France to ratify language charter

Prime minister indicates that government will finally recognise EU charter on regional languages such as Breton

16 December 2013

THE FRENCH government has indicated that it is keen to ratify a 20-year-old European charter recognising and supporting the country's regional and minority languages - such as Breton, Provençal and Occitan.

The charter, adopted by the Council of Europe in 1992 aims to protect and promote regional languages and to favour their use in private and public life.

France, and several other states, signed this but failed to ratify it (ie. to pass legislation making it operative in France).

This is because Article 2 of the French constitution says “The language of the Republic is French”. No regional language therefore has official status in France.

Prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is reportedly keen to speed up its ratification.

Speaking in Rennes, Brittany, on Friday, the prime minister said: "I think it's time to have this debate in parliament and to restart a process which started 15 years ago."

He said the government would set aside time in the National Assembly to debate a newly submitted draft law to ratify the charter.

Finistère MP Jean-Jacques Urvoas said it could be discussed in the lower house as early as January 20.

Regional language campaigners have tried for years for France to make the necessary changes to comply with the charter.

It has repeatedly been hit with delays because some argue that promoting and supporting regional languages is contrary to the French constitution.

Regional languages in France include Breton, Corsican, Alsacian, Picard, Poitevin and Nissard.

Campaigners say regional languages are an important part of France’s diverse culture and must be fully recognised.

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