submit their next report. Reminder letters are also sent every three months and in the absence of a reply, the Secretary General may also send a letter expressing his concern and urging the authorities to forward their periodical report to the Secretariat of the Charter. He did this in July 2007 with respect to Austria, which is the only country in this situation presently.
In the light of the foregoing, the Committee of Experts agreed to the following procedure to strengthen the monitoring mechanism:
a. Delay of 3 months: initial reminder letter sent to the country concerned by the Secretariat of the Charter;
b. Delay of 6 months: Reminder letter to the country concerned by the Director General of DG IV, regretting the delay and seeking concrete information on the reason for the delay and on the anticipated date of submission;
c. Delay of 12 months: A letter by the Chairman of the Ministers’ Deputies to the State Party concerned could be sent, for example, informing the State that monitoring would commence if the State report was not submitted within 3 months from the date of the letter;
d. Delay of 15 months: in the absence of the State report, commencement of the Charter’s monitoring procedures.
At present, there is no practice of written communication from the Ministers’ Deputies to the countries that have failed to submit their reports by the time-limit foreseen in Article 15 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
The GR-J may wish to consider whether a letter by the Chairman of the Ministers’ Deputies to the State Party concerned could be sent, following a delay of 12 months, for example, informing the State that monitoring would commence if the State report was not submitted within 3 months from the date of the letter. This monitoring would take account of the previous State report (where appropriate) and other relevant information (gathered, for example, during the on-the-spot visit to the State concerned or from legally established bodies and associations, in accordance with Article 16, paragraph 2 of the Charter).
If the idea of monitoring without a State report is accepted, the GR-J would also need to decide how to deal with the States whose reporting delay already exceeds 15 months (or another time-limit set by the Deputies). The GR-J may wish to consider whether a letter from the Chairman of the Ministers’ Deputies should similarly be sent to these States with the understanding that monitoring would commence if a State report is not submitted within 3 months from the date of the letter.
In conclusion, the GR-J may wish to consider:
i. Whether to give the Committee of Experts a mandate to start monitoring procedures in the absence of a State report;
ii. When such monitoring should start (e.g. after a 15 months delay);
iii. Whether and when a letter should be sent by the Chairman of the Ministers’ Deputies to the States Parties with a significant reporting delay;
iv. How to approach those States that are already seriously late in the submission of their report.
Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue; it will be declassified in accordance with Resolution Res(2001)6 on access to Council of Europe documents.