Switzerland committed to the protection of national minorities

Bern, 25.01.2012 - Bern – On 25 January 2012, the Federal Council approved Switzerland’s third report on the implementation of the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe for the Protection of National Minorities. Major progress has been achieved in the last few years, however there is scope for further improvement with regard to the situation of the Traveller communities.

Switzerland ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in October 1998; it entered into force in February 1999. This Framework Convention of the Council of Europe addresses the situations of the national linguistic minorities as well as those of other minority groups in Switzerland such as the Traveller and the Jewish communities.

The third follow-up report approved by the Federal Council takes stock of the situations of the different national minorities and presents the measures that the Confederation and the cantons have undertaken since 2009 to fulfil the recommendations of the last follow-up cycle. The new Federal Act on the National Languages and Understanding between the Linguistic Communities, which came into force in 2010, has already had positive effects on the situations of members of linguistic minority groups. New forms of support for initiatives on linguistic issues are under way, in particular with regard to methods of learning and teaching languages as well as research on multilingualism.

Among the minorities recognised by Switzerland in the context of the Framework  Convention, the Traveller communities are still experiencing the most difficulties. The lack of designated areas in Switzerland to stay and for transiting remains a subject of concern for those Traveller communities that have maintained an itinerant life style, endangering an essential element of their cultural identity. In spite of the constructive actions and growing public awareness in several cantons, the situation has not fundamentally improved in the last few years.

The government’s report was drafted after consultation with various federal offices, cantons, conferences of cantonal directors and organisations of the minorities concerned. It has been translated into Romansh for the first time and can be downloaded from the website of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).  

The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities was adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 1 February 1995. It is the only legally binding multilateral instrument devoted to the protection of national minorities. Essentially, it contains programmatic provisions that define the objectives that the States Parties undertake for the protection of national minorities. 

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