RECOMMENDATION 1134 (1990)
the rights of minorities
General observations on minorities
There are many kinds of minorities in Europe. They have
certain characteristics which may be ethnic, linguistic, religious or other which
distinguish them from the majority in a given area or country.
Minorities greatly contribute to the pluriformity and
cultural variety in Council of Europe member states, which have frequently adopted
specific legislation with the interests of certain minorities in mind.
Yet one cannot deny that certain very difficult and
serious problems continue to exist within the Europe of the Twenty-three.
Respect for the rights of minorities and persons
belonging to them is an essential factor for peace, justice, stability and democracy.
The revival of minority languages and cultures is a sign
of the richness and vitality of European civilisations.
With the change towards democracy in Central and Eastern
European states, grave minority problems also come to light in these countries. These
problems have been ignored and neglected for many years by authoritarian rule.
It is obvious that the Council of Europe must have the
interests of minorities at heart one of the main assignments given to this
organisation being the maintenance and further realisation of human rights and fundamental
freedoms. Minorities is one of the major subjects for co-operation and consultation with
the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
Among the work at present going on in the Council of
Europe in the field of minorities one may list :
the drafting of a European charter of regional and minority
the work of the Commission for Democracy through Law.
Adequate legal protection of minorities requires certain
Basic principles on the rights of minorities
The Assembly therefore considers the following
principles on the rights of minorities as a minimum :
every citizen must have equal access to the courts and be
afforded the rights safeguarded by the European Convention on Human Rights including the
right of individual petition set forth in Article 25 ;
introduction of a general non-discrimination clause in the
European Convention on Human Rights ;
the special situation of a given minority may justify special
measures in its favour ;
minorities shall be allowed to have free and unimpeded
peaceful contacts with citizens of other states with which they share a common origin or
heritage, without, however, infringing the principle of the territorial integrity of
In respect of national minorities - that is to say,
separate or distinct groups, well defined and established on the territory of a state, the
members of which are nationals of that state and have certain religious, linguistic,
cultural or other characteristics which distinguish them from the majority of the
population - the following principles should apply :
national minorities shall have the right to be recognised as
such by the states in which they live ;
national minorities shall have the right to maintain and
develop their culture ;
national minorities shall have the right to maintain their own
educational, religious and cultural institutions. For this purpose, they shall also have
the right to solicit voluntary financial and other contributions including public
national minorities shall have the right to participate fully
in decision-making about matters which affect the preservation and development of their
identity and in the implementation of those decisions ;
every person belonging to a national minority is required to
comply with the obligations resulting from his citizenship or residence in a European
Furthermore, in respect of linguistic minorities, the
Assembly adopts the following two principles :
persons belonging to a linguistic minority shall have access to
adequate types and levels of public education in their mother tongue ;
linguistic minorities shall have the right to obtain, provide,
possess, reproduce, distribute and exchange information in their mother tongue regardless
Obligations for the states
As far as the European states are concerned they
commit themselves to guarantee the protection as well as the
possibility of the effective exercise of the rights of national minorities and persons
belonging to them ;
take all the necessary legislative, administrative, judicial
and other measures to create favourable conditions to enable minorities to express their
identity, to develop their education, culture, language, traditions and customs ;
take the necessary measures, on the one hand, to eliminate
prejudices and foster mutual knowledge and understanding in a climate of tolerance and
mutual respect among persons belonging and persons not belonging to minorities, and, on
the other, to develop active, solidarity-based civic participation by all nationals of
European states and their genuine integration into joint citizenship ;
abstain from pursuing policies aimed at
forced assimilation of
national minorities, from taking administrative measures affecting the composition of the
population in areas inhabited by national minorities, and from compelling such minorities
to remain confined in geographical and cultural ghettos'' ;
fully implement the provision of Article 27 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which reads as follows :
In those states in which ethnic, religious or linguistic
minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in
community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess
and practise their own religion, or to use their own language.''
The Assembly reaffirms the need for the full
implementation of the commitments contained in the Helsinki Final Act, the Madrid
concluding document and the Vienna concluding document concerning national minorities as
well as the one adopted in Copenhagen in June 1990.
In addition, it draws attention to the obligations
contained in the international instruments relating to national, ethnic, religious and
linguistic minorities, by which the states participating in the CSCE process are bound.
Given its experience in the field of human rights, the
parliamentary and intergovernmental work it has carried out concerning minorities, and its
current work, the Council of Europe is the appropriate organisation for the elaboration of
a legal instrument in this field.
Recommendation to the Committee of Ministers
The Assembly therefore recommends that the Committee of
Ministers draw up a Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights or a special
Council of Europe convention to protect the rights of minorities in the light of the
principles stated above.
debate on 1 October 1990 (14th Sitting) (see Doc. 6294, report of the Committee on
Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Rapporteur : Mr Brincat ; and Doc. 6302, opinion
of the Political Affairs Committee, Rapporteur : Mr Baumel).
Text adopted by the Assembly on 1
October 1990 (14th Sitting).