Switzerland continues its efforts to protect the rights of national minorities

Press release, 15.02.2017

On 15 February 2017, the Federal Council approved Switzerland’s fourth report on its implementation of the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Several important advances have been made in recent years that benefit people belonging to national minorities. Protecting their rights must remain an ongoing commitment.

Switzerland ratified the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in 1998. With the ratification, Switzerland recognised as national minorities the members of its minority linguistic groups, and the members of its Jewish and its traveller communities. The Federal Council took the opportunity presented by the fourth implementation report to reaffirm and make it clear to the public that the generic term ‘travellers’ refers to all Swiss Jenish, and Sinti and Manouche people, regardless of whether they have nomadic or settled lifestyles.

The fourth report provides an account of the current situation of the various national minorities recognised by Switzerland. It describes measures taken by the Swiss federal government and cantonal and communal authorities in response to recommendations that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe made to Switzerland in 2014. Successful efforts in favour of national minorities include those of the working group launched in 2015 by the Federal Council to ‘improve the conditions of the nomadic lifestyle and encourage the culture of the Jenish, Sinti and Roma in Switzerland’, which allowed the various communities to voice their needs and positions on issues that affect them. In addition, amendments to the Ordinance on the National Languages and Understanding between the Linguistic Communities which seek to improve the representation of linguistic minorities at all levels of the Federal Administration came into force in 2014.

The fourth report responds to the areas of concern expressed by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. It notes that despite recent positive developments in some cantons, sites for Jenish and Sinti and Manouche travellers are still in short supply, which jeopardises an essential element of their traveller culture. However, the federal government is currently drawing up an action plan regarding the Jenish, Sinti and Roma communities which is expected to set out measures to improve this situation. The report also details measures taken by the federal government to combat anti-Semitism and describes developments in the current debate on the protection of Jewish people and institutions.

Furthermore, the fourth report examines the possibility of recognising additional Swiss national minorities under the framework convention. Some Swiss Roma organisations have submitted an application for recognition which is currently being assessed by the Federal Administration.

The fourth report was drawn up following consultations among the various federal offices, the cantons and conferences of cantonal ministers, communes and cities, and organisations of the relevant minorities. It has been published in French, German and Italian, and will be translated into Romansh at a later date.

The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities was adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 1 February 1995. It is the only legally binding multilateral instrument devoted specifically to the protection of national minorities. It contains mostly programme-type provisions setting out objectives which the states parties to the convention undertake to pursue for the protection of their national minorities.

Further information:

Report (de)
FDFA Directorate of International Law webpage on this topic

Press release in Romansch(pdf, 24kb)

Address for enquiries:

FDFA Information
Tel. +41 31 322 31 53


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
The Federal Council