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National Minorities and the European Parliament

Following last years EU elections the European Parliament Intergroup for Traditional National Minorities, Constitutional Regions and Regional Languages held its first meeting in December.

The Intergroup is formed by MEP's from across the political spectrum (no extremes) who share the common character of being involved in the protection and promotion of National Minorities. From a Cornish perspective the only MEP from the South West Government Zone who might have any interest in the Intergroup, and be willing to speak for the Cornish, is Liberal Democrat Graham Watson, himself a Scot. Note that Graham's European political party, the Alliance of Liberal sand Democrats for Europe (ALDE), is represented on the Intergroup by Finlands Carl Haglund.

The most recent statement issued by the National Minority Intergroup concerns the Lisbon Treaty and can be read here.

Although the Intergroup operates only in the European Parliament, and therefore within the institutions of the European Union, it does maintain friendly relations with the Council of Europe and various associated bodies such as FUEN and YEN (I note however that the Cornish no longer have representation within FUEN).

You can read more on the two European institutions -the European Union and the Council of Europe- by following the links.

I'll finsh by drawing your attention to the following: “Minority languages need more respect” says Commissioner Hammarberg (From the Council of Europe).

Strasbourg, 25.01.2010 – “Language rights have become an issue of contention within several European countries. Their denial undermines human rights and causes inter-communal tensions” said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Viewpoint published today.

“The spelling of personal names on passports, the displaying of street names and other topographical indications, the language used in schools, the language requirements when communicating with the authorities and the possibility to establish minority media are some of the main issues being raised by minority representatives” said Commissioner Hammarberg. “Mature political leadership is particularly needed in order to address these issues abiding by human rights standards.”

Stressing that language is an essential tool for social organisation and individual identity, the Commissioner calls on European governments to better take into account the needs of the minorities. “All too often authorities have not listened carefully to them when policies have been developed. It is crucial that governments maintain close communication with persons belonging to national minorities and seek a thorough and continuing consultation.”

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