Protesters support regional languages

A Breton poster for today’s protest

Rallies and marches are being held around France today demanding that regional languages be given a more official footin

PROTESTS are being organised around France today in defence of regional languages.

Whether it is in Quimper (in favour of Breton), Ajaccio (Corsican), Strasbourg (Alsacian), Bayonne (Basque), Saint-Quentin (Picard), Poitiers (Poitevin) or Toulouse (Occitan), the protestors have similar aims.

They say regional languages are an important part of France’s diverse culture and must be fully recognised. In particular they want France to ratify the European charter on regional or minority languages.

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).

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

A redraft in 2008 added to the constitution the phrase “The regional languages belong to French heritage”. However this declaration confers no specific rights.

Quimper protests organisers have highlighted the views of the presidential candidates and called party representatives to a debate.

Nicolas Sarkozy has stated that “If you love France you don’t propose ratifying the regional languages charter”. Marine Le Pen is also among those opposed. Eva Joly, François Bayrou and François Hollande favour the idea.

The views of Front de Gauche candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon are, however, “convoluted and confusing”, according to a Quimper organiser, Patrig Herve, who said he hoped the party would send a representative to clarify its stance.

One of the organisers in Toulouse, Anne-Marie Poggio told 20 Minutes: “Up until now we have just had symbolic measures. We want a law so that Occitan has official financial and legal tools to make sure of its development and use. We need to come across it in the street, in the media, in institutions; otherwise we’re just left with folklore.”

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