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FCNM: From Analysis to Action – Protecting minorities in Europe

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In the last decade, Europe has been beset by major inter-ethnic wars in the Balkans and in the Caucasus, separatist organizations have continued to use violence in Western Europe, while many ethnic groups, particularly the Roma, suffered prejudice and overt or institutional discrimination.

The year 1998 marked the advent of the new Council of Europe (CoE) Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM); it is legally binding and has been ratified by three-quarters of the CoE’s members. The FCNM offers an objective, apolitical way of responding to the needs of minorities by agreeing minimal norms that must be met. Four years after it entered into force, it is time to assess its effectiveness.

Significant progress has been made, but much more needs to be done. Double standards among CoE States must be eliminated. More substantial policies and programmes are needed in almost every State to ensure full and effective equality, and to facilitate the effective participation of minorities throughout Europe.

The monitoring of the FCNM is crucial for measuring and managing change, and has become a dynamic vehicle for constructive criticism and the exchange of experiences. This Briefing therefore makes a series of recommendations for extending the scope of the FCNM and for strengthening its monitoring. It also calls for a well-publicized and coordinated institutional strategy by the CoE to protect and promote the rights of minorities and to enhance cooperation between communities.

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