CoE says Public Radio broadcasts in 12 languages, calls on Armenia to promote use of minority languages

should favour the provision of at least a substantial part of pre-school education in Assyrian, Greek, Kurdish and Yezidi and introduce the broadcasting of a public TV programme in these languages; it should also improve teaching at primary and secondary levels in all the minority languages, take steps to ensure that their speakers can use them in contacts with administrative and judicial authorities, promote the use/adoption of place names in the minority languages in the municipalities concerned, as well as provide adequate funding for cultural activities and to the national minority associations.

These are priority recommendations given today by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, based on the evaluation report prepared by the Committee of Experts under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and based on the political and legal situation prevailing at the time of the Committee of Experts’ on-the-spot visit to Armenia in February 2020.

The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages entered into force in Armenia in 2002 and applies to the following languages: Assyrian, German, Greek, Kurdish, Russian, Ukrainian and Yezidi.

The Council of Europe’s experts in their report note that the situation of Assyrian, Kurdish and Yezidi has not shown any clear signs of improvement over the past four years, especially in the fields of education and the judiciary.

As far as education is concerned, Russian is used at pre-school level, but the need to also provide a substantial part of pre-school education in Assyrian, Greek, Kurdish and Yezidi remains. Teaching in or of Russian is available at primary, secondary and technical and vocational levels. Some primary and secondary schools teach Assyrian, Kurdish and Yezidi to a certain extent, but it is not clear how many pupils are enrolled. Greek is taught in technical and vocational education. Several primary and secondary schools provide intensive teaching of German. Ukrainian is not taught in primary or secondary education.

The lack of teachers of the minority languages is an obstacle in the development of minority language education. Furthermore, modern teaching materials for teaching the minority languages need to be produced.

The Armenian legislation does not guarantee the right to use minority languages before judicial authorities if the minority language speaker has a command of Armenian; this is not in conformity with the European Charter as ratified by Armenia.

The state authorities have made available certain administrative texts and forms in Russian, but not in other minority languages. It is also possible to submit oral or written applications in Russian in certain municipalities. Assyrian, Kurdish and Yezidi are only used in oral communication with local authorities. Greek does not seem to be used in contacts with authorities. Some municipalities have official names in minority languages, but there is no general policy to promote the use or adoption of such names.

The Armenian Public Radio broadcasts programmes in Assyrian, Greek, Kurdish, Russian and Yezidi, the report says. It notes that the Public Radio broadcasts daily programs in 12 languages: Armenian, Russian, English, Greek, Turkish, Georgian, Assyrian, Arabic, Azerbaijani, Persian, Kurdish and Yezidi. The programs and news are also available on the website of the public broadcasting company (armradio.am).

The Armenian Public Television periodically broadcasts information programmes about national minorities in Armenian or Russian. In addition, Russian is the only minority language in which daily or weekly newspapers are published. Russian is also commonly used in economic life and in cross-border co-operation, which is not the case for the other minority languages.

In general, the lack of a structured approach persists as regards Armenia’s obligations under the European Charter. In particular, financial support for national minority associations is too low to contribute effectively to the practical implementation of the Charter.

The Ministry of Justice has prepared a draft Law of the Republic of Armenia “On national minorities”. The Committee of Experts notes some problematic aspects of the draft law, such as the introduction of a too high of a threshold (20%) of minority language speakers in municipalities, in order to be able to use a minority language in communication with authorities. Nevertheless, the Committee of Experts welcomes the intention of Armenia to adopt a Law “On national minorities” and calls on the authorities to finalize the legislative process soon. Considering that a number of aspects relating to language use are not covered by the draft law, the Charter will remain the legal frame of reference for the promotion of minority languages in Armenia. “The implementation of the Charter is therefore of utmost importance,” stresses the report.

The Committee of Ministers invites the Armenian authorities to submit the information on the recommendations for immediate action contained in the fifth evaluation report of the Committee of Experts by 1 May 2021.

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