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12.03.2010   EFA letter to the Vice-President of the European Commission on the use of minority languages

Strasbourg, 11 March 2010

Dear Vice-President,

Having read some publications in the Latvian press we have discovered that some factsheets on the Eurobarometer survey Gender equality in the EU in 2009 had been prepared and distributed in non-official EU languages (namely Russian for Estonia and Latvia and Luxembourgish for Luxembourg). After a couple of complaints, the factsheets in Russian have been removed from the Eurobarometer website; members of your staff have apologised to the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Latvia to the European Union.

Indeed, Russian and Luxembourgish are not yet the official languages of the European Union. However, neither Regulation No 1/58 determining the languages to be used by the Union, nor other legal acts prohibit use of non-official languages in publications by the Commission. We believe that removal of the factsheets in Russian and apologies have been overreaction to criticism expressed by some anti-minority politicians.

The Treaty on European Union stipulates that the EU is based, inter alia, on the values of respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. The Charter of Fundamental Rights declares that the Union shall respect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity. In its Resolution on multilingualism adopted in March 2009 the European Parliament reiterated its longstanding commitment to the promotion of multilingualism and linguistic diversity in the European Union, including regional and minority languages. During the hearing on 12 January 2010 you also promised the Parliament to uphold minority rights.

Russian is one of the widely spoken minority languages in the EU. This is mother tongue for many EU citizens from the Baltic States (30% of the population in Estonia and almost 40% in Latvia). We believe that publications in Russian, as well as in other regional and minority languages, and in co-official languages such as Catalan, Basque, Welsh and Gaelic which have official status within their own member state, would serve to promote the values and objectives of the multilingual European Union. We hereby ask you to continue good practice of translating factsheets on the Eurobarometer surveys, as well as other publications, into co-official, regional and minority languages.

On behalf of the European Free Alliance Group
in the European Parliament -

Jill Evans


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