Parliamentarians voting on a report drafted by Portuguese centre-right MEP Vasco Graça Moura (EPP-ED) instead approved an alternative resolution – tabled by the Spanish Socialists (PSOE) and Spanish regional parties CiU, PNV, EA and ICV.
Protecting regional languages
In their new resolution, MEPs opted to remove from the adopted report references to the right of parents to choose the official language in which their children are educated.
In countries where several official languages co-exist, such as Spain, it is "essential" to protect the range of languages in some areas, MEPs said, in a move to protect regional languages supported by the Socialists, Liberals, Greens and other left-leaning members.
The members had feared that the original report’s proposal to give parents the right to choose the official language of their children's education would undermine the ability of regional administrations to offer education in languages like Catalan.
For their part, EPP-ED members voting against the resolution were keen not to undermine education in official national languages, with Spain's centre-right Partido Popular describing the removal of the reference to parents' right to choose the language of their children's education as "a monumental attack on a basic right," the Spanish press reported.
But for Basque liberal MEP Josu Ortuondo Larrea (EAJ-Partido Nacionalista Vasco; Spain), "to recognise multilingualism is to recognise that there exists within the same state areas which have their own language". "The EU does not want to call into question the decisions taken by the regions concerned, contrary to what the EPP [European People's Party] recommends," he continued.
Meanwhile, the Strasbourg plenary also removed a reference warning against the "mistake" of promoting one language at the expense of the rights of speakers of another.
"Certain paragraphs of the initial draft report, supported by the EPP, which formulated rather explicit criticisms against the linguistic teaching policy practised in several areas within EU member states, were removed thanks to a compromise supported by ALDE, PES and the Greens," according to an ALDE press statement objecting to the EPP-ED group's stance on regional languages.
Learning two foreign languages 'political priority'
MEPs offered broad support for the EU executive's desire to see Europeans speak their mother tongue plus two other languages, one for business and one for pleasure.
Indeed, promoting the learning of "the language of a neighbouring country and […] an international 'lingua franca'," such as English, should be a "political priority," states the report.
The new resolution, which replaces the original text adopted in the culture committee on 17 February, was adopted with 335 votes in favour and 279 against, amid 69 abstentions.
Support for minority languages is indeed a sensitive issue at EU level amid fears about the rising cost of the bloc's linguistic regime. The EU institutions' translation and interpreting services absorb €1.1bn or 1% of the EU budget per year, a figure described by Multilingualism Commissioner Leonard Orban as "the cost of democracy" (EurActiv 13/11/08).