New language protocol seeks to level linguistic playing field

The Donostia Protocol hopes to address mounting concerns of linguistic discrimination across Europe. [Ferran Suay]

More than a hundred ambassadors representing 25 minority European languages signed a protocol guaranteeing linguistic rights this weekend. EURACTIV Spain reports.

The document, which proposes 185 tangible measures intended to promote linguistic equality, was put together by the council of Basque social organisations, Kontseilua.

The so-called Donostia Protocol aims to develop the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights that UNESCO adopted in 1996 and which was meant to be the “framework” of strategy formulation, as “disadvantaged” languages face a fight to survive.

Language discrimination rife across EU

Calls for legislation to be drawn up or even for a Language Commissioner to be appointed have been made, in order to combat a rising number of discrimination cases across the European Union.

The signatory organisations, many of them Basque, advocate measures in education, socio-economic, the media and new technologies that will allow speakers of less-spoken languages to use their native tongues in any area of their lives.

Kontseilua Secretary-General Paul Bilbao insisted that in many parts of Europe, those rights are not guaranteed, citing examples like Basque speakers being unable to get a driving licence in Navarre in their language or Scottish-Gaelic not being offered at secondary education level in Scotland.

“These situations often happen and the protocol proposes measures that would eliminate them,” said Bilbao.

Spanish promotion of regional languages did not breach state aid rules

The European Commission cleared Spain on Tuesday (21 September) of any wrongdoing after investigating its granting of public subsidies to regional language schemes. EURACTIV Spain reports.

San Sebastián cultural programme 2016 director Xabier Paya said that linguistic diversity is a “resource” that has to be defended and warned that minority languages have to be safeguarded so they can “regain their health”.

Paya added that “there cannot be coexistence without multilingualism”.

María Pilar García Negro, a Galician speaker, called for the measures contained in the protocol to be implemented.

Bilbao concluded that “the key to this protocol’s success has been participation”, adding that “we have shown that although we are each small, if we all unite we can do it.”

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