The violent break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s consolidated the resolve in the Council of Europe to draft a dedicated legally binding treaty for the protection of national minorities. This is how, twenty-five years ago, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities was born. “We can see that the key principles and rights set out in the Framework Convention are as relevant today as they were in the 1990s,” said Petra Roter, President of the Advisory Committee under the Convention.
“The Framework Convention aims to enable persons belonging to minorities to be equal in law and in fact, to be able to preserve, promote and develop their identities and to be able to participate effectively in all walks of life in diverse societies in which they live and contribute to,” she said. “But crucially, it also paves the way for societal integration and coherence, and as a result, for peace and stability within states and the international community.”
“Unfortunately for an instrument which came into the world in the wake of violent conflict, 25 years on it bears witness once again to war in Europe. The Russian Federation’s misuse of minority rights as a pretext for the aggression against Ukraine shows this most clearly,” she recalled. “The plight of persons belonging to national minorities and indigenous peoples in Ukraine – in particular the Crimean Tatars who have had to flee their homes once again – is a stain on Europe’s conscience”, Petra Roter stressed.
Twenty-five years of implementing the Convention principles have borne fruit. “Across Europe, solid minority and anti-discrimination legislation is now in place and our recommendations continue to be used, not only by the authorities to whom they are directed, but also by civil society and minority organisations to advocate for their rights,” the President said.
However, old challenges remain, and new ones emerge. Roter spoke notably of nationalist narratives purporting to proclaim national unity and serving to exclude national minorities. “Identity politics that seeks to divide people and communities does not serve the principles and aims of the Framework Convention”.
An anniversary is an opportunity to look back and reckon with the past, but also to look forward. We remain convinced, Roter said, that the Framework Convention “provides us with the tools to continue to do better, to keep making the case for advancing minority rights, and for restoring peace, security and stability in Europe”.