Immigration and Multicultural Citizenship in Europe: Insights from the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities

December 10, 2020 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Europe/Rome Timezone
Valentina Bettin

Multicultural citizenship, a system of group-differentiated rights for minority cultural groups, is now a common feature of most domestic legal orders in Europe. The conventional view, widely reflected in practice, suggests that ‘strong’ rights of this sort – notably including the public promotion of a given group’s language, religion, and/or other cultural practices – should be restricted to so-called ‘old’ or ‘national’ minorities, such as the Germans in Denmark, the Slovaks in Hungary, and the Catalans in Spain. However, the increasingly long-standing presence of distinct cultural groups of immigrant origin, such as the Turkish community in Germany and British Asians in the United Kingdom, raises the question of whether, and to what extent, these latter groups should also be granted stronger forms of multicultural citizenship. This paper addresses this question by reference to the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, a central pillar of the international minority rights regime in Europe. Previous scholarship has already explored, in abstracto, the question of whether this treaty should in general be applied to immigrant-origin groups, with some speculation de lege ferenda as to the kinds of rights they might be able to claim. This paper sheds new light on these issues by examining, in concreto, the existing practice in respect of the only two states parties that have so far actually opted to apply the Framework Convention to minorities of immigrant origin: the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. The paper offers a systematic analysis of the scope of protection afforded to immigrant-origin groups under the treaty, as interpreted by the two states themselves, as well as by the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention, the quasi-judicial body responsible for monitoring state compliance. Overall, the paper demonstrates that, while presenting a mixed and somewhat inconsistent picture, these interpretations appear to hint at a strengthening of multicultural citizenship for immigrant-origin groups in Europe.


Prof. Maarten Vink


Timothy Jacob-Owens