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Tailwind for minority rights: European Parliament wants to expand cooperation with Council of Europe

Good news for Europe's minorities: The most comprehensive resolution in recent years, which also refers to minority rights, was adopted in the European Parliament.

The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCPNM) and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECMRL) should be incorporated into the EU legal order, according to a resolution presented by FUEN President and Vice Chair of the Committee for Constitutional Affairs, Loránt Vincze in the European Parliament's (EP) plenary session on Monday 17 April. At his request, the European Parliament has for the first time produced a comprehensive report on cooperation between the European Union and the Council of Europe (CoE).

The text, adopted with a large majority on Tuesday, underlines that the legal instruments for the protection of minorities developed and monitored by the CoE are currently the most comprehensive and legally binding instruments in the world. It recalls that the EU considers the implementation of the Framework Convention as an important element of the accession criteria for the protection of minorities. However it pledges for more: the EU must make the protection of minorities part of its monitoring of the rule of law and fundamental rights within the EU - i.e. it must monitor compliance with the FCPNM not only before accession, but also afterwards.

"There is a need for closer cooperation between the European Union and the Council of Europe, and there is an openness and demand for this on both sides. When they were founded, the two pan-European institutions had completely different objectives, but this has changed over time, the institutions have evolved and today they complement and reinforce each other, both based on common values of human dignity, equality and respect for human rights. It is important that the protection of the culture and language of minorities also becomes a common value that is protected by legal measures. Through the adoption of this report, we are taking a significant step towards achieving this," said Loránt Vincze in his plenary presentation.

In the report, the EP reiterates its call for the EU to accede to the FCPNM and the ECRML, and calls for closer legal relations between the EU and the CoE in the field of minority rights. The document stresses that the EU's credibility in the accession process would be strengthened if the standards of the Framework Convention were made part of the EU's monitoring of the rule of law and fundamental rights.

In general terms, the report calls for:

  • the formalisation of the consolidated strategic partnership between the two institutions
  • the revision of the 2007 cooperation agreement
  • the swift completion of the EU’s accession process to the European Court of Human Rights
  • the broader alignment of the Union with the CoE's convention system and ensuring a more prominent role of the expert opinions of the Venice Commission, especially in the EU enlargement policy and the establishment of an interparliamentary delegation between the EP and the PACE.

The resolution was adopted in the EP's plenary meeting on the 18 April with 494 votes in favour, 76 votes against and 76 abstentions. Earlier, the report on the EU-CoE cooperation was supported by the European Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) by an overwhelming majority, with no votes against, at its meeting on 28 February.

Photo credit: European Parliament