EAEA News 2008-02-11
The value of languages
The EU-Commissioner for multilingualism, the Romanian Leonard Orban, took time for a one hour meeting in Copenhagen with the Brussels-representative of the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN), Jan Diedrichsen, who is also the head of the Secretariat of the German minority at the Government and Parliament. Orban was in Denmark for political dialogues by invitation of the Danish government.
Besides the situation of the minorities in the German-Danish border region and their role in strengthening bilingualism in that region, an exchange of ideas on the situation of the regional- and minority languages in Europe in general took place.
The Commissioner presented the main features of his planned strategy for multilingualism, which is intended for September and he emphasized that multilingualism is more than learning English. "It would be ideal if every European would master the language of his or her neighbouring country," said the Romanian Orban, referring to the main idea of the Commission, that every European, besides his or her mother tongue, should be proficient in two foreign languages.
According to official numbers of the EU 40 million people in the expanded European Union use a regional- or minority language. This corresponds to almost ten percent of all Union-citizens. Still a lot of the European languages are endangered in their existence, Diedrichsen explained to the EU-Commissioner, who ensured he would keep multilingualism in focus including the smallest of them. "Every European language has the same value - not one is worth more than the other," said the EU-Commissioner, who particularly emphasized the good development within the larger regional languages in Europe and characterized them as an ?important component of the future of Europe". The Commissioner's attention was brought to the fact that the smallest European languages are presently in a threatening situation and relative to this Mr. Orban explained that also the small, threatened languages are taken into consideration within the possibilities of the EU-Commission, though at the same time referring to the difficulties concerning responsibility, as much falls under the area of the EU-states and thereby isn't within the central domain of the Commission.
"It was encouraging to see how well informed and prepared the Commissioner was and he credibly insured that also the small and smallest languages in Europe play an important part in his eyes. In this respect the FUEN will take the EU-Commissioner by his word and will follow the work of the Commission actively and critically, if necessary," said Diedrichsen, who also took the opportunity to inform the Commissioner of the language-network of the FUEN, which is presently in a phase of establishment, and which under the motto "learning from the smallest" is among others supported by South Tyrol and particularly has the threatened languages of Europe in its scope.
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