Switzerland continues to build understanding between cultures and language communities

Press release, 01.10.2021

On 1st October 2021, the Federal Council approved Switzerland's combined report on implementation of the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In recent years there have been some positive developments for people belonging to national minorities and the preservation of regional or minority languages. It is essential that the authorities continue this important work.

The federal government has demonstrated its commitment to promoting Switzerland's national languages and understanding between language communities by increasing the funding available once again for the 2021–24 period. Special emphasis has been placed on educational exchanges and support for Italian and Romansh outside the areas where they are traditionally spoken. The report also indicates that there is a better understanding of the traveller way of life of Swiss Yenish and Sinti/Manouche communities. Efforts to raise awareness of the culture and traditions of Yenish and Sinti/Manouche communities have been successful. The report also notes that demand for traveller sites remains high despite the efforts of many cantons to set up new sites.

Moreover, in 2019 the Ordinance on Measures to Support the Safety of Minorities in Particular Need of Protection came into force. It provides that federal funding may be allocated to protecting Swiss Jewish, Yenish and Sinti/Manouche communities. Finally, the report sets out the measures taken to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on various national minorities.

A Council of Europe delegation of experts is due to visit Switzerland in 2022. The delegation will meet officials at various levels and representatives of national minorities and regional or minority languages in order to gain a better understanding of their situation. The Swiss authorities are required to submit progress reports on measures taken to implement the Framework Convention and Minority Languages Charter. For the first time Switzerland submitted a combined report, with a view to exploiting synergies between the conventions, which overlap to some extent. This has also allowed the cantons, which are largely competent in this area, to be consulted only once on similar issues.

Contributions from the cantons
The combined report was prepared with contributions from the cantons and after consultation with representatives of the national minorities and regional or minority languages. It has been produced in French, German and Italian, and will be translated into Romansh at a later date.

Switzerland ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in 1998. Members of Switzerland's linguistic minorities are recognised as national minorities, i.e. Italian, Romansh and French speakers at national level, French speakers in the canton of Bern, and German speakers in the cantons of Fribourg and Valais. The Swiss Yenish and Sinti/Manouche communities, whether travelling or settled, and members of the Swiss Jewish community, are also recognised as national minorities. The Framework Convention aims to protect the rights of persons belonging to national minorities.

On ratifying the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in 1997 Switzerland declared Romansh and Italian to be regional or minority languages and recognised Yenish and Yiddish as languages with no territorial base. More recently, Franco-Provençal, spoken in the cantons of Fribourg, Jura, Valais and Vaud, and Franc-Comtois spoken in the canton of Jura, have also been recognised as minority languages. The Charter is intended to protect and promote regional and minority languages as a threatened aspect of Europe's cultural heritage.


Further information:

FDFA Directorate of International Law webpage on this topic
Federal Office of Culture (FOC) webpage on this topic (FR)


(FR) Rapport combiné de la Suisse sur la mise en œuvre de la Convention-cadre du Conseil de l’Europe pour la protection des minorités nationales(pdf, 2428kb)


Address for enquiries:

For further information:
FDFA Communication
Tel. +41 58 462 31 53
Tel. Press service +41 460 55 55
kommunikation@eda.admin.ch


Publisher:

The Federal Council
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs