A report released by the European Language Equality Network (ELEN) on minority languages in 2015 revealed that there has been widespread discrimination, humiliation and even violence towards EU citizens throughout the continent on the grounds of language.

Such incidents applied equally to co-official language speakers such as Basque, Catalan and Galician in Spain.

France was singled out for being one of the worst in upholding linguistic rights for the sake of protecting its lingua franca, French.

Currently, there are no legal instruments that prevent language discrimination in the EU.

Delivering the opening remarks to the 'Respecting Linguistic Diversity? Language Discrimination in the EU' hearing in Brussels yesterday, GUE/NGL MEP Liadh Ní Riada spoke – in Gaeilge – and said it was fundamental that the European Commission does everything it can to protect this endangered heritage:

“We have a great diversity of language within the European Union. However, some of them are becoming increasingly marginalised.”

“The EU has an important part to play in upholding the rights of all languages within it and ensuring that all language speakers are treated equally within its framework – regardless of tongue,” the Irish MEP remarked.

A panel of experts was convened comprising organisations, civil groups, the media as well as from the UN and the EU.

The hearing heard testimonies of discrimination involving Irish, Catalan, Welsh, Basque, Breton, Occitan plus Hungarian in both Slovakia and Romania – and examined what actions to take.

Recommendations from the hearing will be presented to the Culture and LIBE Committees, the Council of Europe, OSCE, and the UN.

Also at the hearing was fellow GUE/NGL MEP and moderator Josu Juaristi Abaunz. The Basque MEP is adamant that linguistic rights must be upheld:

“Although in some areas of the Basque country where Basque is a co-official language, there are still violations against native speakers´ rights.”

“For instance, two weeks ago in the Basque Autonomous Parliament, a proposed legislation was rejected by the Basque-speaking Bureau of the Parliament…just because it was written in Basque! Meanwhile, in Navarre, a court has just banned the opening of two bilingual kindergartens,” Abaunz continued.

“That is a direct attack on the linguistic rights of parents and children. We must keep fighting in order to protect Basque language speakers´ rights,” said Abaunz.

Sticking with the parental theme, Ní Riada said in her closing remarks that the issue over minority language should not be politicised:

“Whether we’re parliamentarians, journalists or mothers, it shouldn’t have anything to do with politics. This affects us all and connects us all.”

“I don’t want people to look at me as the last of the Mohicans”, she concluded.

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