Once again the political establishment in France has shown its opposition to any recognition of the cultural rights of the historic nations that currently lie within the administration of the French Republic. From a report in EurActiv:
“French centre-right MEPs voted against a resolution on endangered regional languages, passed by a large majority in the European Parliament this week, claiming that it violated the unity of the French Republic.
With 92%, EU lawmakers gave their overwhelming backing on Wednesday (11 September) to a report, prepared by the Green group, aimed at protecting endangered and minority languages across Europe.
Drafted by Corsican MEP François Alfonsi (Greens/EFA), the resolution called on EU member states to set up action plans to promote endangered languages and for countries such as France and Greece which had not ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages to implement it immediately.
MEPs also demanded more financing and concrete policy measures to help preserve the EU’s linguistic diversity.
The majority of MEPs even from countries which had not or had no intention of the ratifying the Council of Europe’s Charter for Regional and Minority Languages backed the report, which is not legally binding.
But the strongest opponents were MEPs from the French centre-right UMP party, with 14 of them abstaining and 8 voting against the resolution. Among them were some prominent politicians such as former Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, a close ally of former President Nicolas Sarkozy.
At the beginning of his mandate, President François Hollande announced he would ratify the charter, but backed down in the first half of 2013. In France, minority languages often belong to regions with a separatist history, such as Corsica or the Basque Country, making it a sensitive subject among the public.
However, MEPs in EU countries with separatist regions did not reject Mr Alfonsi’s report, as it is non-binding. In France, only those French Conservatives and far-right politicians like Marine Le Pen and far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon said no to the report.
Out of 255 languages currently spoken across Europe, 128 are listed as endangered languages and 90 are “severely endangered” according to Unesco’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger.
In France, languages native to Burgundy, Picard and Lorrain are considered “severely endangered, while the Spanish dialect Gascon is “definitely endangered” and Dalmatian in Croatia is considered “extinct”. The UN predicts that half of the world’s 6,000 languages will become extinct by the end of the century.
The process, however, is neither inevitable nor irreversible, Unesco said, as policies can support the efforts of speaker communities to maintain or revitalise their native tongues.
Cultivating endangered languages requires financial backing and strategies to help and fund training, education, media and research programmes throughout Europe, say the supporters of the report.“
Of course, over a decade after the signing of the multi-party Belfast Agreement of 1998 which brought an end to the Irish-British conflict in the north-east of Ireland, we are still waiting for the regional Irish Language Act that was promised in the peace accords. In fact we are as far away from genuine equal rights for Irish-speaking citizens and communities with their English-speaking peers as we were at the height of the Northern War.