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Representatives from regions throughout Europe have launched an initiative to secure a multiannual European programme to support regional and minority languages. Legal difficulties at European Commission level have hampered the advancement of such a programme, which would ensure long-term financing of initiatives involving linguistic minorities.
At a meeting in Brussels, the Committee of the Regions, the gathering of regional and local authorities throughout the EU, presented a document outlining its plans for a minority languages programme at EU level. The document says that such a programme should 'exceed the educational sphere' and promote minority languages in a number of fields. It adds that as 'the local and regional level is the natural sphere in the use of these languages', the Committee of the Regions itself should be involved in the implementation of the programme.
In June, the Education and Culture Commissioner, Viviane Reding hinted that a multiannual programme to support minority languages could be announced by the end of 2001. 'As a Luxembourger, I am very sensitive to the issue of minority languages,' she said. 'However I am also aware of the sensitivites surrounding the issue and that some member states are opposed. I hope that the European Year of Languages will help to break down walls and to open doors and that minority languages will be a natural part of the measures rather than appear as a political problem.'