rance fails to implement UN recommendations on 'regional' languages
Wednesday, 23 May 2007
EBLUL France are at the UN in Geneva this week calling for the
implementation of its 2001 Report on ‘regional’ language rights in
France to the UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Six years later and France has failed to implement any of the Report,
despite UN recommendations to do so.
In November 2001, EBLUL and the NGO “Pour Que Vivent Nos Langues”
(Promoting our Languages) submitted a short report. The UN Committee
made observations which among others asked France to; acknowledge
minority groups and their right to exist; ratify the Council of
Europe’s Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities
(FCNM) and Charter on Regional or Minority languages (ECRML); step up
its efforts to preserve regional and minority languages and cultures;
and to take steps to improve the teaching of these languages.
It also asked the French state to circulate these observations
widely at all levels of state and to involve non-governmental
organisations in the preparation of its third periodic report.
Writing in response, and in a new Report, EBLUL-France President
Tangi Louarn said: “At present, six years later, it is clear that very
few of these observations have been applied: the state has not issued
any information about its services concerning the Committee’s
observations; the state has not ratified the ECRML and is one of the
three last states (out of 47) within the Council of Europe with Turkey
and the Principality of Andorra (whose co-prince is French head of
state) not to have signed the FCNM.
“The state still does not recognise any minority group or people
on its territory. The dogma of the ‘unity’ of the French people (as the
constitutional court says) still prevails, and with a restrictive
“The use of these languages is ostracised in particular in
education and the media in increasingly virulent forms, and contrary to
the demands by the populations involved which intensify as they face
the increasing risk of the complete disappearance of their languages
“To summarise, the treatment of our 2001 report reflects the
disregard shown by the French state both for the populations concerned
and international organisations such as the UN. In addition, this can
be supported with specific examples of discrimination and the negation
of rights suffered by the populations concerned (annexed to our
report), and the keenness with which the state opposes any action which
these populations and their elected representatives attempt to take in
order to defend their languages and cultures and to guarantee their
survival and development.”
The Basque organisation Behatokia has also submitted a report to
the Committee. Underlining the effects of French state policy against
‘regional’ languages it notes that Basque has lost 15,000 speakers over
the last ten years, added to both a decline in Basque-French bilinguals
and bilingualism generally.
The visit to the UN comes at the same time as the UN’s
announcement that 2008 will be the Year of Languages. (Davyth Hicks,