Minority Ombudsman Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay participated at the high level conference: „Council of Europe norms and standards on national minority rights: Results and challenges”

Hungary will chair the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg from 21 May to 17 November 2021. The promotion of effective protection of national minorities is a priority in the Hungarian Presidency's draft programme, and a high-level conference on Council of Europe norms and standards on national minority rights: results and challenges was jointly organised by the Council of Europe and Hungary on 29 June, in which the Minority Ombudsman participated as a key expert. The event focused on a complex discussion of professional experiences related to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

The event was opened by welcoming speeches by Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe and Gergely Gulyás, Minister of the Prime Minister's Office. The experts and speakers shared their thoughts with the audience and the online audience in three panel discussions. The full conference can be listened to below:

https://vodmanager.coe.int/coe/webcast/coe/2021-06-29-1/en;

https://vodmanager.coe.int/coe/webcast/coe/2021-06-29-2/en.

 

Speaking notes of the Minority Ombudsman are available via this link in Hungarian and English.

 

The first panel was a professional discussion on the functioning of the Council of Europe's monitoring mechanisms for the protection of minorities: the speakers, all acknowledged European experts, spoke about the difficulties and challenges they have faced in their work, as well as the results achieved. The moderator of the panel was Snežana Samardžić-Marković, Director General of Democracy at the Council of Europe, who underlined that the conference aims to assess the implementation of standards affecting national minorities and to follow up the 2018 conference "Minorities and Minority Languages in a Changing Europe", organised under the Croatian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers.

The five speakers of the panel discussion were Dunja Mijatović, Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay, Minority Ombudsman, former member of the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention on National Minorities (AC FCNM), Vesna Crnić-Grotić, Chair of the Committee of Experts on the Charter for Regional and Minority Languages (COMEX), Marie B. Hagsgård, Chair of the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention on Minorities and Vello Pettai, Director of the European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI).

The second panel focused on the enforcement of the Council of Europe's minority protection mechanisms, in particular the role of the Parliamentary Assembly and the European Court of Human Rights. The session was moderated by Ambassador Ferenc Kalmár, Ministerial Commissioner for the Development of Hungary's Neighbourhood Policy, and the panel included Zsolt Németh, Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Elvira Kovács, Vice-President of the Serbian House of Representatives, Hajnalka Juhász, Hungarian Member of the Parliamentary Assembly, Ministerial Commissioner and Ivana Jelić, Judge of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

The third panel adderessed the experiences and results of the Council of Europe's new monitoring mechanisms for national minorities. The discussion was moderated by Ambassador Judit József, and during the afternoon there were speeches by Ambassador Harry Alex Rusz, Hungarian Permanent Representative and current Chair of the Committee of Ministers (CoM), Ambassador Christian Meuwly, Swiss Permanent Representative and Chair of the CoM Legal Cooperation Rapporteur Group, Ambassador Roeland Böcker, Dutch Permanent Representative and Chair of the CoM Human Rights Rapporteur Group, and Krista Oinonen, Head of the Human Rights Courts and Conventions Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.

After the Q&A session, the conference ended with a closing speech by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Ferenc Kalmár, as the chair of the conference, summarised that the total number of participants who had joined the conference via the online systems and those who had attended in person had exceeded 200. He also announced that the second conference on the protection of minorities, organised under the Hungarian Presidency, will take place in Budapest on 7 September 2021, entitled: The role of NGOs and research institutions in promoting the Council of Europe's norms and standards on the rights of national minorities.