This article examines the development of minority rights regimes in Europe following the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. It shows how the foundations for democracy were reinforced by the Helsinki Final Act in 1975 and the opportunities it created for dialogue. The major concerns of many states to prevent irredentism and violent inter-ethnic conflicts provided the opportunity to adopt international standards on the protection and promotion of minority rights. Civil society, including members of minorities, were in the vanguard, as they promoted democratic change in 1989 and played a leading role in influencing minority rights standards and their implementation. The Conclusions of the 1990 csce Copenhagen Human Dimension influenced the undm, formed the backbone of the fcnm, and became an invaluable set of standards used by the hcnm for conflict prevention. Twenty-five years later, it is evident the fall of the Iron Curtain was highly significant for minority rights regimes throughout Europe.
This article presents a personal view on the contribution of the Framework Convention to the effective participation of persons belonging to national minorities. It demonstrates the participatory rights of national minorities that have been safeguarded drawing on the practical experience of monitoring the Framework Convention between 1999 and 2007 and the recent Commentary on Article 15 of the Framework Convention. It covers participation in economic and social life, in public affairs, in the implementation and monitoring of the Framework Convention itself, participation in inter governmental organisations and within minority communities themselves. The article explores some of the outstanding participatory issues and identifies possible remedies. The conclusions emphasise the past synergies and possible future cooperation between the Advisory Committee and the High Commissioner on National Minorities on this issue.