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PUBLICATIONS, Structural and Cohesion Policies

Regional and minority languages in the European Union

Written by Magdalena Pasikowska-Schnass,

Multilingual languages word cloud concept

© Ricochet64 / Fotolia

Nearly half of the approximately six thousand languages spoken in the world are vulnerable or in danger of disappearing. In the EU, 40 to 50 million people speak one of its 60 regional and minority languages (RMLs), some of which are at serious risk.

RMLs account for linguistic diversity and belong to humanity’s intangible cultural heritage. International organisations, such as Unesco, the Council of Europe and the OSCE, are concerned with the risk that RMLs face and undertake actions to protect their linguistic rights. Non-respect for regional or minority communities’ linguistic rights is qualified as racial discrimination, a breach of human rights.

While language policy is an exclusive competence of its Member States, the EU can support actions promoting and protecting RMLs. However, the current complex political and economic situation in the EU is not favourable for such efforts. Nevertheless, over the years, the EU has undertaken education-related initiatives at all levels of teaching, including with regard to research that facilitates the production of RML teaching materials, the presence of RMLs in cyberspace, and the work on modern-world RML terminology. It has also recognised the need for RMLs to be taught to non-native speakers and has supported their media dissemination. The European Parliament has supported the promotion of RMLs and called for the protection of endangered languages.

Read the complete briefing on ”Regional and minority languages in the European Union‘.


5 thoughts on “Regional and minority languages in the European Union

  1. Delighted that the Digital Language Diversity Project is listed in the report. However, the claiming that “It (…) provides support to Basque, Breton, Karelian, and Sardinian to assert their digital presence” is slightly incorrect, as those represent the case-study of the project, which however intends to support all of EU regional and minority languages!


    Posted by Claudia Soria | September 28, 2016, 17:32
  2. Hellenic (greek) is absent .. moreover the “makedonski” language is a mistaken term. people of slavomacedonia talk a Slavic language since they are Slavs that has nothing to do with antiquity and languages spoken then. we have to examine history very carefully and take into consideration before such publications.


    Posted by lefteris | September 28, 2016, 16:55
  3. Until the EU has one Language be it French or German it will always have a split personality. If you put the 27 remaining EU nations together they would be looking for their own radio stations, their own TV stations & their own flags


    Posted by Joe Thorpe | September 28, 2016, 10:25
  4. Interesting that Frisian (Frysk, spoken in the Netherlands) doesn’t seem to get a mention.. Just saying…


    Posted by sippy van akker | September 28, 2016, 09:31

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