Minority Languages - an asset for regional development

1. Event

Debate in the Chamber of Regions of the Congress

2. Date

Thursday 18 March, morning session (Hemicycle of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg)

3. Participants in the Congress debate

Rapporteurs: Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ, Belgium (R, SOC)

Farid MUKHAMETSHIN, Russian Federation (R, ILDG)

Statements by:

Ivan JAKOVCIC, Croatia (President of the Istrian Region)

Sigve GRAMSTAD, Norway (Vice-Chair of the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of the Council of Europe)

4. Background

Minority languages play a vital role in socio-cultural, economic and ecological regional development in Europe. Regional or minority languages constitute 60 out of 90 European Languages with nearly one in seven Europeans being a native speaker of a minority language. Consequently minority languages are decisive factors in forging regional identity.

The benefits of minority languages are multifold. Minority languages play an important role in economic exchanges, particularly in cultural industries such as tourism, and can act as an attractive focal point for regional investment which can lead to economic development. Furthermore minority languages are a key feature in the development of trans-border co-operation.

5. Elements for the debate

    - Regional and minority languages as an underused resource and as a key aspect of regional cultural identity.

    - Ways of securing adequate finance to ensure the provision of regional or minority languages from primary level upwards.

    - Increased use of minority languages in education and in the public sector to safeguard language usage.

    - The existence of political flexibility as regards multilingualism in regional territories.

    - The economic advantage that can arise from regional multi-lingualism such as:

    o Increased investment in schools, administration and the judicial system

    o Increased cultural activities (literature, music, museums, theatre)

    o Stimulating employment.

    - Social challenges of maintaining and developing such languages and methods of preserving Europe’s minority languages i.e. granting official legal status to minority languages, at least at local and regional level.

    - Making greater use of the European Charter of Regional or Minority Languages:

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