by James Fife
In the run up to the elections for the European Parliament this weekend, an examination of the manifestos and other policy statements published by the party groups reveals that while the groups all assert an interest in diversity in general terms, all but one lack a specific plank in their platforms addressing language rights. Two of the party groups mention linguistic diversity as positive social good which the European Union should support, but other party groups speak only in broader terms about respecting diversity and cultural identity. One party group’s position on cultural diversity and minorities could not be ascertained.
The most explicit handling of linguistic rights is found in the manifesto of the Greens-European Free Alliance (EFA), which includes as its initial section a commitment to diversity and expressly identifies respect for all language communities as key. The document states it is “essential to give full respect to languages other than official state languages. That would in essence imply the acceptance by the EU of the different languages that have been officially acknowledged by the Member States and their internal nations or regions at the same level as EU languages.”
As a specific plank in the group’s platform, the EFA holds that “all languages have the right to be recognised at the European level, with no artificial difference between state languages and other languages. EFA will strive for the meaningful realisation of European cultural and linguistic diversity and equality of all European languages. To this end EFA will work for the establishment of legally binding instruments and budgets for the promotion, development and normalisation of Europe's minoritised and stateless languages.”
Two other groups which note language as a basis for diversity are the European People’s Party-European Democrats (EPP-ED) and the European Liberals, Democrats and Reformers (ELDR). The EPP-ED’s cultural policy statement claims “It is the EPP-ED's opinion that a Europe of linguistic and cultural diversity is also a Europe in which there is intercultural dialogue, respect for social and cultural diversities and traditions, combating of racism and xenophobia, and tolerance.” Similarly, the ELDR’s second policy principle indicates as a goal to work “for a Union that respects our diverse cultural and linguistic identities.”
A more general statement in respect of cultural and regional diversity or opposition to discrimination is found in the Party of European Socialists (PES) manifesto. PES professes that it is “our vision is of a European Union based on democracy, equality, respect for human rights, diversity and the rule of law. … We oppose all forms of discrimination, including any based on race, religion, belief, gender, disability, age or sexual orientation.”
More general statements yet appear in the policy documents for the Union for a Europe of the Nations (UEN) and the Europe of Democracies and Diversities (EDD) groups. The UEN indicates that it supports “a Europe based on the freedom of nations to decide, where diversity is the first of all riches and not a Federal Europe which would subject sovereign nations and take away the identity of European peoples” and that it favours “solidarity between all social groupings and all regions in order to bring about equality between people and nations.” The EDD “favours the creation of a stable and democratic Europe of Nation States built on the diversity and cultures of its peoples” and “supports parliamentary democracy, high environmental standards and equitable free trade, respecting historic national and regional identities, and co-operation between nations, regions and peoples.”
The United European Left-Nordic Greens (GUE-NLG) group had no published policy statement regarding its linguistic or cultural diversity views.
Eurolang attempted to contact spokespersons for the party groups to see if they wished to expand on their written policy statements. Robert Fitzhenry, a press official for the EPP said it was “the EPP’s policy to view language diversity as a strength,” and in favor of “celebrating the diversity that exists.” However, he said the EPP does not have a particular stand on inclusion of a ban on linguistic discrimination as part of the draft Constitution’s protected rights. (Eurolang)
(Writing for Eurolang for the first time today, Dr James Fife joins the Eurolang team for the summer. In academic circles James is a well-known Celticist and linguist and has recently moved into law, specialising in language legislation).