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Presentation of the project to develop a Protocol on Language Diversity as part of the 2016 European Capital of Culture Donostia/San Sebastian in the European Parliament

The bilingual town of Donostia/San Sebastian in the Basque Country is one of the two European Capitals of Culture in 2016 (the other is Wrocław/Breslau in Poland, where the FUEN Congress 2016 will be organised). FUEN legal/policy advisor Frank de Boer attended the first presentation of the project to develop a Protocol for Ensuring Language Rights in the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday 10 November 2015.

At the beginning of the meeting, Jordi Sebastià MEP, who hosted the meeting, set out the problems many European citizens face in using their mother tongue, e.g. in accessing media in their language. He also pointed at several cases where speakers of minority languages are harassed or persecuted by European governments. Language rights are not a second-class type of rights, but should be recognised as full-fledged fundamental rights, said Jordi Sebastià.

The Donostia/San Sebastian 2016 Foundation initiated the project to develop a new Protocol for Ensuring Language Rights in cooperation with the Council of Basque Language Entities Kontseilua. At the European Language Diversity Summit that will take place in Donostia/San Sebastian in December 2016, this Protocol will have to be adopted.

According to Kontseilua's Secretary General Paul Bilbao, the Protocol will build on several existing international legal and political documents, such as e.g. the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the UN Declaration on Minority Rights, and will continue where the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights (which was brought about by organised civil society in 1996) halted. The content should be applicable as a tool for national, regional and local government and have a real impact on the linguistic rights of citizens on grassroots level.

In the European Parliament the organisers told that they want to develop the Protocol based on a wide consensus of groups and organisations in Europe and with the help of a scientific committee of legal and linguistic experts who will start their work in December 2015. Over the course of 2016 the draft will then be circulated before it will be presented to the public at the European Language Diversity Summit in December 2016.