The right to self-determination is recognised as an essential principle of international law. It is established in the United Nations Charter and associated Covenants; in recent years, the Council of Europe has led the way in standard-setting with the development of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (Ets no. 157).
Council of Europe member States such as the United Kingdom, where a referendum on the independence of Scotland was held in 2014, and Denmark, where the government has made it clear that the Faroe Islands and Greenland have the right to self-determination and would be allowed a referendum on independence if they requested one, are recent examples of how Europe leads the way on this issue.
Self-determination movements are active across the Council of Europe region; they base their legitimacy on the broad support of the populations in their territories and their own internal democratic standards, including a rejection of violence. They have been instrumental in establishing protection for minorities and more representative democratic governance in many Council of Europe member States. The Parliamentary Assembly should examine the question of self-determination of European regions.
Also discussion of independence should take place in a peaceful and democratic dialogue between the relevant region and the State government, as was the case with Council of Europe member States like the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
Europe should be applying the best practices on self-determination across the continent.