on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 19 November 2008
at the 1041st meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Articles 24 to 26 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (hereinafter referred to as “the Framework Convention”);
Having regard to Resolution (97) 10 of 17 September 1997 setting out rules adopted by the Committee of Ministers on the monitoring arrangements under Articles 24 to 26 of the Framework Convention;
Having regard to the voting rule adopted in the context of adopting Resolution (97) 10;1
Having regard to the instrument of ratification submitted by Switzerland on 21 October 1998;
Recalling that the Government of Switzerland transmitted its state report in respect of the second monitoring cycle under the Framework Convention on 31 January 2007;
Having examined the Advisory Committee’s second opinion on Switzerland, adopted on 29 February 2008, and the written comments of the Government of Switzerland, received on 28 August 2008;
Having also taken note of comments by other governments,
1. Adopts the following conclusions in respect of Switzerland:
a) Positive developments
Switzerland has taken a number of steps to improve the implementation of the Framework Convention following the adoption of the first opinion of the Advisory Committee in February 2003 and the Committee of Ministers’ resolution in December 2003. The constitutional and legal framework has been complemented in a number of respects both at the federal and cantonal levels and this has, inter alia, resulted in significant reinforcement of the protection offered to the linguistic minorities. For example, promising measures to support national languages are expected to be developed and supported by the new Federal Law on National Languages and Mutual Understanding between Linguistic Communities.
The Swiss Government adopted a commendable, comprehensive and self-critical report addressing problems faced by Travellers, in fields ranging from discrimination and participation to stopping places. The federal authorities have shown increased understanding of the gravity of the problems faced by Travellers and expressed strong commitment to resolve them in co-operation with the cantonal authorities.
In the field of education, promising developments have taken place at the inter-cantonal level to move towards a real harmonisation of language teaching, in a manner which should preserve the teaching of a second national language at an early stage to reach equal proficiency with English. Efforts have been made to promote plurilingualism of teachers and pupils and the new federal legislation on languages should open up new perspectives in this field.
Switzerland’s public service broadcasting encompasses a range of laudable legal obligations and practices in terms of minority language media. These include the obligation to broadcast programmes in German, French and Italian of the same quality all over the country, and a consolidation of the position of the Romanche. Radio and television programmes in Romanche have significantly increased since the first monitoring cycle.
Participation mechanisms at the federal and cantonal levels are very extensive for persons belonging to linguistic minorities due to the institutional framework and the federal system. Ambitious reforms have been carried out to design a new regional policy intended to improve competitiveness and reduce regional economic disparities. These reforms should have positive effects especially in mountainous cantons such as Graubünden, Ticino and Valais, which are the traditional areas of settlement of a number of persons belonging to linguistic minorities.
b) Issues of concern
General budgetary savings in the public sector have adversely affected institutions promoting human and minority rights. Ongoing discussion on the possible introduction of an Ombudsman Office and/or an independent human rights institution have not yet yielded concrete results and the Federal Commission against Racism has been weakened.
The overall situation of Italian and Romanche-speakers who live outside their traditional areas of settlement regarding opportunities to enjoy cultural and linguistic support, particularly in terms of access to language teaching, has not significantly improved.
The current position of Italian tends to lose importance within federal authorities, especially within the federal administration.
In the canton of Graubünden, the development of the daily use of Italian and Romanche in official contexts is essential to preserve the identity of the canton and to give effect to the new constitutional guarantee which recognises German, Romanche and Italian as national and official languages in equal measure. There is also a need to ensure that in the municipalities to be considered as multilingual according to the new cantonal Law on Languages, official documents are consistently published also in Romanche or Italian where appropriate.
To date, there is no specific legal basis to promote the identity and culture of Travellers. Limited public support has been provided to the institutions of Travellers and their overall contribution to the Swiss society is not sufficiently recognised and valued by the authorities.
The shortage of stopping places and transit sites remains acute in Switzerland. Little progress has been made in practice and the total number of existing sites has even been reduced since 2001. In some cantons, proposals to create further sites have been frozen or even withdrawn following adverse reactions, including by the municipalities concerned. The reassignment of military sites belonging to the Confederation has so far not yielded concrete results in the cantons due to a range of factors, including of a financial nature. On the basis of existing federal law, urban planning instruments, the implementation of which is the responsibility of the cantons and municipalities, have led to the creation of sites only in a few cases and after long delays.
A more systematic dialogue is required at the cantonal and municipal levels since there are often no special mechanisms for consulting Travellers. A lack of legal instruments and financial means is impeding efforts by the Foundation “A Future for Swiss Travellers” to influence the political will of cantons and municipalities to develop further stopping places and transit sites. The competences of the Foundation are also limited.
2. Adopts the following recommendations in respect of Switzerland:
In addition to the measures to be taken to implement the detailed recommendations contained in Sections I and II of the Advisory Committee's opinion, the authorities are invited to take the following measures to improve further the implementation of the Framework Convention:
- take measures to strengthen existing institutions promoting human rights and the fight against discrimination;
- make particular efforts to ensure the full implementation of the new federal legislation on languages, including to promote more decisively multilingualism, mutual understanding and exchanges between linguistic communities;
- pursue efforts to promote the official use of the Romanche and Italian languages at the municipal and district levels in the canton of Graubünden by ensuring the swift implementation of the new cantonal Law on Languages;
- take further steps in the canton of Graubünden to encourage wider written and oral use of Italian and Romanche by the general public as well as within the administration and the judiciary;
- pursue the harmonisation process of language teaching requirements in compulsory education and consider complementing the existing offer of optional Italian-language courses outside the areas where this language is traditionally spoken on the basis of existing needs;
- ease and accelerate the planning and creation of transit sites and stopping places for Travellers through appropriate measures. Develop stronger financial and other incentives to promote action by the cantons and pursue further efforts to create stopping places and transit sites, including the reassignment of military sites. Develop stronger inter-cantonal co-operation from planning to operation of stopping places and transit sites;
- pursue efforts to support the language and culture of Travellers through various educational projects carried out in close co-operation with those concerned and to facilitate regular school attendance of children practising an itinerant way of life;
- ensure effective participation of Travellers’ representatives in the work of various bodies dealing with Travellers’ issues and set up mechanisms of systematic consultation at the cantonal and municipal level where appropriate.
3. Invites the Government of Switzerland, in accordance with Resolution (97) 10:
a. to continue the dialogue in progress with the Advisory Committee;
b. to keep the Advisory Committee regularly informed of the measures it has taken in response to the conclusions and recommendations set out in section 1 and 2 above.
Note 1 In the context of adopting Resolution (97) 10 on 17 September 1997, the Committee of Ministers also adopted the following rule: “Decisions pursuant to Articles 24.1 and 25.2 of the Framework Convention shall be considered to be adopted if two-thirds of the representatives of the Contracting Parties casting a vote, including a majority of the representatives of the Contracting Parties entitled to sit on the Committee of Ministers, vote in favour”.