Intergroup: Viviane Reding’s cabinet, EBLUL- challenges for national and linguistic minorities

A packed Intergroup meeting led by Ms Kinga Gál on Thursday (11th February) heard from the Cabinet of the new Commissioner for Justice (Viviane Reding) on the possibilities afforded by the Lisbon Treaty, and Davyth Hicks from the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages, who repeated the call for the abolition of discrimination against Europe’s national and linguistic minorities.

Thursday, 18 February 2010
A packed Intergroup meeting led by Ms Kinga Gál on Thursday (11th February) heard from the Cabinet of the new Commissioner for Justice (Viviane Reding) on the possibilities afforded by the Lisbon Treaty, and Davyth Hicks from the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages, who repeated the call for the abolition of discrimination against Europe’s national and linguistic minorities.

The Intergroup were joined by representatives from the Council of Europe’s Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML), the Framework Convention for National Minorities (FCNM), and its Parliamentary Assembly (PACE).

Viviane Redings’s Cabinet, represented by Bartholomeus Pronk and Michael Shotter, said that they would look forward to a close co-operation with the Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages, and described the potential in terms of rights presented by the Lisbon Treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights as a ‘revolutionary situation’. They added that in future all new EU law will be checked against the Charter using impact assessment criterion.

Intergroup MEPs welcomed the Cabinet members and congratulated Ms Reding on her election as Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. Kinga Gál emphasised the complexity of the national minority issue and underlined the importance of distinguishing their problems from others, as well as the expectations of national minorities with the EU.

Abolition of discrimination

Davyth Hicks from EBLUL made a detailed presentation of the work and achievements of the NGO since the 1980s, the progress made by the EU, as well as highlighting the key problem areas for Europe’s lesser used languages and national minorities. He focused on the languages in the French state such as Breton, which is now listed as endangered by UNESCO, and the “highly discriminatory” Slovak language law.

He asked, “How, in 2010 when Europe is supposedly ‘united in diversity’, do Europeans still tolerate discrimination against their national minorities?” And repeated EBLUL’s call from last November that there be a final “abolition of discrimination against Europe’s national and linguistic minorities”.

Dr Hicks highlighted further problems such as the declining representation of national minorities at the European level, and noted that substantive political autonomy has developed as European best practice in national minority protection. For endangered languages he underlined that language planners, “have all the tools to regenerate these languages, but need the political backing in order to counteract those member states that still have policies designed to eradicate their ‘regional’ languages”. (EBLUL – Eurolang 2010)