European Parliament Intergroup demands that France ratifies the ECRML

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon May 22 14:14:12 UTC 2006

European Parliament Intergroup demands that France ratifies the ECRML,
FCPNM and that the EU intervene to protect minoritised languages

Bruxelles - Brussel, Friday, 19 May 2006 by Davyth Hicks

The European Parliament lesser-used language and national minority
Intergroup met in Strasbourg yesterday with representatives from EBLUL
France, comprising Bretons, Alsacians, and Occitans, and the Association
of the French Regions. Following the meeting, Intergroup President and
Hungarian Socialist Csaba Tabajdi (PES) issued a Declaration demanding
that France ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
(ECRML) and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National
Minorities (FCPNM).  Furthermore, Mr Tabjadi called for the EU to
intervene to help the languages on French territory that are now facing
endangerment because of State policies that have led to serious decline.

The Intergroup Declaration states:

In France the cultures and languages known as regional, which form an
integral part of European culture and that of humanity, are excluded from
the public space by legislation and are marginalized, they are in the
process of disappearing quickly from social life in spite of the often
exemplary resistance and the organization of their populations, and with
the support of their elected officials within a framework of law and
administration that is ideologically hostile. After decades of
eradication, the teaching of these languages remains highly marginal and
their place in the media, in particular the radio and television, is
extremely reduced.

Out of nearly all the states in Europe, France has neither signed nor
ratified Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
It has still not ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority
languages. It has issued reservations on Article 27 of the UN Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights, Article 30 of the UN Convention on the Rights
of the Child. By its Constitution, and in spite of the richness of the
various languages in the territory, only one language, French, profits
from official recognition, and is defended, promoted, authorized.

Mr Tabjadi called on France to recover its sense of values and points to
earlier criticism from the Council of Europe over its poor record on human
rights generally. The actions demanded by the Intergroup are that France
ratify the European Charter for the regional or minority languages, to
sign and ratify the FCPNM, to ratify Protocol 12 of the European
Convention on Human Rights, and to remove its reservations from the UN
Conventions detailed above.

The Declaration continues that France fully recognize the right to the
existence of the citizens and peoples which make it up in their
specificity, in particular through a system of education, media and a
public space allowing the normal expression of their languages, the
teaching of their cultures and their stories in accordance with the of
UNESCO convention on cultural diversity and the Convention on the
protection and the promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions.

The President of the Intergroup calls the European Union, in the field of
its competences, to engage in specific actions for the promotion of
linguistic diversity focusing on the most threatened languages in Europe,
in association with the regions or local institutions concerned, and to
create special ring-fenced funding from the Community through its
programmes of promotion for these languages in the various regions of the
European Union.

The President of the Intergroup also challenges the Member States and the
European Union over the urgency of the measures to be taken and on their
duty to intervene, taking into account the weakness in which these
languages are in France, and in particular of the fast disappearance of
the older generation, who still largely speak these languages but who are
not being replaced.

EBLUL France issued a communique outlining further European Parliament
investigations in Alsace in June and in Brittany in the autumn. They noted
with incomprehension, as stated by Mr. Csaba Tabajdi, while referring to
new EU accessions, in particular Romania, that France would not be allowed
into the European Union today because of its non-ratification of
conventions protecting cultural and linguistic diversity which these new
states were obliged to ratify.

In their statement EBLUL France asked: France, is on the point of
ratifying the Convention of UNESCO on cultural diversity of which it was
an initiator, for how long will it be able to refuse recognition of the
diversity in its own territory? The Intergroup meeting will be followed by
a demonstration in Rennes, Brittany on Saturday June 3rd for language

The Breton language, for example, is facing severe endangerment. Of the
estimated 270,000 speakers most are over 65 years old, while those
learning Breton at school comprise only 2% of the school going population
in Brittany. It means that the older speakers are not being replaced
enough to prevent quite rapid decline.  Despite Breton civil society being
highly organised, the centralist French state and its accompanying
ideology makes it impossible to gain basic provision for the language. It
is hoped that the European Parliaments Intergroup statement serves as a
wake-up call. Language based discrimination, equivalent to racism, in a
21st century Europe that is meant to uphold linguistic diversity, is
unacceptable. (Eurolang 2006)

Rennes demonstration

Council of Europe ECRML

Council of Europe FCPNM}The

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