Minority protection norms - the setup, the interpretation and the practice

An effective protection of national minorities presupposes a clear and consistent legal framework, established institutional arrangements which provide efficient implementation of set norms, and effective remedies and protection mechanisms in case of violation of guaranteed rights. Exactly these areas form a core of the interest of the Cluster and the main strategic areas for research and action-oriented projects.

••• Normative Framework(s) for Minority Protection: The work in this area focuses on legal guarantees of national minority rights set in domestic legislation throughout Europe. The research addresses the quality of legal frameworks in general, plus the legal setup of specific national minority rights in particular. It also analyses to what extent established legal (normative) setups in domestic legislation provide a channel for the implementation of European standards (set in the FCNM and the ECRML).

••• Implementation and Protection of National Minority Rights: Even a perfectly formulated legal act can remain a façade, impotent to produce effects. Thus, the quality of minority protection depends to great extent on the quality of the implementation of set norms and especially of guaranteed rights. Thus, the focus here lies on identifying shortcomings in implementation and the causes of such shortcomings. In addition, the focus lies on justiciability of national minority rights, on remedies which are on disposal if national minority rights have been violated, on effectiveness of such remedies, and on analysis of the case-law relevant for national minority protection.

••• Institutional Arrangements: Here our interest lies in varying institutional arrangements at different levels of governance related to minority protection, in particular: decentralization of powers and mechanisms at regional and local level of governance for protection of national minorities, impacts of autonomy arrangements on the quality of minority protection, and consultative mechanisms established to channel participation of national minorities in public affairs.

••• Minority Protection Dynamics (New Trends): Protection of national minorities should not lead to their conservation and underdevelopment. Minorities as well as minority protection should keep pace and follow the developments in modern society. Thus, the focus in this respect lies in new challenges in minority protection, as well as the specific dynamics in minority protection. In this respect, the following can be of relevance: the collection and protection of ethnic sensitive data, the impact of the development of e-administration on the enjoyment of national minority rights, mobility and migration, multiple-identities, and dynamics within minority groups (with the emphasis on the democracy from within).

••• PROCESSING OF ETHNIC SENSITIVE DATA In 2019, the Cluster will continue its work on exploring the issue of the processing of ethnic sensitive data throughout Europe. The preliminary analysis of the European standards in this area has already been done, same as the preliminary mapping of the practice of the states parties to the FCNM. Against this background, further analysis will be performed with respect to legal frameworks and practices of the individual states.

••• MAPPING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE MONITORING OF THE FCNM AND THE ECRML In 2018, the Cluster has begun its research on the degree to which the states parties to the FCNM comply with the recommendations resulting from the monitoring. A pilot case study has been developed, and some general trends have been identified. The research over the FCNM will continue, with the aim to cover as many states as possible. The research over the monitoring of the ECRML will also be initiated in 2019.


NEW IN 2019



The use of minority languages is not only one of the central minority rights, but also one of the most problematic. Whereas the private use of minority languages seems to be uncontested throughout Europe, the difficulties with the public use persist to various degrees almost everywhere. Against this background, the focus of the cluster will be on the use of minority languages in communication with public authorities. It will be explored to what extent persons belonging to national minorities can use own language in communication with the administration and whether, and if yes, to what extent states enable the use of minority languages before courts that goes beyond the general guarantees set out in Articles 5 and 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.   



The fact that in 2018, the Constitutional Court of Moldova examined the constitutionality of certain legal provisions on the use of Russian language and adopted an interesting and controversial decision, has provoked the idea to explore deeper the role of the constitutional courts in the protection of minorities. Two aspects are relevant here. First, the interpretations of constitutional courts when they decide in the cases of the constitutional review of the laws and their impact on the scope of minority protection: to what extent are those interpretations widening or limiting minority rights. Second, whether and if yes, to what extent, the constitutional complaint is used and is effective as a tool for the protection of national minority rights.     



The right to participation in public affairs counts among one of the key minority rights and is a crucial tool for integration of a diverse society. Participation of national minorities can be much more effective at the lower levels of governance, those which are closer to citizens and directly affect their everyday life. In this respect, participation of national minorities in local affairs can not only strengthen the local democracy, but also contribute to the cohesion of a local community. Nevertheless, the focus is usually put at the instruments established at the central level. Against this background, the Cluster aims to explore the practice of the states parties to the FCNM regarding the instruments for minority participation in local public affairs. In the first step, legal and institutional frameworks for minority participation at the local level in individual states will be explored. In the second step, comparative analysis will be performed with the aim to identify similarities, differences and potential patterns.



