The International Organization of the Council of Europe (IOCE)

The International Organization of the Council of Europe (IOCE)

The Council of Europe is an international body based in Strasbourg (France). Its primary mission is to uphold and strengthen democracy, human rights and the rule of law throughout the territories covered by its member states. Given that efforts to defend and advance these fundamental political values now fall outside the realm of domestic affairs, IOCE members are united by that cause.

Canada was granted observer status on April 3, 1996. In that capacity, the country is party to the following interim conventions: Interim Agreement on Social Policy and Public Health, Convention on the Elaboration of a European Pharmacopoeia and the Agreement on European Commission for Democracy through Law. Canada has also ratified two Council of Europe treaties: Convention on Transfer of Sentenced Persons and the European Anti-doping Convention. In addition, Canada has signed, but not yet ratified, four other Council of Europe treaties; that leaves 11 more such treaties for Canada to sign, as proposed by the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers. None of the treaties in question revolves around language issues.

Article 3 of the Statute of the Council of Europe sets out members' responsibilities and obligations in the area of human rights and fundamental liberties:

Every member of the Council of Europe must accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and collaborate sincerely and effectively in the realisation of the aim of the Council as specified in Chapter I.

Finally, article 12 governs the use of official languages in Council of Europe agencies:

The official languages of the Council of Europe are English and French. The rules of procedure of the Committee of Ministers and of the Consultative Assembly shall determine in what circumstances and under what conditions other languages may be used.

Member States of the Council of Europe

When the Treaty of London was signed in 1949, the Council of Europe had only ten members: Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, France, the Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden, Italy and the United Kingdom. Since then, membership has blossomed, reaching the 46-nation mark in October of 2004.


Date of accession

1. Albania 13 July, 1995
2. Germany 13 July, 1950
3. Andorra 10 Nov., 1994
4. Armenia 25 January, 2001
5. Austria 16 April, 1956
6. Azerbaijan 25 January, 2001
7. Belgium 5 May, 1949
8. Bosnia and Herzegovina 24 April, 2002
9. Bulgaria 7 May, 1992
10. Cyprus 24 May, 1961
11. Croatia 6 Nov.,1996
12. Denmark 5 May, 1949
13. Spain 24 Nov., 1977
14. Estonia 14 May, 1993
15. Finland 5 May, 1989
16. France 5 May, 1949
17. Georgia 27 April, 1999
18. Greece 9 August, 1949
19. Hungary 6 Nov., 1990
20. Ireland 5 May, 1949
21. Iceland 9 March, 1950
22. Italy 5 May, 1949
23. Latvia 10 Feb., 1995


Date of accession

24. Liechtenstein 23 Nov., 1978
25. Lithuania 14 May, 1993
26. Luxembourg 5 May, 1949
27. Macedonia 9 Nov., 1995
28. Malta 29 April, 1965
29. Moldova 13 July, 1995
30. Monaco 5 Oct., 2004
31. Norway 5 May, 1949
32. Netherlands 5 May, 1949
33. Poland 26 Nov., 1991
34. Portugal 22 Sept., 1976
35. Czech Republic 30 June, 1993
36. Romania 7 Oct., 1993
37. United Kingdom 5 May, 1949
38. Russia 28 Feb., 1996
39. San Marino 16 Nov., 1988
40. Serbia-Montenegro 3 Apr., 2003
41. Slovakia 30 June, 1993
42. Slovenia 14 May, 1993
43. Sweden 5 May, 1949
44. Switzerland 6 May, 1963
45. Turkey 13 April, 1950
46. Ukraine 9 Nov., 1995

The following observer states can be added to the list:

Observers to the Committee of Ministers
Canada (29.05.1996) - Holy See (7.03.1970) - Japan (20.11.1996) - Mexico (1.12.1999) - United States of America (10.01.1996)

National Parliaments Observers to the Parliamentary Assembly
Canada (28.05.1997) - Israel (2.12.1957) - Mexico (4.11.1999)

Supra-National Language Legislation

On the language front, the Council of Europe is responsible for designing and implementing a few international treaties, including the 1992 European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the 1994 Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. These two treaties serve as language laws that apply virtually in full to a series of countries, which in turn have to abide by a minimum number of selected components in the documents. With regard to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, only those states having ratified the document are required to fully apply all of the provisions it contained at the original signing. However, when it comes to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, each country can build its own "à la carte" charter, provided it contain at least 35 articles from the proposed provisions. Canada, for instance, could have a similar supra-provincial mechanism governing all of its provinces.

The National Minorities

Under the European Charter, the concept of regional or minority languages refers to those spoken traditionally on a state territory by nationals who comprise numerically smaller group than the rest of the state's population. Minority languages differ from a state's "official" language or languages, which don't encompass dialects or languages spoken by immigrants. In Canada, the expression national minority doesn't exist, because Canadian legislation does not recognize Canadian linguistic minorities, but rather provincial linguistic minorities. Remember: Canada is a federation, and its provinces retain full authority in the area of language rights.

The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities contain stringent obligations for member states that have signed and ratified the two treaties, not the least of which is the commitment to respect and recognize their national minorities. In some cases, the agreements can serve as actual language policies for member states.

Au choix:


European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

The following states have ratified the Charter:

Germany, Armenia, Austria, Cyprus, Croatia, Denmark, Spain, Finland, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Norway, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland.




Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities

The following states have ratified the Convention:

Albania, Germany, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina , Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine.