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European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

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The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) is a European treaty that was adopted in 1992.

It was designed by the Council of Europe to protect and promote historical regional and minority languages in Europe. It only applies to languages traditionally used by the nationals of the State Parties which have a lot of differences from the majority or official language. This means that the treaty does not protect languages used by recent immigrants from other countries. Also, the treaty does not protect local dialects of (ways of speaking) the official or majority language)

To be protected a language should be spoken either by

  • the people living in a region or area of the country; or by
  • a minority in the country as a whole (this means languages such as Yiddish and Romani are covered by the treaty even though there is no "Romani region").

National official languages are not covered by the treaty, but regional official languages can be. For example, Catalan is only official within a region of Spain, so could benefit from the treaty but Irish cannot because it is an official language in Republic of Ireland, even though it is a minority language. However Irish is protected in Northern Ireland because it is not an official or national language of the United Kingdom.

France has signed the treaty, but the French constitution does not allow the government to support languages apart from French.

What the Charter does

There are two levels of protection. Every country which has signed the treaty must give all qualifying languages the lower level of protection. Countries can also decide to give some languages the higher level of protection. The higher level is a list of things countries should do. A country giving higher protection must do at least 35 of these things.

Languages protected under the Charter

The countries which have ratified the Charter and the languages for which the ratification was made are the following:

 Armenia ratification: 25 January 2002

 Austria ratification: 28 June 2001[1]

 Croatia ratification: 5 November 1997

 Cyprus ratification: 26 August 2002

 Czech Republic ratification: 15 November 2006

 Denmark ratification: 8 September 2000[2]

 Finland ratification: 9 November 1994

 Germany ratification: 16 September 1998[3]

 Hungary ratification: 26 April 1995

 Liechtenstein ratification: 18 November 1997

  • No regional or minority languages

 Luxembourg ratification: 22 June 2005

  • (to be confirmed)[4]

 Montenegro ratification: 15 February 2006

 Netherlands ratification: 2 May 1996

 Norway ratification: 10 November 1993

 Serbia ratification: 15 February 2006

 Slovakia ratification: 5 September 2001

 Slovenia ratification: 4 October 2000

 Spain ratification: 9 April 2001

 Sweden ratification: 9 February 2000

 Switzerland ratification: 23 December 1997

 Ukraine ratification: 19 September 2005

Ukraine does not specify languages by name, but rather ratifies on behalf of the languages of the following ethnic minorities:[5]

 United Kingdom ratification : 27 March 2001

All languages are ratified as applicable to the territory of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, except Manx, which is ratified on behalf of the Crown dependency of the Isle of Man.


  1. Austria has ratified the Charter for each language in respect of the named Länder
  2. Notes Verbales accompanying the Danish ratification specified that, whilst the Charter was not going to be ratified in respect of the two languages, Faroese and Greenlandic are each official in their respective territories
  3. Germany has ratified the Charter for each language in certain Länder
  4. Luxembourg is not listed on the Council of Europe site
  5. As of July 2007, Ukraine's entry on the on the Council of Europe site does not list the languages in respect of which the Republic of Ukraine has ratified the Charter.

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