Doc. 8438

15 June 1999

Aromanian culture and language

Recommendation 1333 (1997)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 674th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (8-9 June 1999)

The Committee of Ministers has taken note of the constant interest shown by the Assembly in the situation of scattered cultures and less widely spoken languages since the adoption in March 1996 of Recommendation 1291 on Yiddish culture. This interest, which is reflected, inter alia, in the successive adoption of Recommendation 1333 on the Aromanian culture and language and Resolution 1171 (1998) on endangered Uralic minority cultures, is shared by the Committee of Ministers.

Concerning the specific situation of the Aromanian language and culture, the Committee of Ministers agrees entirely with paragraph 5 of the Recommendation, as well as with the opinions of the CDCC and the CDDH, which are appended, and invites the States concerned to support, as required, the Aromanian language and culture on the basis of the measures set out in paragraph 8.i of the Recommendation.

In this context, the Committee of Ministers wishes to state its full agreement with the view expressed in paragraph 4 of the Recommendation: “… the acceptance of a pluralist system of culture values is a prerequisite for stability in Europe, and particularly in the Balkans”. The Committee of Ministers considers education for democracy and pluralism and, in particular, the teaching of history, to be among the primary tasks of the entire education system. Such pluralism must naturally include encouragement of Europe’s diverse linguistic as well as cultural heritage.

The Committee of Ministers draws attention to the fact that it decided, on 25 November 1998, to grant Council of Europe auspices to the "European Institute for Dispersed Ethnic Minorities" (EIDEM), which was set up in July 1998 in Vilnius, on a private initiative, with the support of the Lithuanian Government.

While this Institute is not under Council of Europe authority, the Committee of Ministers recalls that it has given terms of reference to the Committee of Experts on Issues Relating to the Protection of National Minorities (DH-MIN) to undertake a study on "dispersed ethnic minorities" as well as on prospects for co-operation between the Council of Europe on the one hand and the European Institute for Dispersed Ethnic Minorities and other bodies pursuing similar objectives on the other hand.

The Committee of Ministers also refers to the opinions given by the CDCC and the CDDH on the Recommendation, which are appended to the present reply. The opinions give an overview of activities within the Council of Europe programme of particular relevance to the situation of scattered cultures and less widely spoken languages.

Appendix 1

Opinion of the CDDH on Recommendation 1333 (1997)

of the Parliamentary assembly

on the Aromanian culture and language

1.       The Ministers Deputies' instructed the Steering Committee of Human Rights: "to give an opinion on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1333 (1997) on the Aromanian Culture and Language", and particularly its paragraphs 8(i) and 8(vii).

2.       The CDDH requested the Committee of Experts on Issues Relating to the Protection of National Minorities (DH-MIN) to prepare a draft opinion which was prepared by the DH-MIN at its first meeting from 17-20 March 1998.

3.       Concerning Recommendation 8(i) the CDDH recognises that Aromanian culture exists in a number of Member States but equally notes that there are differing views as to the historic origins. It further notes that there may be, among persons adhering to an Aromanian identity important differences in the perception and expression of their identity. Thus persons who consider themselves affiliated to Aromanian culture do not necessarily consider themselves as belonging to a national minority. Therefore, although measures for support as indicated in Recommendation 8(i) are welcome in general terms, it should be ensured, particularly in the light of this diversity, that measures taken actually correspond to a real need expressed by the persons concerned.

4.       Concerning Recommendation 8(vii) the CDDH draws attention to the fact that in its opinion on Recommendation 1291(1996) it has advocated a broad and pragmatic approach towards the scope of a possible "laboratory for dispersed ethnic minorities". Thus, should the Council of Europe undertake further action in respect the establishment of such an institute, Aromanian language and culture might be considered for inclusion.

Appendix 2

Opinion by the CDCC on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1333 (1997)

on the Aromanian culture and language

1.       The Council on Cultural Co-operation (CDCC) welcomes the Parliamentary Assembly’s commitment to the preservation and development of European minority cultures and languages. Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1333 (1997) addresses the situation of a particularly threatened culture and linguistic group: the Aromanians.

2.       The CDCC in particular wishes to state its full agreement with the view expressed in paragraph 4 of the Recommendation: “… the acceptance of a pluralist system of culture values is a prerequisite for stability in Europe, and particularly in the Balkans”. The CDCC considers education for democracy and pluralism to be among the primary tasks of the entire education system, including higher education. Such pluralism must naturally include encouragement of Europe’s diverse linguistic as well as cultural heritage. The CDCC makes a particular contribution in this regard through its project on Education for Democratic Citizenship. Particular responsibility for this follow-up action to the Second Summit has been given to the Education Committee, and all specialised committees have been invited to contribute to it.

3.       As stated in its opinion on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1291 (1996) on Yiddish culture, the CDCC believes that the setting up, under the auspices of the Council of Europe, of a “laboratory for dispersed ethnic minorities” deserves close consideration (paragraph 7). In the CDCC’s view, if such a laboratory is set up, it should address the whole range of challenges facing dispersed European minority cultures and languages rather than concentrate on a limited range of issues, cultures or languages. The survival of dispersed European minority cultures and languages might best be assured through consistent efforts on a reasonable scale rather than piecemeal actions on behalf of individual groups.

4.       The proposed laboratory could be a core centre of competence both on the methodology of cultural and linguistic research, on the storage, retrieval and dissemination of material related to minority cultures and languages and on legal aspects of minority issues. The laboratory could form partnerships and networks both with higher education and research institutions, local and regional governments, non-governmental organisations and others concerned with minority issues or with specific minority cultures and languages. In this way, the laboratory could work actively with institutions, organisations and individuals in the field to ensure the goals described in paragraph 8 of the Recommendation, not only for the Aromanians but for a much wider range of minority cultures and languages.

