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Money talks, but in which language? The Forum of European Minority Regions starts in Opole

The Forum of European Minority Regions, initiated by FUEN, is now a permanent fixture and brings together an interesting mix of experts from politics, society and academia every year. The 7th edition of the forum takes place this year from 1 to 2 December in Opole/Oppeln and Katowice/Kattowitz, Poland, and is dedicated to the topic of "Minority languages and the labour market". What advantages and challenges do minority regions have in this respect? Does mastering minority languages create added value – and how can this be measured?

"It must not be the case that over 40 million people in the EU speak minority languages, but their voice often does not count - because it is precisely these people who live the values of the EU so strongly," emphasised FUEN Vice-President Bernard Gaida in his opening speech today in the parliament of the Opole Voivodeship. He called for more commitment to minority languages and cultural diversity from the European Commission, as proposed by FUEN in the Minority SafePack Initiative. "Even if the Commission's attitude may not make implementation possible, we cannot accept the situation," said Gaida.

The President of the Association of German Socio-Cultural Societies in Poland (VdG) Rafał Bartek, host of this year's forum, made it clear in his speech that the minority language in the Opole region is on the one hand a matter of course, but on the other hand very much under threat. He referred to the ban on the German language for decades, which continues to have an impact to this day.

„We need to proclaim that minorities are a huge cultural and social value, and therefore all of us in the regions where minorities live should give a good example of empowering minorities and the persons belonging to minority groups”, said the Marshal of Opole, Andrzej Buła, saying thanks tot he participants to choosing Silesia to spend the weekend at.

The Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Opole, Peter Herr, also emphasised the advantages of a minority region: "There is no assimilation, but rather an expansion of skills and a prosperous coexistence," he described from his own experience from his home region, Alsace. "Poles and Germans are ideal partners, and in a region like this, the great potential comes to the fore."

During the three days of the conference, experts from all over Europe will discuss the advantages of speaking the minority language in the private and public sector, the challenges minority organisations face when ceompeting for human resources and the effects of cross-border work on communities and the economy.