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Inaki Irazabalbeitia

Former MEP, Aralar

Letter of MEPs to Commission on language rights

Feb 09, 2014

MEPs mainly from the Basque Country and Catalonia signed a letter to commissioners Reding and Vassiliou asking more commitment of the Commission on the defense of language rights in the Union. Now they are siking the signature of more MEPs


Dear Vice-President, Ms. Reding,

Dear Commissioner, Ms. Vassiliou,

After the Lisbon Treaty, the EU is making major step towards achieving the equal treatment principle for all EU citizens. Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (TFEU) forbids “any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation"

However, the current state of EU law on equal treatment, equality and non-discrimination, does not cover discrimination based on language.

The Written Questions Team from the European Parliament has stated in many occasions: “Neither the Treaty nor the relevant secondary law, cover discrimination on grounds of language.” Thus, declaring unacceptable any written question tabled by MEPs on this issue.

This situation is a dysfunction. The EU legislation is rightly able to forbid and fight discrimination on many grounds (sexual orientation, religion, ethnic origin, interalia) but not on the cases in which citizens are discriminated on grounds of language.

Unfortunately, in some Member States of the EU, there is a systematic discrimination policy based on language that requires of a legal answer at the EU level. Plataforma per la Llengua, a Catalan NGO, has put together a comprehensive report on the issue referring to the case of Spain and the discrimination cases to Catalan speaking citizens.

Language discrimination is often deployed as the tool for political discrimination. That is why we ask for a clear EU legal proposal to set European-wide tools to fight it.

Bearing in mind the acquis communautaire and the EU legislation into force, the Commission may consider some of the following options.

On the one hand, the "Directive 2000/78/EC November 2000, establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation" could be modified in order to incorporate the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of the language they speak.

This principle could also be introduced in the Proposal for a "Council Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation". However, this Directive should be immediately unblocked at the Council in order to make it effective as soon as possible.  

On the other hand, the Commission could consider the creation of a new specific Directive "on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of languages", taking as legal base Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

In these times of political fragmentation and the rise of euro-scepticism, it is of the utmost importance that all minorities and all citizens in Europe feel protected against any kind of discrimination, including the treatment they receive from member states due to the language that they use. As a matter of principle the EU should grant the same protection of rights across the Union.

We hope that the Commission will consider these proposals and will envisage specific actions in the coming months. As MEPs we remain at its disposal in order to make further suggestions and contributions.


With kind regards,

Maria Badia, S&D                                     Ramon Tremosa ALDE

Raimon Obiols, S&D                           Izaskun Bilbao, ALDE

Salvador Sedó, EPP                           Iñaki Irazabalbeitia, Greens/EFA

Raül Romeva, Greens/EFA

Czaba Tabadji, S&D