5.       In the same vein, the CDCC supports the invitation to member states to take measures to support the Aromanian language (paragraph 8.ii). The Greek delegation, however, expressed reservations as to the existence of a separate Aromanian language. The Greek reservation, as submitted to the Culture Committee, is appended to this opinion (Appendix IV). In this context, the CDCC would like to point out that academic competence in languages with a limited number of speakers may be ensured not only through the creation of specific university chairs, but also by developing the required competence within a larger relevant university department. Thus, while the possibilities for creating chairs earmarked for Aromanian are likely to be limited, a competence in Aromanian can be ensured within departments of Romance or general linguistics.

6.       A number of CDCC statements and activities, in addition to the new project on Education for Democratic Citizenship, address the question of minority languages and cultures. Thus, in Resolution No.2 on “Fundamental values, aims and the future role of educational co-operation in the Council of Europe”, adopted at their Kristiansand Conference (22-24 June 1997), the Ministers of Education highlighted the increasingly multicultural and diversified nature of Europe and European societies as well as the danger of inward-looking attitudes, racism, xenophobia, intolerance, anti-Semitism and ultra-nationalism. They also decided that one of the priority aims of the work of the Council for Cultural Co-operation and the Education Committee in the medium and long terms should be to foster mutual understanding, European cultural diversity and mutual respect within multicultural societies.

7.       At the IVth European Conference of Ministers responsible for the Cultural Heritage (Helsinki, 30-31 May 1996), a Declaration on the political dimension of cultural heritage conservation in Europe, as well as two Resolutions proposing that the Committee of Ministers adopt lines of action for the pursuit of the activities of the Cultural Heritage Committee within the framework of intergovernmental co-operation, were adopted. The Declaration solemnly expresses commitment to the values inherent in the heritage that facilitate mutual recognition and reflect Europe-wide links, which transcend mere differences between its peoples. It is also stressed that the concept of "common cultural heritage" should lead individuals and communities to acknowledge shared responsibility for protecting this heritage regardless of its nature or physical location or the vicissitudes of its political context.

8.       Clarifying this objective, Resolution No. 1 concerning "The cultural heritage as a factor in building Europe", suggests inter alia that the CC-PAT study, within the framework of its work programme, the setting up of a procedure for preserving and upgrading heritage assets regardless of their nature or physical location or the vicissitudes of its political context.

9.       The activities of the Education Committee on history teaching have always stressed the need for studies and measures aimed at preserving and protecting minority languages and cultures. In the conclusions of the projects completed in 1996 (A Secondary Education for Europe, History Teaching in the Context of the New Europe, and Language Teaching and European Citizenship), emphasis was placed on the need to develop open, diversified and pluralist approaches leading to recognition and tolerance of mutual influences.

10.       As regards the activities in the medium-term programme, the CDCC draws particular attention to the work being carried out as part of the Education for Democratic Citizenship project as part of the follow-up to the Action Plan adopted by the Second Summit. In the framework of this follow-up action, thought is being given to a new definition of citizenship in the European context and a collection made of examples of good practices in education for democratic citizenship. In both these areas, the generation of awareness of the pluralist and multicultural nature of European societies is an important consideration.

11.       In connection with the project “Language Policies for a Multicultural and Multilingual Europe”, particular attention is being paid to the relationship between the promotion of democratic, responsible citizenship and the acquisition of the linguistic and cultural skills necessary for understanding different cultures and social groups, whether within a single state or between one European state and another.

12.       Three elements of the CC-HER programme, while developed with other aims in mind, may be of particular relevance to the goal of providing education for members of minority groups in the language of their group (paragraph 8.i.a.):

(i) the work on the recognition of qualifications, and in particular the 1997 Lisbon Recognition Convention, provides a methodology which may also be applied to the recognition, within a national education system, of qualifications from branches of the system giving special emphasis to “minority culture and language”;

(ii) the project on “Access to Higher Education in Europe” has made specific recommendations on improving access for underrepresented groups and is elaborating a compendium of good practice;

(iii) the experience developed within the Legislative Reform Programme may also be put to use for improving the legislative framework for educational provision for members of minority groups.

13.       Within the programme of the Cultural Heritage Committee, the specific theme of Aromanian culture, like a number of similar themes, might be used by the regions concerned as a specific example of heritage to illustrate in work concerned with its identification and upgrading (inventories, documentation, publications) and with the stimulation of awareness (European Heritage Days, European classes).

14.       In the case of the Culture Committee, an awareness-raising programme for private or semi-public partners (foundations, associations etc.) could be initiated, for example by means of publications in the cultural co-operation bulletins which are supported by this Committee (CIRCLE, Mediacult, etc.).


Reservation from Greece concerning CDCC's opinion on Recommendation 1333/1997

      "...While recognising the existence of Aromanian self-expression, culture, traditions and, above all, idioms in a number of member countries, it should also be noted that varying points of view persist on the question of the historical origins of the Aromanians.

      The very existence of an Aromanian ethnic minority that is supposed to have given rise to a diaspora across Europe after or during a particular period in history is highly disputed. In fact, the populations now claiming to possess Aromanian culture and use Aromanian idioms do not necessarily identify themselves as members of a national minority that has been dispersed; this is true of the Aromanians living in Greece. The fact that, in some countries, Aromanian idioms have only survived in the spoken language and vary considerably in syntax and vocabulary from one region to another means that they can only be taught in a piecemeal fashion and that any attempt to teach them is ineffective.

      The points mentioned above must be taken as the framework for an approach to the suggestions made in paragraph 8 of Recommendation 1333 (1997), should they be implemented."