Roma in Switzerland: an integral part of society but not a national minority

Bern, 01.06.2018 - On 1 June 2018, the Federal Council examined an application by two organisations for recognition of the Swiss Roma community as a national minority under the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. It found that the criteria necessary for such a recognition had not been met. Nevertheless, the Federal Council notes that the Roma community is an integral part of Swiss society. The Federal Council also considers it important that members of the Roma community be protected from racism and discrimination.

Two Swiss Roma organisations submitted an application for recognition of the Swiss Roma as a national minority under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

This is the first application for recognition as a national minority since Switzerland ratified the Framework Convention in 1998, when it recognised Switzerland's national linguistic minorities, the members of the Jewish community and the Swiss Yenish and Sinti/Manouche as national minorities.

For a community to be recognised as a Swiss national minority, it has to meet all the criteria set out in the interpretative declaration Switzerland issued when it ratified the Framework Convention. The interpretative declaration stated:

"In Switzerland national minorities in the sense of the Framework Convention are groups of individuals numerically inferior to the rest of the population of the country or of a canton, whose members are Swiss nationals, have long-standing, firm and lasting ties with Switzerland and are guided by the will to safeguard together what constitutes their common identity, in particular their culture, their traditions, their religion or their language."

The Federal Council examined whether the Roma meet these different criteria. These criteria being cumulative, they must therefore all be met for a group to be recognised as a national minority. The criteria of Swiss nationality and the will to safeguard together what constitutes their common identity are not sufficiently established, and the criterion of long-standing ties with Switzerland is not fulfilled.

The Roma are an integral part of Swiss society

The Federal Council notes that quite apart from the question of recognition as a national minority, the Roma are recognised as an integral part of Swiss society. In recent years, the Confederation has taken various measures in recognition of this fact. For example, the Roma are now represented on the Federal Commission against Racism, have participated in the federal government's working group for the 'improvement of the nomadic way of life and the promotion of Yenish, Sinti and Roma culture' and will be covered by the Confederation's action plan on this topic.

Furthermore, the Federal Service for Combating Racism regularly funds projects by and for the Roma aimed at raising awareness of their situation. The Federal Office of Culture also supports culture and mediation-related projects for the Roma community.

The Swiss Roma enjoy the same rights as other Swiss citizens, in particular the rights to live their culture and speak their language. Against this backdrop, the Federal Council stresses its commitment and the obligation of the Swiss authorities to combat racism and negative stereotypes and to protect the Roma against discrimination.

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