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Inaki Irazabalbeitia

Former MEP, Aralar

The new Commission and minority languages

Oct 07, 2014

Last parliamentary legislature was important for the minority languages. The EP approved with an overwhelming majority the so-called Alfonsi report on language diversity in Europe. Did it have any positive consequences?

Both the Commission and the Council don’t seem very interested in the minority language issue. European authorities keep talking about language and cultural diversity or multilingualism presenting them as a European treasure. But, when someone poses questions or demands positive steps at European level in developing and preserving minority languages, all the talk finish and the EU authorities begin to point to the States.

Let’s give an example. Some weeks after the approval of the Alfonsi report Basque and Catalan MEPs asked the Council weather it will take into consideration the item 5 of this report: ‘‘Calls on the Union authorities to include effective respect for linguistic diversity, and protection for the most vulnerable European languages in particular, as a condition that must be met by all states wishing to be admitted as an EU Member State’”. We also demanded a deadline to doing that.

The answer of the Council is hilarious, just to say it in a polite form. See this link. It started saying that language policy comes under Member’ States competence and finished quoting the European strategy for multilingualism, and remarking the importance of language competences to enhance mobility. As you probably know, both of them deal mainly with official languages.

What’s the position of the new Commission? Last Commission hat a commissioner dealing with multilingualism.  The new one has sidelined it. Bad signal!

Last spring the Intergroup on minority cultures and languages proposed that the new Commission should have a specific commissioner dealing with the issue language diversity and the rights of minority languages. Even more, the Intergroup pointed out the need for a comprehensive European Union protection system for national minorities, regional linguistic groups and constitutional regions and proposed to develop a European level strategy of the style of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. Those and other positive measures were proposed in the Strasbourg Manifesto on the protection of national minorities and languages within the framework of the European Union.

I’m not very positive on the future policies for the protection of language rights of minorities in the EU. I realise that more and more frequently multilingualism is identified with both the 24 official languages and big non-European languages like Chinese and Arabic. I think that language diversity and language rights are a trouble for quite a big number of EU officials and politicians. They don’t dare to say it loudly yet. It isn’t politically correct! But their actions point in that direction. One last example: last June I donated the EP library tow books on the Parliament of Navarre, one in Basque and the other in English They accepted the English issue, but rejected the Basque one because it wasn’t in a European official language.