This review essay questions whether European standards for the protection of minorities are “a major historical achievement”. Two questions are posed. Why has this development taken place in Europe? Why has it taken place since 1990? These questions are answered in the light of the historical and political context. After a brief account of the extraordinary experiment in minority rights protection in the inter-War period, the review turns to the origins of the Council and of the OSCE in the Cold War, and comments on the legitimacy and efficacy of these texts and mechanisms.