Although not set as a standard in none of the international documents relevant for national minority protection, autonomy arrangements can foster the quality of implementation of national minority rights and participation of national minorities in public affairs. More generally, they can foster democracy and sense of “ownership” among national minorities. The aim of the research is to examine existing non-territorial arrangements, their good and weak points, to identify good practices and possibility to export them or some elements in other, similar, environments.


Autonomy Arrangements in the World

As a part of its work on non-territorial autonomy arrangements, the ECMI will further contribute to the project on “Autonomy Arrangements in the World“, a network involving, besides the ECMI,  EURAC (Italy), Center of the Study of Democracy of the Babeş-Bolyai University (Romania), and Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities (Romania). For further information, please visit




European Non Territorial Autonomy Network (ENTAN)

ENTAN is a COST Action aiming to examine comparatively and comprehensively the concept of non-territorial autonomy (NTA), in particular NTA arrangements for reducing inter-ethnic tensions within a state and for accommodation of the needs of different communities while preventing the calls to separate statehood. The Action will tackle recent developments in theories and practices of cultural diversity; minority rights (including linguistic and educational rights); state functions and sovereignty; conflict resolution through policy arrangements; policy making and inclusiveness; self-governance and autonomy. The main objective is to investigate the existing NTA mechanisms and policies and to develop new modalities for accommodation of differences in the context of growing challenges stemming from globalisation, regionalisation and European supranational integration. Along with issues related to culture and education of diverse groups within a nation state, and legal arrangements for recognition and practicing of separate identity, the Action will also focus on political strategies and policies that have potential to increase the autonomy of stateless nations and to empower cultural, ethnic and religious communities. The network is created upon agreed research activities, which include interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary group work, training and empowerment of young researchers, scientific conferences and publications, and dissemination of results to policy makers, CSOs and communities. The Action is proposed by scholars coming from ITCs and other EU countries. It is based on past experiences, the current state of affairs and extensive theoretical and practical knowledge, which ensures that the results and recommendations will be relevant across Europe.






Head of Cluster

Ljubica Đorđević-Vidojković

Affiliated experts

Farimah Daftary
David Galbreath
Fernand de Varennes
Kristin Henrard
Malte Brosig
Balazs Vizi
Jennifer Jackson Preece
Levente Salat
Kinga Gal

Cluster News

New Publications from ECMI Senior Research Associate Dr. Ljubica Djordjević

New Publications from ECMI Senior Research Associate Dr. Ljubica Djordjević

A busy period of publications for ECMI researchers over the past few months included multiple publications from Dr. Ljubica Djordjević, head of the Justice and Governance Cluster at the ECMI.
[Read more on ECMI InfoChannel]
Ukraine is still a priority for the daily work of the ECMI

Ukraine is still a priority for the daily work of the ECMI

In addition to the centre`s recent activities in Ukraine, ECMI minority-experts presented a study commissioned by the Council of Europe in Kyiv/ Ukraine this month (March 5th).
[Read more on ECMI InfoChannel]
ECMI Director attends the roundtable of the Citizens' Accord Forum in Jerusalem

ECMI Director attends the roundtable of the Citizens' Accord Forum in Jerusalem

This week ECMI Director Prof. Malloy travelled to Jerusalem to attend the international roundtable organised by the Citizens' Accord Forum (CAF).

The forum was established in 2001, and its aim is to build a shared society through a sustainable democracy, and to create mutual responsibility and equal opportunity among all citizens of Israel. The Forum works to mend rifts between groups in conflict by building bridges, encouraging constructive engagement, and promoting and empowering civic leadership. CAF focuses on ordinary citizens, decision-makers and specifically addresses groups that are generally excluded from the national discourse on social issues, i.e. ultra-Orthodox Jews and traditional Arab women.

[Read more on ECMI InfoChannel]
13 weeks studying at a Danish Folk High School: The Minority Changemaker Programme makes it possible!

13 weeks studying at a Danish Folk High School: The Minority Changemaker Programme makes it possible!

European students with a national minority background are invited to visit the Danish-German border region for 13 weeks.
[Read more on ECMI InfoChannel]

ECMI founders:

The German Federal GovernmentThe German
Federal Government
The Danish GovernmentThe Danish
The Federal State Schleswig-HolsteinThe Federal State