|Signed||5 November 1992|
|Effective||1 March 1998|
|Condition||Ratification by 5 States|
|Depositary||Secretary General of the Council of Europe|
|Languages||English and French|
|European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages at Wikisource|
The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) is a European treaty (CETS 148) adopted in 1992 under the auspices of the Council of Europe to protect and promote historical regional and minority languages in Europe. However, the charter does not provide any criterion or definition for an idiom to be a minority or a regional language, and the classification stays in the hands of the national state.
The preparation for the charter was undertaken by the predecessor to the current Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the Standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe because involvement of local and regional government was essential. The actual charter was written in the Parliamentary Assembly based on the Congress' Recommendations. It only applies to languages traditionally used by the nationals of the State Parties (thus excluding languages used by recent immigrants from other states, see immigrant languages), which significantly differ from the majority or official language (thus excluding what the state party wishes to consider as mere local dialects of the official or majority language) and that either have a territorial basis (and are therefore traditionally spoken by populations of regions or areas within the State) or are used by linguistic minorities within the State as a whole (thereby including such languages as Yiddish, Romani and Lemko, which are used over a wide geographic area).
Some states, such as Ukraine and Sweden, have tied the status of minority language to the recognized national minorities, which are defined by ethnic, cultural and/or religious criteria, thereby circumventing the Charter's notion of linguistic minority.
Languages that are official within regions, provinces or federal units within a State (for example Catalan in Spain) are not classified as official languages of the State and may therefore benefit from the Charter. On the other hand, Ireland has not been able to sign the Charter on behalf of the Irish language (although a minority language) as it is defined as the first official language of the state. The United Kingdom has ratified the Charter in respect to (among other languages) Welsh in Wales, Scots and Gaelic in Scotland, and Irish in Northern Ireland. France, although a signatory, has been constitutionally blocked from ratifying the Charter in respect to the languages of France.
The charter provides many actions state parties can take to protect and promote historical regional and minority languages. There are two levels of protection—all signatories must apply the lower level of protection to qualifying languages. Signatories may further declare that a qualifying language or languages will benefit from the higher level of protection, which lists a range of actions from which states must agree to undertake at least 35.
Countries can ratify the charter in respect of its minority languages based on Part II or Part III of the charter, which contain varying principles. Countries can treat languages differently under the charter, for example, in the United Kingdom, the Welsh language is ratified under the general Part II principles as well as the more specific Part III commitments, while the Cornish language is ratified only under Part II.
Part II of the Charter details eight main principles and objectives upon which States must base their policies and legislation. They are seen as a framework for the preservation of the languages concerned.
Part III details comprehensive rules, across a number of sectors, by which states agree to abide. Each language to which Part III of the Charter is applied must be named specifically by the government. States must select at least thirty-five of the undertakings in respect to each language. Many provisions contain several options, of varying degrees of stringency, one of which has to be chosen "according to the situation of each language". The areas from which these specific undertakings must be chosen are as follows:
|Countries that have ratified the Charter, and languages for which the ratification was made|
ratification: 25 January 2002
ratification: 28 June 2001
| Bosnia and Herzegovina
ratification: 21 September 2010
ratification: 5 November 1997
ratification: 26 August 2002
| Czech Republic
ratification: 15 November 2006
ratification: 8 September 2000
ratification: 9 November 1994
ratification: 16 September 1998
ratification: 26 April 1995
ratification: 18 November 1997
ratification: 22 June 2005
ratification: 15 February 2006
ratification: 2 May 1996
ratification: 10 November 1993
ratification: 12 February 2009
ratification 29 January 2008
ratification: 15 February 2006
ratification: 5 September 2001
ratification: 4 October 2000
ratification: 9 April 2001
ratification: 9 February 2000
ratification: 23 December 1997
ratification: 19 September 2005
| United Kingdom
ratification : 27 March 2001.
Updated version of the Charter