The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg with a two day high level conference from June 18th to 19th with State representatives, NGOs and experts in attendance.

ELEN, represented by President Ferran Suay and Secretary-General Davyth Hicks, in its address made various proposals to improve Charter implementation, to increase civil society participation in the reporting process, and to make implementation binding on States.

Participants discussed the numerous challenges facing the Charter and the Framework Convention, including non-ratification by France, Italy and Greece, and that ratifying States are often late in reporting and fail to properly implement the Charter. Several speakers noted that unless the Treaties are properly implemented Europe’s national and linguistic minorities will continue to be vulnerable to continued assimiliation and discrimination.

ELEN’s proposals focused on two pillars. Firstly, top-down European level measures and secondly grass-roots action aimed at increasing awareness and support with minoritised language speakers.

European level measures proposed included ECRML and FCNM violations acting to trigger the EU infringement proceeding mechanism, establishing an EU Language Commissioner and Directive to ensure language rights.

Grass roots proposals include formalising NGO shadow reporting as part of the monitoring procedure, more ECRML and FCNM outreach to language communities, a joint Council of Europe/ ELEN training course on the ECRML and FCNM for language communities, additional clauses in the ECRML to ensure digital development for RMLs, and the Council of Europe linking up with ELEN and Eurolang to help publicise ECRML and FCNM activities to local RML, and mainstream, media. (Eurolang 2018)