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C 310/150 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 9. 10.

98

(98/C 310/207) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0963/98


by Josu Imaz San Miguel (PPE) to the Commission
(30 March 1998)

Subject: Respect for minority languages

On 9 and 10 March a delegation from the Commission, the Council of Europe and the OSCE visited Bratislava
(Slovakia) for talks with the Slovak Government on the protection of minority languages in Slovakia. The
Commission announced before the meeting that the aim was to reach agreement with the Slovak authorities on
areas in which additional efforts will have to be made to ensure that the rights of minorities living in Slovakia are
respected.

The protection of minority languages is one of the rights and, in the talks and consultations under the Europe
Agreement with the European Union, Slovakia has undertaken to see that this right is protected by means of
legislation to respect minority languages.

As a Member of the European Parliament who represents a constituency where a minority language − Basque −
is spoken, I am delighted that the Commission is concerned about the situation of minority languages in the states
that will begin the negotiation process and that respect for minority languages is an important condition for
becoming a member of the Union.

Can the Commission give details of the conclusions of the meeting in Bratislava? Does it think that respect for
minority languages and the efforts to protect the rights of those who speak them are important conditions for
progress in negotiations with Slovakia? Is the Commission also concerned about respect for minority languages
in the 15 European Union Member States, especially France? What sort of measures will the Commission take to
ensure respect for Basque, Occitan, Corsican, Breton and other minority languages spoken in France? What
efforts is it considering to obtain France’s signature to the Council of Europe’s European charter for protection of
languages?

Answer given by Mr Van den Broek on behalf of the Commission


(28 April 1998)

The European Council in Copenhagen (1993) decided that in order to become members of the Community, the
candidate countries in Central and Eastern Europe must have achieved ‘stability of institutions guaranteeing
democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities’. In its opinion on the
Slovak application for Community membership of July 1997 which was endorsed by the European Council in
Luxembourg, the Commission examined various aspects of the protection of minorities in Slovakia, including
the protection of minority language rights.

In response to the opinion, the Slovak Government submitted a memorandum in November 1997 to the
Commission, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe,
listing the legal and constitutional provisions in Slovakia touching on minority language use. These institutions
were invited by the Slovak Government to examine the Slovak situation in relation to international commitments
which Slovakia has accepted and to make suggestions as to how the protection of minority languages could be
improved in relation to those commitments.

The aforementioned institutions examined the situation and shared the results of their assessment with the Slovak
Government in discussions which took place in Bratislava on 9-10 March 1998. The Slovak authorities indicated
that they would examine the comments of the OSCE, Council of Europe and the Commission in depth and
respond in detail to the points raised. They expressed their willingness to address any weaknesses in the area and
invited further expert discussion on possible legislative initatives.

The Commission is implementing an initiative in this field (under budget heading B3-1006) which aims to
promote and safeguard regional and minority languages and cultures. Projects involving any regional or minority
language spoken in a Member State may benefit from this initiative provided that they fulfil the aims and criteria
of the calls for proposals.