Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities – Elements That Cornwall MUST Focus On Now – Part II

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Last week’s blog post centred on three main elements of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities – Human Rights, Education and Language. This week, I conclude my article urging action in Cornwall and Westminster on the rights/protections granted under the Framework in relation to the media and (local) governance.

Once more, I would like to direct the reader to the actual Framework document, which can be found at https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?documentId=09000016800c10cf and to emphasise a quote from page two of the document which states:  “Democratic society should…create appropriate conditions enabling (the National Minority) to express, preserve and develop this identity.”

Coverage of Cornwall and Cornish issues on television has always been a major bone of contention, particularly with the BBC Spotlight and ITV News Westcountry which are heavily Devon-centric in their content. Both appear to consider Cornwall as an after thought. This was highlighted particularly recently, when the Gorsedh Kernow ceremony received absolutely no coverage on local TV news whatsoever – and you can’t get more of an expression of Cornish culture and identity than that ceremony! 

Article 9.1 of the Framework Convention clearly states: “The Parties shall ensure, within the framework of their legal systems, that persons belonging to a National Minority are not discriminated against in their access to the media.” If the BBC and ITV are not going to up their game in terms of covering Cornish issues, then perhaps it is time to launch a concerted campaign to both companies under Article 9.3 of the convention, as it reads: “In the legal framework of sound radio and television broadcasting they (the parties) shall ensure, as far as possible, and taking into account the provisions of paragraph one, that persons belonging to national minorities are granted the possibility of creating and using their own media.” Whilst a BBC Cornwall in the form of BBC Alba or S4C is unlikely at present, there needs to be pressure applied for at least a BBC Cornwall/ITV Cornwall regional news output with some portion of it broadcast in Kernewek.

The final consideration is with regard to national or local politics. Many groups have seen Cornwall as part of a wider ‘South-West’ region which encompasses Devon, Avon, Wiltshire and Somerset – all counties with totally different historic, social and economical characteristics to Cornwall, and allied to this is the notion of ‘Devonwall’, which remains a threat of returning if present Parliamentary Constituency boundary changes go through. The Framework Convention offers some hope of ending the threat of a cross-Tamar constituency once and for all, with Article 16 stating: “The Parties shall refrain from measures which alter the proportions of the population in areas inhabited by persons belonging to national minorities and are aimed at restricting the rights and freedoms flowing from the principles enshrined in the present framework Convention.” The section of the document entitled ‘Commentary on the Provisions of the Framework Convention’ states on p23, in direct relation to Article 16 that “Examples of such measures (of restricting rights & freedoms of national minorities) might be expropriation, evictions and expulsions or redrawing administrative borders with a view to restricting the enjoyment of such rights.” Of course, this article could also add weight to the important campaigns being done by those aiming to restrict numbers of second home owners in the territory and ensure that Cornish people have access to Cornish housing stock.

It is clear that the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention can offer Cornwall many long awaited ways to preserve and promote it’s legally proven unique identity. Cornwall now needs to move on from celebrating its inclusion under the convention 18 months ago and lobby hard to see some real changes that I have identified in this series of blog posts, under this framework that it has earned.

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