Source description last updated: 22 January 2020
In brief: The Secretariat of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (CoE-FCNM) is a Council of Europe institution tasked with monitoring the implementation of the covenant of the same name by its state parties.
Coverage on ecoi.net:
State reports, Opinions of the Advisory Committee.
Covered weekly on ecoi.net, for countries of priorities A-C.
“Protection of national minorities has always been on the Council of Europe’s agenda, but the issue acquired even more importance with the collapse of European communist regimes, extreme nationalism and conflicts in certain parts of Europe.
The Council of Europe’s action in this field is based on the principle that the protection of minorities is part of the universal protection of human rights. Its action includes standard setting, intergovernmental co-operation, activities for the development and consolidation of democratic stability and confidence building measures in civil society. It extends to many related policy fields and involves co-operation with many different bodies within and outside of the Council of Europe.
The Council of Europe’s most comprehensive text for protecting the rights of persons belonging to national minorities is the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM). It is the first legally binding multilateral instrument devoted to the protection of national minorities worldwide. It was adopted on 10 November 1994 by the Committee of Ministers and it entered into force on 1 February 1998. It has 39 member states to date. […]
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the Advisory Committee are both involved in the monitoring of the Framework Convention.
The Advisory Committee, set up in 1998, has a key role in monitoring the implementation of the Framework Convention by states. Its task is to ensure that the standards of the Convention are applied by all the concerned countries, in the various fields of interest for persons belonging to national minorities. It is composed of 18 independent experts appointed by the Committee of Ministers.” (CoE – FCNM website: Factsheet on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, undated)
“The Advisory Committee is composed of up to 18 members elected by the Committee of Ministers from candidates proposed by States Parties. Not all countries can have one of their nominees serve on the Committee, so those candidates who are not elected are placed on a reserve list of additional members. On the basis of a rotation system, the composition of the Advisory Committee will change over time.
Advisory Committee members are recognized experts in the field of minority protection. They serve in their individual capacities and are independent and impartial. The fact that they do not represent their governments is important, since the Committee of Ministers is a political body of government representatives. The involvement of an impartial expert body in assessing minority issues may facilitate the task of the Committee of Ministers; indeed, the Committee of Ministers, the highest decision-making body in the Council of Europe, has many other duties, and so relies heavily on the work of the Advisory Committee.” (United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: The Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, undated, p. 5)
The monitoring mechanism of the FCNM has contributed to improving dialogue between governmental agencies and national minorities. It has also prompted the adoption of new laws devoted to the protection of national minorities and encouraged states to improve their non-discrimination legislation and practice.” (CoE – FCNM website: Factsheet on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, undated)
Council of Europe funds, no further information found.
Scope of reporting:
Geographic focus: States parties to the Framework Convention. The Framework Convention has been ratified by 39 states: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Georgia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, the Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Russian Federation, San Marino, Serbia, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Belgium, Greece, Iceland and Luxembourg have signed it, but not ratified it. Andorra, France, Monaco and Turkey have neither signed nor ratified it.
A special monitoring agreement exists with regards to Kosovo. […]
Thematic focus: The situation of national minorities.
“The monitoring procedure set up under the Framework Convention requires each state party to submit a first report within one year of the entry into force of the Framework Convention and, thereafter, a report every five years. Having examined the state report and visited the country in order to gather further information during meetings with the authorities, minority representatives and other stakeholders, the ACFC [Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention] adopts its opinion on the implementation of the Framework Convention in the country. The opinion is forwarded to the authorities concerned, who provide their comments on the ACFC’s findings. The opinion is published upon its receipt by the government, or four months after its transmission to the authorities, together with the government comments. Based on the ACFC’s opinion, the Committee of Ministers adopts a resolution containing conclusions and recommendations in respect of the state concerned […].” (Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Participation of National Minorities: Eleventh activity report covering the period from 1 June 2016 to 31 May 2018, September 2018, p. 17)
“Country visits have become an established and very useful practice and form an indispensable part of the monitoring process. By meeting with minority representatives, government officials, authorities at the central, regional and local levels, representatives of parliaments and relevant institutions, including ombudspersons, and civil society organisations and independent national experts, the ACFC acquires a better, more nuanced understanding of the situation in the country. Further, not only do visits generate a deeper insight into the country’s situation, they also offer the possibility of establishing a dialogue with the authorities and civil society, including minority organisations and academics, which continues beyond the visit itself. To this end, the ACFC endeavours to visit not only the capital city of the state in question, so as to meet with government representatives and other stakeholders, but also areas populated by persons belonging to national minorities, so as to evaluate the situation of national minorities on the ground.” (Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Participation of National Minorities: Eleventh activity report covering the period from 1 June 2016 to 31 May 2018, September 2018, p. 19)
The publication cycle of State Reports is irregular. Advisory Committee Opinions are adopted sometime after the submission of State Reports (an examination of the state report and a country visit precede the adoption of the opinion); and it can take several months or even years after the opinions are published.
Language(s) of publications:
English, French and the language(s) of the country concerned.
Further reading / links:
Full text of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and explanatory report:
Activity reports of the Advisory Committee:
Current composition of the Advisory Committee:
ECMI Issue Brief on the 20th anniversary of the FCNM, December 2018:
“The Impact of European minority rights norms” in Galbreath, David J. and Mcevoy, Joanna: The European Minority Rights Regime – Towards a Theory of Regime Effectiveness (pp. 82-92), 2012:
All links accessed 22 January 2020.