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Language charter is ‘medieval’

An Opposition MP has attacked plans to promote regional languages like Breton and Corsican

PLANS to promote the use of regional languages like Breton are a “return to the Middle Ages” says an UMP party MP.

MP for Yvelines (Ile-de-France) Henri Guaino called the plans “a return to the principalities and feudal systems of the Middle Ages” in a speech in the National Assembly.

Having a “centralising and unifying state” had been essential to the construction of France, he said, denouncing the plans as being backed by “European pressure groups with ethnicist ideas”.

Applauded by a handful of MPs from his own party, his comments aroused anger from opposition benches filled largely with Breton and Corsican MPs.

Socialist François Pupponi said: “Our First Word War soldiers died at Verdun speaking two languages, but that didn’t stop them dying for France.”

The Socialists are proposing a law that would finally ratify a Council of Europe charter on regional and minority languages which most countries put into their national laws years ago but which has been held up in France partly because the constitution says the Republic’s language is French.

An addition to the constitution in 2008 to the effect that the regional languages were part of the heritage of France, helped pave the way to ratifying the charter, which would involve promotion of initiatives like teaching in the languages and double-language road signs.

Culture Minister Aurélie Filipetti said: “You don’t have a monopoly on France, Mr Guaino. You seem to think that regional people are not part of our history, but diversity is a part of our national history.”

Photo: Breton dancing, by XIIIfromTOKYO

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